Entering its second season under head coach Scott Nelson, the Binghamton men’s lacrosse team hopes to build off what it began last year.
After last season’s 4-9 record precluded the Bearcats from reaching the America East tournament for the third consecutive season, the coaches and players are focused on returning to the postseason.
“I think our first goal is to get up to .500 as a program on a regular basis,” Nelson said. “If you’re at .500 in Division I lacrosse, you’re doing pretty well. We want to be in the America East Tournament. That’s got to be the ultimate goal every year — to be in the America East Tournament.
“You got to be in it to win it,” he added.
Nelson is not alone in regards to what he considers a successful season. He has his players on board as well, led by junior captains Greg Cove and Matt Springer.
“I think we have some good leadership and got some good, young players,” Springer said. “So hopefully we can mesh well and … get off on the right foot.”
The leadership Springer mentioned comes from himself and Cove, as well as fellow captains and senior midfielders Shane Warner and Tyler Perrelle.
Younger players like freshmen midfielders Mitchell Labianca and Joey Dalfo will have to step up in order for the Bearcats to reach their goal of a .500 season and a trip to the America East Tournament. Both freshmen could be trusted to take faceoffs this season.
“One of the places we have to grow up quickly is on the faceoff,” Nelson said. “We lost two seniors last year who did a nice job for us and that’s certainly a concern. Right now we have a couple guys that never faced off in a Division I game who are going to be taking faceoffs on Saturday.”
Some of the faceoffs may also be entrusted to junior midfielder Alex Doerflein, although he had last taken faceoffs in high school.
“That’s the interesting thing about lacrosse — you don’t get the ball back automatically if you get scored on,” Nelson said. “The faceoff is very important, so it’s going to be trying for us in the beginning of the season, and we’re going to have to be smart with the ball when we do have it.”
To make matters more interesting, this year the NCAA has changed several rules for men’s lacrosse, including one on faceoffs. This year, violations will be applied to infractions that occur both before and after the whistle is blown.
However, additional rules which add a 30-second shot clock and an elongated player substitution box should work in the Bearcats’ favor.
“It’s great for us because we like to play that way, we like to take chances out there,” Nelson said.
The increased tempo should help BU, since they scored 10 or more goals in eight of their 13 games last year, as opposed to just three the year prior.
Springer, who returns from redshirting last season, said he feels very confident in how Nelson has prepared the team for the new rules.
“Our practices are very up-tempo, very intense,” he said. “We do a lot of live game situation stuff, so it’s nice. You get the confidence of playing in situations, so you don’t really get anything thrown at you that you’re not ready for.”
If the Bearcats do have a difficult time on faceoffs, they will need to rely heavily on their defense. Since that may be the case this season, Nelson wants to see the team be “a little meaner” come game day.
Cove, the defensive captain, agrees with his coach’s outlook.
“Well, obviously, we have to be a lot tougher this year and, as Coach described, a lot meaner on the field,” Cove said. “We got a couple new guys on the defensive side of the field and a lot of our defensive guys are returning guys as well. Hopefully we just get on the same page and take our defense to the next level this year and play hard and limit goals.”
Cove also said he saw improvements within the team during its two preseason scrimmages.
“Hopefully we can bring that into this weekend and hold Siena to a small amount of goals,” he said.
Binghamton is set to open its season at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Siena, which fell to Hobart last weekend.