The First Step

Lao Tsu wrote, “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”  So it is that all seasons must begin somewhere.  Our Fort Lewis Lacrosse team took the first step in the long journey of the 2012 with a decisive 19-6 victory over The University of New Mexico last night.  Playing in the chilly desert air of New Mexico, the Skyhawks managed to stay warm and put n a solid effort for all four quarters.  As I told the team at the end of the game, “I am glad you didn’t play your best game in your first game, we have a lot of work left to do.”  The game deteriorated into sloppy play at times, as immaturity or inexperience manifested itself at times when UNM sought to rally.  Ultimately, the Fort used a team effort on offense, with several highlight reel passes and shots, to fuel a solid first win.

Complete game stats at http://mcla.us

The University of New Mexico is Fort Lewis Lacrosse’s oldest rival, as the three hour drive to the (usually snow free) south provides a traditional early season test.  Despite being a Division I MCLA and RMLC school, the Fort has generally had great success against UNM in recent years.  As just the second time our young men have been outside to play lacrosse in the past four months, it was nice to step on to a field that didn’t have a foot of accumulated snow on it.  The countless hours spent in a cramped gym were evident again in some early turnovers, defensive and offensive miscues, and misuse of the spacious outdoor field.  Once we got used to it, I would like to say we sailed smoothly, but first games are always a struggle to find a rhythm, especially on the road.

Although I love to see run and gun lacrosse like fans do, as a coach it definitely raises my blood pressure to see the type of back and forth action that the first half provided.  As a coach, I also love to see assists on 8 of our 9 first half goals, many of them could have credited second assists, but we aren’t playing hockey out there.  Senior defender Mike Kelly put the exclamation mark on the first half with a tremendous full field takeaway, fast break, feed to Paul Larson, Larson give and go back to Mike, and then Mike Kelly ripping a shot by the goalie.  Mike Kelly is affectionately known by his teammates as “Kung Fu Panda,” and with plays like that, he can go by whatever nickname he wants.

The second half saw some of the best and worst of Fort Lewis Lacrosse.  Six goals in the third quarter were ignited by some great shooting, excellent efforts in the clearing game, and high intensity defense.  Unfortunately, the quarter was also marred by 3 ½ minutes of penalty time on our side, another couple minutes from UNM, and a lot of “easy” opportunities left on the table.   A byproduct of sloppy play is a confused substitution plan, so unfortunately the scheduled rotation of players had to be modified a lot on the fly.  Sometimes it is hard for a team to establish rhythm once the plans go awry.  It was impressive to see the young Skyhawks pull together their composure by the end of the quarter and return to a team game once again.  Of the six goals in the quarter scored by the Fort, all six were scored by different players.

As the clock wound down at the end of the fourth quarter, and the final 19-6 score was cemented by a two-minute long possession by our offense, I finally took a deep breath and acknowledged my first MCLA victory as a coach.  We had great support from family and friends, great leadership from upperclassmen, a solid team concept on offense and defense, and we shook off the rust from being cooped up indoors for months.  Special thanks must be given to John Robinette for helping me out again on the sidelines, as I continue my recovery from minor surgery last week, to Jim Trump for providing pizzas for the whole team upon our arrival in Albuquerque, to Jill and Brian Arthurs for providing Gatorades for the team to help us prepare for today’s battle with Texas Tech, and to the Koenig and Larson families for their gifts of food for the players on the return trip to Durango.  We do a “family” cheer regularly, it is nice to see how people have already bought into that concept throughout the program.  Thank you.  This was the first step, hopefully the first of many successful ones.

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