November 10, 2011

Fall Ball Brief

Woods Acclimating to CC's Challenges

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Senior attackman Carson Christman (above) was the SCAC Player of the Year in 2010 and paced Colorado College in scoring in 2011. Christman, along with classmate Moses Taylor, will give the Tigers plenty of pop on the frontline with their synergy. "They are both great players, but the way they play together makes them exceptional," said new head coach Sean Woods.
© Colorado College Athletics

After what seemed like an eternity, Colorado College finally broke through in 2011. Utilizing the automatic qualifier bestowed upon the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference for the first time last spring, the Tigers cruised to the NCAA tournament for the first time, putting together an undefeated regular season (15-0) to boot.

Since then, things have been a tad uneven. It started in the tournament when Roanoke outscored the Tigers, 20-3, over the final three quarters in a 25-5, first round whitewash. It continued a couple of weeks later when Guy Van Arsdale, who had just finished his second season in Colorado Springs, bolted to take the Jacksonville job. As if that wasn't enough, seven of the SCAC schools announced that they would be breaking off in 2013 to form a new league – the Southern Athletic Association – leaving CC and three other schools with the old conference name and an expiration date on their automatic qualifier (unless they can add three more lacrosse playing schools in the next two years).

Enter Sean Woods. The former coach at Division II Mars Hill for the past half-decade after cutting his teeth at Brown ('02-'03) and Washington College ('04-'06), Woods takes over a team that is the heavy favorite to repeat as the SCAC champ in its final season before the fracture and return to the NCAA tournament, led by an potent attack unit led by seniors Carson Christman (32g, 40a) – the SCAC Player of the Year in 2010 – and Moses Taylor (31g, 17a).

This fall has been all about acclimation for Woods. Initially, it was to the altitude. "You go for a run or a bike ride and you get through about half what you normally do and you're about to pass out," Woods said with a laugh. It continued through his evaluation process.

"I made a point to the players and a point to myself to not watch any film," Woods said. "I wanted everyone to have a clean slate and have a fresh start. Fall ball was for the players to just get acclimated to my voice, my coaching style and my philosophies."

- Fall Ball Priority: As mentioned above, the on-field emphasis was building a comfort level between the new coaching staff and the returning players. For the first time, Colorado College was able to run a full, 16-date fall ball season after barring any organized practices in year's past, which has been a huge help. "That couldn't have come at a better time," said Woods.

A larger priority has come off the field, where Woods has had to re-familiarize with recruiting at the Division III level.

"It was a little bit of a challenge because I'm coming from Mars Hill where I was recruiting sort of a blue-collar, scholarship-needing athlete. Now we're recruiting the prep school-type of kid," said Woods. "It's kind of the opposite end of the spectrum.

"I had to call on some resources. I'm from the Northeast [Woods played his college ball at Hartwick], so it made it easy to call up some of my old contacts that I had at Brown for a couple of years. It's the same type of recruiting and the same type of schools. It was definitely starting fresh, but we caught up pretty quick. We've done a good job in Denver, too. There is a lot of good lacrosse here now, so we've hit the pavement pretty hard."

- Know this Name: Henri Halle. The freshman midfielder from Englewood, Colo., and Cherry Creek High School has made an immediate impression.

"He's obviously well-coached and he has great fundamentals," said Woods. "He shoots with both hands and dodges well. We're going to be up-tempo and he fits right into that type of style right away."

- Young Guns: The attack unit is experienced and the defense should be solid, but the midfield unit is going to be extremely young. "When we put together our depth chart, seven of our top nine are freshmen," said Woods. "It's a very young, inexperienced group, but there is a lot of talent."

The youngsters will have the luxury of playing four scrimmages prior to the Tigers' season-opener against Alfred on March 7. Colorado College will scrimmage Air Force, Denver, Colorado and Colorado State – three of which made their respective national tournaments – in the spring before going live.

- Mile-High Promise: Woods said one of the reasons he left Mars Hill was to return to the Division III ranks, but the possibility of being a trailblazer of sorts was also alluring.

"Quite frankly, what lacrosse means to this part of the country - and what it will mean to this part of the country in the future - is something that I wanted to be a part of," said Woods. "It's like being a pioneer, almost. Just look at Bill Tierney."

It also didn't hurt that Colorado – and the Mountain West – is producing a bounty of college-ready players.

"I think that is something that could put us over the edge," Woods said about the Denver prep scene. "We have to keep these kids in-state. I think it is something that we can keep tapping into as we try to push ourselves toward a national championship. It's one of our top priorities."

- Building the Schedule: The remote nature of Colorado College and the fiscal constraints inherent with Division III programs makes it difficult for the Tigers to build a schedule that will permit them to grab a workable NCAA tourney seed at this point. It's something Woods is hoping to address, however.

He's lured a strong Western New England team to the Springs along with Alfred, and CC will square off with Hampden-Sydney in Dallas. A home game against Whittier rounds out the regular season. Still, the SCAC isn't strong enough to springboard its champion to anything but a brutal first round draw.

"I understood we aren't in the best conference talent-wise or one that will help us progress toward the tournament, so I really tried to beef up our out-of-conference schedule as much as we could in the short time frame," Woods said. "Since we're locked into those games in our conference, we're trying to make sure we're prepared so if we hit the tournament, we've seen that level and that speed.

- Verdict: Barring a significant letdown, Colorado College should return to the NCAA tournament via the SCAC auto-bid, but the Tigers' challenge comes when the second season arrives. Christman and Taylor will give opposing teams something to think about, but the depth of talent isn't quite there for CC to threaten the second round. The good news is this program hasn't come close to hitting its plateau of potential.

- News & Notes: The new turf on Colorado College's lacrosse-only field will be ready to roll next fall. The $27 million athletic complex project, which includes a new weight room, is expected to be completed the following year...Woods said that the alumni support at CC rivals, or even exceeds, what he has seen at his stops at Brown, Washington College and Mars Hill. "The amount of alumni support we get just jumps off the page," he said...Birmingham Southern and Sewanee should once again be the Tigers' biggest threats in the SCAC this spring.


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