This part contains some 2017 thoughts thrown in,
THE FIRST PART OF MAY IS PRINTED BELOW
Immediately below starts with the first post after the BYU 2001 semi-final, and I must say as I reread that for the first time since 2001 a couple weeks ago, it was almost a thrill (little one), because truly, for ME, this week (May 5- May 12) was not only my favorite birthday week for Kale, but I think it is the (MY) blueprint for the final week of a CSU National Championship season. Reading it gave me joy. Thanks you guys. You were the perfect mixture of playing excellence and the “Wild Bunch takes St. Louis”. Came in like a Ram. but I guess we left like a PIRATE!, and all these years later I still see that peg-legged little fella here and there in my Ram related travels now and then.
But, SShhh…it’s all good now. I was never really even there! It was all just a coinkydink…..sort of a jewish leprechaun thing……..Poof & WINK!
As I reread (I guess that’s what you call it) this part in 2017 before I posted, it was cool because there were more than a few things that I only recalled upon reading recently, like in 2000 we beat BYU twice, then lost in the final. What I didn’t remember was that we beat them twice earlier in 2000 before losing in St. Louis. I only remembered that we lost 16-13 in the 2000 final. Well was exactly the opposite, when they beat us on TV early, and in Durango at league championships, I had NEVER had that thought pop into my head, but I do still have ‘the tournament banner’ that they gave me on my way out the door hung prominently in my “Man Cave”, so we must have won. By the way, I don’t think I wrote enough props in my 2001 journal for Dr. Ron Krugman, local chiropractor, traveled with us often, always at his own expense. He was the glue that often held us together no kidding, not to mention that his room was always the team lounge on the road, and his door was literally always open. Four from that team have come to see me in recent 2017 days, three of them at once. It was cool. My whole (blood) family got a charge, too, but the significance for me is that the boys still hang out, as in best friends (BFF). We tried to not just talk about the good old days, but I think we all know how that went……..Anyway, I hope that any of you 2001ers that read this next part, enjoy the stroll as much as I. I love you guys, really…You, too Homey! That is HOMEY, not honey!
When I wrote this WE (CSU RAMS) ARE IN ST. LOUIS, PREPARING TO PLAY BYU IN 2001 SEMIFINAL GAME as this starts:
It was a late afternoon tilt.
Friday, May 11 – 7:30 p.m.
I just got back and showered after what I can safely say was a thrilling 10-9 hard fought victory over our biggest rival, and a great BYU team. The game was amazing. They scored first, and we answered with a goal that warmed my heart because it was Mike Hamm getting a feed in the crease and tucking it in the corner. Welcome home Mike.
Anyway, then we went up 2 or 3, then they tied it. It seesawed back and forth until it was 6-6 near the end of the first half. We have worked all year on the last minute situations and Jim Hasson took a feed from I think Napi, and popped one in to make it 7-6 at intermission. That was a huge goal.
We knew we were in a dog fight, but we felt pretty good about things at the break. Our clearing had to improve, and penalties kill us against a team like BYU. We were doing okay, but we already had a few. Everyone was very cohesive at halftime. We are mature and do not panic.
We played great in the third, and led 10-6 after three. I knew they would come in the 4th quarter, and they did. Steve Austin made a couple of great goals for the Cougars, and suddenly it was 10-8 with lots of time left. Was I thinking, “Oh no, here we go again”? Yes, but I knew that we could hold together. We did. They got one more man up goal to make it 10-9, and we had some good chances to score as well, but didn’t score at all in the 4th. I think we were getting tired, but on this day, so were they. I was sure we could score one more, but to their credit, we couldn’t stick one in.
We took back the middle of the field from them today. They owned it in Durango. In this game, every possession was huge. There were good scoring opportunities for both teams throughout the game, yet more often than not the defense prevailed. The score 10-9 is just about my favorite score for a lacrosse game. I hate the 17-15 track meets.
I’m a little worried about tomorrow because I never looked past this game today, only to it. I think I saw this game coming all year, but I didn’t know it would be on Friday. I assumed it would be on Saturday. I know very little about Stanford. I assume they will be smart, and quick. I don’t think they are as big as us, and I hope they are not as deep
Friday, May 11 11:05 p.m.
When I wrote a few hours ago, everyone was trying to pull me out the door to go eat, so I didn’t really have a chance to say everything I wanted. One huge thing today was the defense, and how stellar ours was. We talked all year and all day about holding them under ten goals. It was a huge challenge today, because BYU had 6 well before halftime, but our goal is to hold every team under ten, feeling that if we can do so, we will win. Today was the ultimate challenge to that, and we achieved it. I am pleased and proud about today, and about being in the championship game for the third year in a row. This is also our fourth final 4 in a row, but we didn’t come here for any of that. We came here for just one thing, and we can only get that if we close the deal with Stanford tomorrow.
Saturday, May 12
We concluded our business in St. Louis with a fairly convincing 16-7 win over a good and game Stanford team. Their long sticks were excellent. We didn’t play a perfect game or anything, but we played great, and acted well. As almost always we had a few more penalties than I wanted today, but once again we played with intensity and heart for most every minute of the game. This team had talent, but it also had character, and maybe that’s what I’ll most remember.
I want to list the accomplishments of this year’s seniors: four straight final fours, three straight championship game appearances, and two rings. I think that truly is an awesome resume for them. “I’m proud to be a CSU Ram” was a refrain heard a lot this week. What made it great was how many family members came this year. I wonder if we can ever get that many again. But then again, why not? It was beautiful at the awards ceremony after the game with all the mothers and girlfriends crying.
My emotions after the game were somewhat less intense than yesterday. I knew when we beat BYU that we had beaten the best team in the country at our level. We didn’t need me to win today. We were better than Stanford, although they look to me like they are going to become one of the perennial elite teams in the USLIA.
The way I felt after the game was sort of like mission accomplished. I knew we could do this, and as the season wore on I began to expect it. Losing in Durango didn’t change that. Now I just want to spend as much time all together as we can. Tonight we are going to have pizza at the farm we went to the other day. My goal for tonight is to not make this hotel upset with us because I want to stay here next time we come. I’m sure they will get me to drink, but I am resisting as long as possible.
When I started this journal I knew there would be a beginning, a middle and an end. I know now how it ends, but I know, too, that I am not quite done writing it just yet. When I get home I will probably have one or two more entries because I know I’m not quite finished with the last chapter.
Thursday, May 17
PARTY ON, GARTH
We partied altogether at CISSY’s Farm Saturday night following our victory over Stanford, and one would not believe the quality of the individuals who stepped up and voluntarily “shot the boot”, a group I am proud to be a part of myself. It has something to do with drinking about a pint of beer in a way that is unique, shall we say. Something, by the way, I will likely never volunteer to do agaiin. My son did it when he was 14. At CSU they use only the absolute worst beer possible. The point is that once you do that (boot), you have sworn an oath to the program. CSU lacrosse becomes your immediate family, not just the extended one.
Every school worth its salt has one of these rituals. Every rookie must do it. At UCSB it was much more “civilized.” When I was there in the late 80’s they had a nice, smooth, porcelain vat shaped and painted like a breast that had a hole in the appropriate place for drinking beer, and it was called (ritual), though the spelling is just a guess, SOOKAINIPPLAY. That one I probably would do again. This was a long time ago, and I am sure that nothing like that still happens in Isla Vista, California.
Fortunately we had Cissy’s place outside St. Louis to get a little loud Saturday night. It was the same place we had the barbeque Thursday, a Godsend for our “off-campus” activity in St. Louis. It sure helped break up the monotony of being only in the hotel, and allowing us to hopefully return to the same hotel next year if we are good enough to go back to the tournament. We all had pizza and beer to celebrate the championship moment. To me, that is a bit of an oxymoron. I am much more the shrimp cocktail and prime rib celebration kind of guy, and probably one of these days I’ll go out and have exactly that. I am so thankful for all the blessings in my life.
THE TOUR IS OVER
The so-called “Haters revenge” tour has finished with a bang and a beautiful glass trophy.. Our last four games (St. Louis) were each in their own way, among our best of the season. Because of the fact that so many teams in the past had rooted for us to lose, we felt somewhat hated. We chanted “HATERS” before and sometimes during games this season. Guys wrote it on their gloves. I think some other teams in the USLIA didn’t think we were as good as maybe we did. Sometimes we aren’t. In past years I have gotten upset with how full of ourselves we can be at times. It is not that attractive. This year, this team was not that way. Our confidence showed, but never outside where it should have been. We acted with a lot of class all this year. The only time I went off (and I did it quietly) on a person with a striped shirt in St. Louis was when one started to tell us to cool it with 3 minutes left in the Stanford game and one of our players let out a yelp that he could no longer contain. I was offended at how over-officious he was, and how little he really noticed outside of his little world.
I must say that in St. Louis I felt more respect than we ever have. I definitely saw a few teams rooting for us, and I felt some great support from a couple of my coaching brothers. Maybe the haters had already left, I don’t know. Either way our future teams will have to come from a new place. The Haters tour is over. (We might bring it back for a quick visit to Vail over July 4.)
2001 – NOT DE JA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
This championship is totally unlike the won we won in 1999. We didn’t know exactly what to expect of ourselves back then. We knew exactly what we expected this year. All these wonderful seniors can leave with no regrets, and their legacy will live on with the players they have already inspired to come here to CSU. We were young then. This team had maturity and leadership from day one.
Next year we will be young again, but hopefully some of the wisdom that only a “program” can have will be passed along. Next year we actually have another big group of seniors, maybe 10. I guess that is the way it is when there are over 40 players on the team.
What happened in last year’s final was something that left a bitter taste in my mouth. It motivated me all year. It wasn’t just that we had lost the championship game, but it was the fact that we had focused on defense, but we gave up 16 goals to BYU in that last game. That, and we had beaten them twice earlier. It is interesting how people view you when you lose in a final. Somehow it is better to lose in the semi-finals?.
One of the writers from back east had written an article last May about the tournament and the level of play in St. Louis. He had been impressed, but thought that due to our lack of quality coaching (USLIA) as well as other factors these teams couldn’t play team defense. How could I argue after the track meet we had just lost? I blew up that part of the article and posted it for me to revisit all summer. I thought about defense a lot. I knew Cale the goalie was perfect in the system, and barring another injury, it was his time. I wanted our defense to be dominant in 2001, and ultimately with a little help from the offense, it was. We only allowed 24 goals in 4 games in St. Louis. We lost 3 games all year, the only three games we allowed 10 or more goals by our opponent.
Family will and always has been where I come from with this program. Sometimes it can be more talk than truth, but this year we really did this together, one for all, all for one, hate ’em, love ’em they are your blood brothers. Families have a real life, and it’s okay not to be perfect, but it’s never okay to not think of the family first. Once you are part of the family, you are always part of it. (Favorite movie: The Godfather)
As I said before, but could never say enough, our family and friends were part of our strength in St. Louis. Altogether, the 2001 CSU lacrosse family has created the legacy of what to me was a dream season. We finished 18-3. We reached for our goals every day as one and enjoyed every moment together as much as we could. This mob is memorable because we had tremendous talent, potential, and depth. We took it all, put it together, resolved to improve every day, and accomplished the mission of a campaign in a way that completes us all. We achieved our potential in 2001 because we were unified in the goals we set. We had talent and potential, and lived up to both.
THANK YOU TONY ROBBINS – All that money wasn’t for nothing
I did two things that were very important to me on a personal as well as a philosophical level for this season. One was to keep this journal. I have kept journals during prior seasons, but this one was by far more extensive and expansive, and ultimately, more public. I didn’t know if anyone would read it, but in case they did I wanted it to be informative, honest, and somewhat revealing in terms of understanding our team and me. The thread was to always be lacrosse, and I would try not to ramble on into other areas too far.
Sure, I wanted to write the journal, win all our games, and win the national championship. It is my nature to want to have it all. Everything was far from perfect, of course, but had we won or had we not, the journal turned out to be a gift, something for me, to help keep my focus on the things that matter the most.. I also hoped the journal would be a way to communicate with players in a new way.
I am not sure, but I might continue to write in here from time to time during the summer. As for next year, I don’t know yet. I’m not sure what to do. The last thing I want to do is write the same thing over and over, but since every season is new……….
My first priority remains to resolve to be healthy enough to still coach.
The other thing was that I wanted to do more than ever was to define, focus on, and redefine our team goals all during the season. Goal setting is not a new concept, but when constantly reapplied to your life it becomes a very powerful force, more than a tool. I am learning that defining your goal as specifically as you can helps you find the path toward achieving it. I am also seeing the value of constantly reevaluating the goal and the method. For the record, goals to me, are not just things that coaches shove at their players. I’ve seen a million football coaching charts full of goals and achievements in locker rooms I have visited, and not one of them ever inspired me. In fact they always make me chuckle to myself. The only way to define team goals is with team thought from that team. All teams are not created equal..
TOP TEN MEMORIES from St. Louis
*They (USLIA officials) have come up with the NAUMBURG RULE. Something to the affect that if you do not come to the 8:00 a.m. Coaches meeting the first day, you start the first game a man down or something. I can be tamed. You just have to be careful that’s all.
*CAL POLY WOMEN’S lacrosse showed up at “our” Holiday Inn Express for the last two nights we were in St. Louis. We got sort of chummy with them, enough so that I certainly rooted for them. They won the women’s. Navy or someone from the east was supposed to take the women’s championship. Go Mustangs.
*STEVE STENERSEN, Executive Director of US Lacrosse not only out there to support the event, but rolling up banners after the last game. Hardest working man in lacrosse, and a wonderful ambassador for the sport. He demonstrates the importance of a true team player at the highest decision making level. The growth of the sport in his 15 years speaks for itself. Also, Mr. T.V., Leif Elsmo graced the proceedings with his presence, and created a buzz.
*The MORNING PRACTICES at “CSU park”, so-called by me because we almost always had it to ourselves. By the end of the trip I knew what room everyone was in. Wake up calls were met with words instead of groans (some). Morning practices for us on the road might be part of our new image, replacing the roll out of bed and play one mentality.
*REGULATOR, by Warren G. before every game in my van. Davis riding shotgun, Kale, his mouth, and rookies in the back. Also, Techno stuff like Daf Punk was an integral part of the music fabric for this week.
*Did I mention the weather was perfect?
*BEAT THE PIRATES signs in the BYU section of the stands when we played them. They call us Pirates. Whatever. I thought we were the Rams. I’m proud to be whatever it is we are. The crowds all week were excellent. I’m sure the expanded tournament helped there. Everyone brings some fans.
*OUR BENCH CHANTING, “I’m proud to be a CSU Ram” during the tensest moments of the BYU game on Friday.
*MY WIFE crying in one of my arms, and my son JORDAN held in the other as we walked back across my field of dreams to have pictures taken under the final score on the scoreboard after the Stanford game. Having my niece TAHLIA there was great, too.
*Our team shined brightest when it counted the most, and so did our PROGRAM.
Saturday, May 19
Pat Coy on defense, Cale Vanvelkinburgh in the goal, and Roth and Napolilli on attack were first team all tournament in St. Louis. Ryan Davis was voted tournament MVP after his monster 7 goal performance in the final. Jim Hasson made the 2nd team on midfield. Congratulations to all of them. For both Pat Coy and Mike Roth, it is their third time on the tournament team.
We came home and threw together a quick but great awards banquet at my house on Monday. I gave out more game balls than ever, and it still seemed like there weren’t enough. Mike Napolilli was voted MVP and of course, was the high scorer. Pat Coy got the Chris Gemperline award for the example he sets and the contributions he makes to the team. Rookie of the year went to Mark Plonkey, who yanked that one for his collection with his awesome play in St. Louis. His face-offs against BYU were large.
I am pleased that Ryan Robichaud and Jared Katz have been elected captains for next year, joining Napi and Kale. The selection of Roby for captain by his teammates is the fruit of a total transformation. Ryan has never lacked confidence in his own abilities. Now he believes in his teammates as well, and they in turn have looked to him for leadership. He is becoming a good student as well. He is a student athlete success story. If you would have told me two years ago that he would be captain one day, my response might have been, “Show me”. I might have questioned if he would still be in school at all, or at least if his teammates would have lynched him by now. Way to go, Roby. Jared will be a perfect captain. He leads by example because he certainly is stealth in demeanor. Leading by example is really what leadership is all about anyway. Talk is cheap.
This was the first time that we voted for all the awards. This was the first time that I didn’t intervene at all in the selection of captains and awards. I guess I now fully trust our team to make good choices, not just popular ones. Everything is out in the open with us.
I know I talk about how loose and free we are at times, but the truth is that much of our success this season was due to the fact that we have learned to travel well, and take a “business trip” mentality with us when we go places for big games. When we first started traveling, it was always more like spring break. Now, we know so much more about patience and preparation. We are not just a bunch of yeahoos (most of the time).
Being a good team is not enough. There is so much more to it.
Tuesday, May 22
For the first week after we got back I seemed to do a lot more eating and much deeper sleeping than I had for quite a while. It was as if I was hungry and could not be filled. Now I have somewhat “normaled” out.
I guess nothing is ever enough for me as I think less about what we did this year as the days go by, and much more about what we need to do to be good next year. It was only 10 days ago. I need to mellow out. Now is actually a great time for me to begin crafting the 2002 team, even though I know only vaguely who it will feature. Now is especially the time to begin building the schedule for next season. I will not finish scheduling until the league meeting in September, but have already begun working on the opening weekend of spring break, March 8-10. I am trying to play 3 games at UC San Diego. I want to play Cal Berkeley and another USLIA top10 team while out there. Also I am talking with Coach Steve Devlin setting up our annual game with C.C., probably in April again. Maybe we should play them earlier, since we have never beaten them in April.
I know that I can’t visualize who will step in next year and do what Mikey Roth or Coyboy or Patty Lambert, or ODog, or CALE goalie, or Gemp, or Husson, or Andy Polper could do. I don’t think that way anyway. It is too hard to think about “replacing” our seniors or what they do. We will definitely be “regrouping” in the face-off department, losing the two headed face-off monster that has kept us always competitive for 4 years. I don’t know where we will get the lift that Mike Roth always gave us with his 9 goals or a devestating hit, or whatever was Roth du jour. Coy was the thing that made our new defense work a few years ago. Nobody slides like him. It seems like he has been captain ever since he got here. Adam Sisbarro gave us his heart, his speed and his leadership every time he stepped on the field. Loren improved every year and made himself a force. Gemp inspired his whole team. Cale had a phenomenal year in the goal this season. If I reread all what I just wrote I might start crying. This year was their year. What will we do in 2002?
I want to create a new thrill next year with a new group, because 2002 will be their time. I don’t look for replacements for our bevy of 2001 graduating stars because those are not the expectations that I want to put on the ones who will be playing in 2002. I don’t want Alex Smith to become Cale, I want Alex Smith to become Alex Smith. He is a different kind of goalie, not as experienced as Cale, but Alex is very athletic, something I have only rarely had in a goaltender. I feel like we need to take advantage of his capabilities, and not just fit him into some vision I have of a goalie. I look forward because I think I can learn from him. I know he is always eager to learn more, do more. The team already knows he is ready to start.
I try not to over visualize the season a year ahead of time. For me, and over the years, I have learned that this is the road to heartbreak. What one thinks it might look like mostly bares very little resemblance to what it will actually look like. Nostradamus I am not. Besides I love it when someone comes back after the summer and just totally brings something new with his game. I have been pleasantly surprised at a fall meeting when someone that can play has transferred in or whatever. I certainly wouldn’t want that to screw up some kind of God-like plan I had about who was going to do what, etc. I like it, no, I crave it to be fresh every year.
I know we will get a bunch of freshman in the fall that will give us a new look, and I am thankful they come. I can’t wait for the meeting in September to see who is there, but I truthfully never count too much on a freshman coming in.. I don’t project them into positions, and I don’t project how they will adjust, even after fall ball. Often the best thing about a freshman is that he will become a sophmore. This is not always true, but for the most part the college game is much faster and more intense. It takes some time to get used to the pace. Kids that scored at will in high school are now rookies running down the field to pick up their stick so they can go chase the guy who knocked it out of their hands and 10 yards downfield. There are freshmen who can have an impact, and certainly there are more now than there were 10 years ago, but experience still counts for a lot, especially since we work hard on functioning as a team within a real system or “style” of play that they pass on, one generation to the next.
Wednesday, May 30
I think I learned a lot of things this year that I probably already knew. Some would call that validation not learning, but that’s not what I mean.. I felt like I was open and changing all season. Things are always new when you find a new way to see them.
I have decided that the more time that a recruit asks you to spend recruiting him, the more chance that he had already decided that he was going to another school.. I remain ever: Coach “If you build it, they will come”.
Acting well makes reflecting on the season more enjoyable for me. We acted well almost perfectly this year. Better than ever by far. I also believe that doing so pays off over a long season in many ways.
Whoever we lose to graduation, and however much steeper the hills might be next year, I look forward to the climb. However it may turn out, I would rather go into next season as defending champs than to have spent all summer waiting for and thinking about getting another shot because we didn’t win our last game this season, like I did last summer. Any day.
Self motivation should have the greatest impact. You don’t have to be the underdog, do you? Why is that a greater motivator sometimes? I don’t get it. My intention is always excellence. I still want more of it. To go.
Next week I travel to the USLIA meetings in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Vail is in full pre-tournament organizational swing. One month and counting to 9 days at less than 9000 feet. Lacrosse life never really stops for me, unless I flee, like I will in two weeks when I go to Florida with my home brood to visit my mom for a few days.
We already have a team setback to deal with. Ryan Robichaud, one of next year’s captains was clipped by a hit and run driver and badly broke some bones in his leg. As much as I am saddened by the event, I am glad that the word wasn’t “tragedy”, and it sounds like it could have easily been that. I know the challenge of rehab will be the biggest Roby has ever faced, but I believe he will dig down and do what it takes to get his leg healed, and, with grace, to get READY by next spring..
Recently the head coaches from Stanford and Arizona, two teams we played this year, retired. They are both guys that I have known for a long time. They are both around my age. I’m not ready yet. I hope I’ll know when, but it’s not yet. As long as I have no trouble getting motivated, I will survive.
Thursday, May 31
The people at the university seem impressed with this championship much more than the one in 1999. They have a picture on the main page of the CSU web site. They have requested pictures for publication in CSU recruiting brochures sent to all perspective students, etc. It’s great. Are we off double secret probation now?
I wonder if perhaps the academic side of the university takes a little more notice when you beat a team like Stanford in the championship. Could be my imagination, who knows. Either way, I am grateful that the university gives us the capabilities and the freedom to do what we do. Now if they could just make all those parking tickets disappear.
Tuesday, May 1
The new poll came out and we are ranked #3, which means that we are the #3 seed in St. Louis. Our first round opponent is an up and coming Rhode Island University team, the #14 seed and Pioneer League champion. The only thing that matters is for us to get ready to play them, and to make it interesting, their nickname is also the Rams.
Wednesday, May 2
One thing I have been preaching about all year is what happens when we make a fundamental mistake like dropping a decent pass. It is so easy to set off a bad chain of events with one mistake. We found that out several times the other day, but it is true every time you play a game, and pretty much in any sport I can think of. Tune in mightily to the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. At least that’s what I think.
We have a great offense, but sometimes things happen so fast that unless we score, our defense never gets a second to rest and prepare for the next attack by the opponent. I talk about the fact that often times it is not scoring that I am most concerned about, but rather putting constant pressure on the opposing defense, just like BYU did to us in the 4th quarter the other day. When the game ended in a tie, the BYU bench exploded because they were so happy to have gotten the tie, while we were dissapointed because we hadn’t put them away.
What I am trying to do a lot this year is get the whole team, attack and all, involved in our defensive team goals, and that those defensive goals are of the highest priority. When we do that as a team (prioritize defense), things go better at both ends of the field, and in the middle part as well.
This CSU team has shown many times this season that they have it on the outside. We can be really exciting and fun (for me) to watch. They have also shown that they have it on the inside as we won some really tough games under difficult circumstances. All we have to do is take both attributes to St. Louis next week.
I think a lot of it now comes down to how much we want it on the field. How much are we willing to focus together? We have proven that we match up on a skill level with pretty much anyone. To achieve the team goals we have to communicate great, and thereby think clearly as a team, as one. Time for the “EYE OF THE TIGER”
Mother Nature has woven us a new blanket of snow overnight, and is adding more white stuff as I write. I almost can’t believe it, but I guess I should have figured on the Cinco de Mayo Blizzard of 2001. It’s not even like a spring storm. It’s cold. It looks like 9:00 p.m. in the field house, and how much will it be to replace 4 panes of glass tomorrow?
Our United Airlines flight to St. Louis took off on time, which historically might be more of a challenge for us than if it were two hours late. Everyone got there on time, though, and once again we all flew on the same plane. This is a trend I’m really getting to like. Anyway, we got here on time, too, but then it took us about an hour and a half to rent vans because they had to clean one? When I finally got to the lot, all 50 of our little entourage was there just hanging and waiting. I enjoyed being the last one to get someplace with them. It happens, but it is rare.
Troy Hood from the St. Louis Chapter of US Lacrosse met us at the airport. Nice touch. They try to have someone meet all the teams as they arrive. We had no trouble finding our “digs” where we will spend the next several days. We have never stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. It is a step up from last year.
We are planning to have a small practice tomorrow morning around 9:30. It is a new plan. I don’t want them sleeping until noon or whatever. I think it is too close to game time to be getting up. I’d rather get them up and moving and then they can eat and have some time to rest more before game time.
I love the look we have. I know all the teams are excited to be here. We are too, but I also think we have very high expectations about what we want to accomplish this week. Our togetherness is starting to feel very powerful again, like it was a month ago.
We have never faced the prospect of playing 4 games here. The first year there were only 8 teams, and only 3 games. After that we always had a bye in the first round. This will be the ultimate test, which is only fitting since about 12 of the players also must take one or more final exams while we are here. Thankfully, I don’t have to monitor those tests. The school gave that job to our head trainer.
I think we all feel good about being here, and can’t wait to play. Rhode Island, here we come. They may be one of the “sleeper” teams here. I have a feeling they are much better than their 14th seed. We shall see.
I am going to try and write as much as I can here. I know it will be hard, but in my mind, when I started this journal, I knew that what happened here and now, in St. Louis, would be a big part of it. My lacrosse train of thought ultimately brings me here, no matter what time of year it is. I also knew that this would be where most of the final chapters would be written.
Tuesday, May 8
It is Tuesday morning. I am supposed to be at a coach’s meeting, but I am going to get the team up soon and go over there in about an hour. I can find out what I missed then. I hope they forgive me.
My thought for the game today is, “Do the work”. One phrase I have used for a very long time is, “Like a Dog!”, meaning that they should go after a ground ball the same way a dog does. I always liked it as a metaphor because it creates a great visual, readily understandable. Dogs swarm the ball and then get their faces down it, looking for the right instant to snatch it up. They almost always get it THE FIRST TIME they go for it. Once a dog gets the ball he will run like hell. All these things are also great qualities for any lacrosse player. Another great thing about dogs and good lacrosse players is that they look like they are having fun while doing the “dirty work”. This is certainly a life lesson, isn’t it? I am confident that if we do the dirty work in the middle of the field today that our “fly boys” will take care of the rest.
Tuesday, May 8 1:00 p.m.
As it turns out, I did a bad thing by not attending the coaches meeting this morning. Then I made it worse by taking us out to practice on some of the open grass which was outlined AT THE MEETING as forbidden. Once again I am the poster boy for bad behavior. I really didn’t mean to be so disruptive. I guess that sometimes I just naturally am. I was informed that we are on “double secret probation”. Great, now we have that status in two states. I’m a regular Bonnie and Clyde. I hope we can make them forget by putting on a good show today.
Anyway, I am sorry we did it, but we did get a nice little run through after I lobbied for a little time on the field, which was graciously granted by Doug Horn, one of the main people that make this the great event that it is. Having done Vail for so many years as an organizer/schlepper, I appreciate what he does. I am so grateful to be at an event like this as a “participant” and not as an organizer.
We are here for six days. I don’t hand out a big schedule of events. I much prefer they be aware of only the most notable things, and everything else is on a need to know basis. I sort of outline our schedule for the next day as we go. If nothing else, we continue getting better at being on the road.. One thing that is a major priority is that we get some kind of pre-game work out the day of the game. I don’t like the game to be the first thing we do as it were.
Tuesday, May 8 Midnight approaches
Our first round game was not exactly as close as I thought it might be. We led 15-0 at the half, and ended up winning 19-1. I think Ryan Davis had 6 goals, and we owned the ball pretty much. Our stars shined, as they should. I think Rhode Island was a little shell shocked. My guess is that they were really thinking that they could beat us because they didn’t look like a team that was primed for “the big upset” before the game, which I guess is what I expected from them. They didn’t really know what to do with us, with the exception being that they did win some face-offs. I don’t think they had seen that much sliding (our defense) before, either. We only had one penaty in the first half. Good.
Some of our young guns were excellent in the first half, and that was a really good thing as well as something I was looking for. I challenged them and they responded. I want our sophmores and juniors to step up right now. We have more depth than we have ever had, and I’m sure there is a good chance we will need it all.
The game was played on astroturf. The weather was gorgeous, 77 degrees and not a cloud all day. The heat is supposed to kick up tomorrow to 85 or so. We play tomorrow, same time, same place, and it seems like same team, because we play CU in the next round (for the 4th time this season). The RMILL and WCLL (California and Arizona) have 7 of the 8 teams left in the winner’s bracket, so there will be some “inplaying” during this tournament. Even though it is coming out where teams are playing teams they have already played, I still think that seeding the teams by how they are ranked is the fairest system I’ve seen. Michigan, the #1 seed is the only “outsider” left in the field of 8; Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Simon Fraser, Auburn, Tennessee, Minnesota Duluth, and Arizona are all gone to the consolation bracket, leaving the following match-ups tomorrow:* CSU vs. CU * UCSB vs. Michigan * * Cal vs. BYU * Stanford vs. Sonoma.
The team mood is great. We are in that business trip kind of groove, comfortable and snug in our surroundings.
Tomorrow will be much like today with a morning throw around, etc. We found a park where hopefully nobody will chase us. I guess we must be scary to a neighborhood, showing up, huge kids with sticks, and lots of them piling out of 5 vans. Hide your teenaged girls!
Thursday, May 10
We made it to the semi-finals on, which are on Friday, but it was anything but easy. They say it is tough to play a team three times in the same season. Try 4. We beat CU, 15-7, but it seemed closer than that. They played for sure their best game of the four we have played. I thought both teams played well, and maybe since we were so far from home there was none of the “Hatfield and McCoy” stuff that I guess will go on between CU and CSU until the end of time. In actuality, none of that really has anything to do with me. I went to Colorado College, and we were busy hating DU. I enjoyed this game much more. It was excellent lacrosse. There is no doubt in my mind that, even though we beat CU four times, they can beat us. I think they are one of the best teams here.
I am absolutely glad we have a day to recover and prepare for BYU. They are the most talented team here. There is no doubt, and we need to play as one. I know we are ranked high and everyone here knew who we were before we got here, the exception being Rhode Island, and I’m thinking they know now, but I am taking the approach that we are David and they are Goliath. I truly believe that BYU raises their game for us. Some of my players say they do it when we just show up to watch them. Yesterday, for example, as we arrived they led Cal 8-5 in the third. Cal was on a bit of a run, and it became 8-7. As we settled in under a tree not far from the BYU bench area, the Cougars proceeded to “smoke” the Bears, and ended up winning easily. Maybe it is coincidence.
I knew this was how our bracket would be, but I never imagined in my wildest dreams that #9 UCSB would play #12 Stanford in the other semi-final. UCSB upset the #1 seed. No #1 seed has ever won here. I don’t care. I wanted to do that. Maybe next life.
Last night a bunch of us went to Donovan’s and watched the 7th game of the Avalanche series with the LA kings. Avs won, but that place s___ed. I let loose the reigns, which had been a little snugger than usual, and let them have a couple beers, etc. No game today. They even forced a couple of shots down me. Man. I’m a cheap drunk. Two little shots and I’m handing over the keys and can’t find my cell phone. That’s pretty much why I didn’t write last night.
Today we have another morning practice, and a Barbeque at Jason’s girlfriend’s farm. Several fans and family are flying in today as well. There is a USLIA awards banquet tonight, and I was informed that we have several honorees. I know that Loren Husson made academic All American. I am proud of him. He is 4 years of “why I coach”.
Thursday, May 10 5:30 p.m.
We just got back from the barbeque. We had a great time. I was going to have a very important team meeting while we were at the farm, but I ended up playing whiffle ball instead. I think we are all just enjoying these last days together to the utmost. We had a short throw around this morning as well.
In the next few hours a bunch of friends and family, including my wife, my youngest, son, and my favorite niece will arrive. Some people think all that family stuff is a distraction. For us, all this stuff is for our families. We did, however, set up most moms and dads, etc. in other hotels. I am glad that so many have come to see us chase the dream.
As a team we are putting together a game plan for tomorrow, and I know everybody believes in it because everyone is a part of it. We look forward to tomorrow. I really believe we are ready to soar as a team, and I know we are getting the ultimate challenge in playing BYU. There is nowhere else I”d rather be today
We leave for the banquet in an hour, returning to the World”s Fair Pavilion in St. Louis City Park, scene of the awards banquet in 1999 when we won.
Friday, May 11 8:45 a.m.
I slept like a baby. A very crucial thing for me. On the same night last year I didn’t, and I made it a goal to change that. I am pretty neurotic about those kinds of things sometimes, so I am very glad that last night went well.
Speaking of last night, we had several make the All American “squad”. First team choices were Mike Napolilli on attack, and Pat Coy on defense. On the second team were Cal Vanvelkinburgh in goal, Mike Roth on attack and Ryan Robichaud on defense. Jim Hasson made the third team on midfield. I am glad that we got a middie on somewhere, because we have been the big attack and the big defense for a few years, but no one ever says anything about our middies, and they have collectively had a fine year. I think they feel like Jimmy made it for all of them.
Well, time for new business that is somewhat old business, getting ready to play BYU. We feel good about the “game plan”. We feel good about the way we are playing, although I know we have to play even better today. Today we play at 4:00, so that will be the same, but will now be playing on the championship field, which is grass, immaculate grass at that. It is also a little tall, so I am glad that we are playing the second game there, and it will be trampled down a little bit. We are supposed to have thundershowers, and it does look like that is a possibility.
I need to start waking them up for practice at about 10:00.