The Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse team was picked to finish fourth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason poll. Quinnipiac Coach Eric Fekete, however, believes the team will finish higher come season’s end.
“One of the things that is unique about this team is, in the junior group, we started eight freshman when they were freshman,” Fekete said. “I think we are seeing the dividends. We probably have more juniors with 30-plus-game experience than anyone in the country.”
In Fekete’s opinion, being first just means there is “always someone chasing you.”
His players hold an identical mindset. Junior attack Michael Sagl and senior goalie Gill Conners find the prediction inaccurate.
“It’s a little disrespectful,” Sagl said. “We heard about it and it definitely lit a fire under us. We found out about it in the preseason and it was kind of our fuel. Every day we went out there, we thought about it, and it made us work that much harder to prove everyone wrong.”
Both Sagl and Conners were chosen to the All-MAAC Preseason Team. Sagl has 42 goals and 42 assists over his first two seasons and Conners had the 15th best save percentage in the nation last season.
Both honorees are taking their selection with a grain of salt. While Conners views it as a reflection of the success, Sagl doesn’t want to dwell on speculation.
“Right now it means nothing,” Sagl said. “The preseason is all predictions. So we have to work really hard this year. It’s all about the end of the season, not the preseason.”
Being in the new conference, Fekete feels his team has something to prove, especially the 13 juniors. In 2012, the team went 3-11, facing adversity that Fekete feels ultimately strengthened the younger players.
“They took a licking their freshman year,” Fekete said. “They improved last year and they’ll improve again this year. At this point, I think we are pretty poised and experienced. The dividends should be paying more now that we have all that experience on the field.”
“I think our chemistry over the past years really built up a lot, just because we haven’t lost a lot of guys,” Conners added. “We lost some guys on offense, but we’re actually returning a good amount on defense, so I think that’s really going to help out.”
One team the Bobcats are familiar with is Brown. The Bears traveled to Quinnipiac to open the season last Saturday. Fekete believes the bouts between the two teams are becoming “a good New England rivalry.” In 2013, Quinnipiac stunned the Bears by defeating them in Providence 9-7 in its first game of the season. Prior to Saturday’s game, he felt there was going to be a “lot of motivation for those guys” to come in and take one on the road.
Brown turned the tables Saturday, handing the Bobcats a decisive 13-6 victory, leading most of the game and rattling off six unanswered goals. After the game, Fekete wasn’t upset, noting it was “the first game out of 14.”
Last season, the Bobcats went 6-8 overall and 3-2 in the Northeast Conference. After victories in their first three games, they went on to lose their next five. On March 1, the Bobcats will take on Providence.
Fekete felt there were two games last season the team should have won. The first being an 11-9 loss to Binghamton and the other representing the 15-14 NEC semifinal loss to Robert Morris.
“I think we played well at a point,” Fekete said on the 2013 season. “I think we blew some games that we probably should’ve won.”
The Bobcats will face Marist and Detroit, the No. 3 and No. 2 seeds, in consecutive weekends at the end of March. They take on No. 1 Siena April 19.
While Saturday was not a direct step in improving upon last season, the year is young and the team still believes it can make some noise as new guys as long as the teamwork stays consistent.
“I think if our offense just does the right things and the guys around me play well, they’re going to help me out and things aren’t going to change,” Sagl said. “We’re just going to have success.”