Practice pennies, neon green laces, new faces and the promise of a new season not far off -- all signs point to fall ball, college lacrosse's annual rite of initiation.
With 2010 in the books and 2011 in mind, LMO's "Fall Ball Blitz" series checks in with coaches and players around the country for the latest developments.
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Film Study: Sonoma Eyeing Past Successes
|The Seawolves had a painful season in 2010 - both in
the amount of losses and number of injuries - but after getting
recharged by video of past glory, Sonoma is primed for a rebound
© Sonoma Lacrosse
Doug Carl is a film junky.
During his first stint as Sonoma State's head coach from 2000-07, Carl filmed everything. Even during the three years away from the program after the birth of his son, Carl wasn't afraid to sneak into the film room and take a look at what the Seawolves were doing.
So when Carl reassumed the head coaching role for Sonoma and was
contemplating ideas to get the program back on track after a
disappointing 2010 season, the answer was pretty obvious.
With 100 former players back for the alumni game and banquet, the coach strung together a 10-year highlight film, which included the Seawolves' run to the MCLA national championship in 2002.
"The guys, especially the freshmen, were blown away by the whole experience – having that many alumni in the room, with the video playing, and the national championship game," said Carl. "I think they get it now. After that, the younger guys understood."
The videos were actually more of a refresher course than a primer.
Under the tutelage of Dominic Gomez, the Seawolves head coach bridging Carl's two terms, the message was the same. A starter in goal during Carl's first year and a two-year assistant prior to taking the reins, Gomez is as 'Noma as they come. And it is because of Gomez' work that the Seawolves may regain their momentum quicker than many programs adding a new coach.
"He was my starting goalie my first year here so we sort of built the system together, if you will, and my style meshes very well with Coach Gomez'," said Carl. "I basically taught him how to coach and play college lacrosse, so he didn't do anything that I'm not familiar with. In many respects, I feel like there is continuity for me personally."
And it's not like Sonoma fell off the map.
Yes, the Seawolves finished 2-10, but six of the 10 losses were by a goal – including tournament qualifiers BYU and Cal Poly – and two others were by a deuce. Considering they lost starting goalie Michael Clothier, All-American middie Jordan Ambler and top attackman Casey Wood for much, if not all, of the season, those narrow losses are even more impressive.
Carl, however, knows that injuries are a huge part of the game – they essentially cost him a second title in 2005, when the Seawolves lost by a goal in the championship game with their two best players in street clothes – but he has confidence that if the team can put the '10 season behind them and stay the Sonoma course, the Seawolves will again be on the championship path.
"We had a couple of Hall of Fame guys stand up and speak about
what the Sonoma lacrosse program is about," said Carl about that
same alumni banquet. "It's not all about winning, but rather doing
things the right way; making sure things get taken care of the
right way. Wins just happen."
If the wins occur, Carl will be watching them, likely multiple times. And it should make for a useful training video for next year's crop of Sonoma rookies.
FALL BALL BLITZ
Team: Sonoma State
2010 Record: 2-10 (1-5 WCLL)
2010 In Review: The Seawolves, one of most tradition-rich programs in the MCLA, stumbled badly, finishing with a 2-10 record. Eight of the 10 losses came by two goals or fewer (including six by a single goal), so Sonoma was closer than it appeared.
Goodbye... Ryan Larkin. When the injury bug set in on the Seawolves, Larkin was left as one of the few upperclassmen on the field. He finished the season with 16 goals and six assists, along with the respect of his teammates. "He was a really forceful guy and the team really leaned on him," said Carl. "He's a big reason a lot of the games were one-goal games. Without him, they would have been three or four-goal losses."
Hello... John Rosa and Alisandro Ballarin. Rosa is a close defender out of Marin Catholic (Calif.) School while Ballarin is a multi-faceted player out of Patrick Henry (Calif.) High School. Ballarin is really an LSM, but he'll be plugged into the close defense and d-middie positions, as well. Also keep an eye on Lees-McRae transfer Josh Lucero, a middie and former player at La Costa Canyon (Calif.) High School. The rookie class is 11-players deep, according to Carl.
Offseason Developments: Michael Clothier, the Seawolves senior goalie, is looking strong this fall after a bizarre accident ended his '10 campaign. Playing in the rain, Clothier opted to put his game head on his back-up stick. That shaft shattered during the course of the game and a teammate pulled the stick out of his hand, dragging the splintered end through his grasp and turning his hand into hamburger. After 78 stitches were put in his paw, Clothier was on the shelf for the season. "Just one of those freak things," said Carl. The coach said Kevin O'Rourke, who came in last year to finish out the season, will be pushing Clothier hard for the starting spot. "Goalie is going to be one our strengths this year, no question," he said.
Sonoma will also be welcoming Panchito Ojeda to the staff as defensive coordinator. The former head coach at Marquette, Ojeda pulled up stakes with his wife and headed to wine country, where Carl was more than happy to add him as an assistant. "He's such an enthusiastic guy; a real knowledgeable lacrosse guy so we just love having him on board," said Carl.
Big Question: Can the defense gel in time for 'Noma to get off to a better start? With two defenders able to make practice one day a week because of academic commitments along with a bunch of newcomers trying to find their collegiate legs, the back line will have to figure it out in a hurry. Throw in the fact that Clothier will have to shake off the rust from his injury and the Seawolves have serious obstacles on defense. "That's going to be our real measuring stick," admitted Carl.
Fall Schedule: The Seawolves have an extremely busy fall. It started on Oct. 9 when they defeated '10 MCLA semifinalist Simon Fraser and followed that up with a one-goal setback to Dominican (NCAA D-II) on Oct. 15. There was the UC Davis play day on Oct. 23 where Sonoma was pitted against WCLL rivals Cal and Chico State, and then a scrimmage against the Barbary Coast men's club team the following day. And that's just the start. "We go pretty much straight through Thanksgiving," said Carl. Some of the upcoming dates feature games against Notre Dame de Namur (NCAA D-II) and the Marin men's club team.