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.
RECENT "FALL BALL
BLITZ" STORIES | ARCHIVE
Southern Oregon: From Nowhere to Denver?
|Southern Oregon junior LSM Joey Moseanko is one of the
key returners who will be counted on to take a leadership role and
help the Raiders finally move past the PNCLL
© SOU Lacrosse
The Southern Oregon men's lacrosse team hasn't advanced past the
Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League tournament semifinals,
but in many ways, it's a miracle they are even in the
Located in Ashland, a sleepy little town in the shadow of Mount Shasta on the California-Oregon border, SOU is in a lacrosse no-man's land between the fertile recruiting grounds of Northern California and Portland. As a result, the Raiders annually piece together a roster.
"Every year we get a few kids that come to SOU who never
expressed interest, but show up and start for us," said Mark Brown,
an Ellicott City, Md., native and a former player at Virginia
"With the growth of youth lacrosse in Oregon, we're bound to keep getting a few extra kids who have experience and want to play," added Brown, who has been the only coach in the seven-year history of the program. "We've also been really fortunate about getting the word out on campus to get guys who are good athletes but never played the sport before."
Despite the less than optimum recruiting atmosphere, the Raiders
have slowly improved into a team that has had only one losing
conference mark – its first – since joining the PNCLL.
They've had decent success against Western Oregon, who emerged as
the class of the league even though they entered the PNCLL the same
year as SOU, even beating the Wolves on the road in 2009. The only
team the Raiders have yet to beat is Western Washington.
As Southern Oregon gets ready for fall ball, there are a lot of questions about whether the Raiders will be able to continue the upward trend. In addition to several key graduation losses, including Bubba VanEgdom (3.27 ppg), two freshmen starters from the '10 have decided to leave school and pursue a military career.
"This year is going to be the most challenging year to see how we respond to adversity because we lost a bunch of senior leaders on offense and defense, along with a couple of solid looking freshmen from last year," said Brown. "We're going to see who steps up and fills the shoes. Defensively, we'll be alright, but it will be interesting."
Brown still has enough talent returning to make another run at the PNCLL title, bolstered by a competent rookie class. But again, the question will be whether the Raiders can move past the conference semifinals, which has been the program's bugaboo. Even when they were the No. 1 seed in 2009, the Raiders had the misfortune of running into a Whitman team riding a red-hot goalie in the semis.
Southern Oregon is not making excuses - "You have to take responsibility for not winning the games to get there," said Brown – but the Raiders are hoping to prove you don't need to be located in a West Coast lacrosse hotbed to make a visit to Denver.
FALL BALL BLITZ
Team: Southern Oregon
2010 Record: 7-7 (3-1 PNCLL)
2010 In Review: An inconsistent offense and a thin bench led to some ups and downs for the Raiders in 2010. Southern Oregon's quest to finally make the PNCLL finals was quashed (again) by Western Washington in the semis.
Goodbye... Bubba VanEgdom. The leading scorer for the Raiders with team highs in goals (35) and assists (11), VanEgdom was also the team's top face-off man. He never played lacrosse before arriving in Ashland, but he made a big impact. "He was everything you'd want from a player on your team," said Brown. "He gave 100 percent every practice, had positive attitude, and he was a leader and communicator. He'll be a tough one to replace."
Hello... Justin Cooper. He's coming to Ashland sight-unseen from Diablo Valley College, a JuCo located in the East Bay, but Brown is hoping that Cooper will be able to fill some huge holes in the attack corps. "His coach had nothing but good things to say," said Brown.
Offseason Developments: There were a couple of freshmen starters who decided to leave school to pursue a military career, which leaves a void. However, Brown is hoping that the program will evolve this fall by adopting a model used by most MCLA teams. "Essentially forever, I've been doing everything from the budget, booking hotels, ordering all the supplies, you name it," said Brown. "I'm looking to get the team more involved and have more ownership of the program. We're getting the captains communicating with the administration for field space, things like that. I'm hoping it will have a positive effect."
Big Question: Will there be an improved level of commitment by the players off the practice field? "The things that have really killed us, and it's a reason we haven't made it to nationals, is the edge work-outs," said Brown. "Team lifting, wall ball, conditioning, everything outside of practice – we really need to step up if we want to stop losing in our league semifinals. We've had a core group that is very dedicated, but we need everyone."
Fall Schedule: The Raiders start school late – the first day of school was Sept. 27 and the first day of practice isn't until a week later – but SOU will have a busy fall. It starts on Oct. 16 when, for the first time, the current team will host an alumni game. "Guys are coming in from the East Coast and the Southeast to make this thing happen," said Brown. "Everyone's really excited." That will be followed by the UC Davis Fall Tourney on Oct. 23 and a tourney at Willamette on Nov. 6. Brown said the Raiders are hoping to get in on the University of Oregon Fall Tourney, which has yet to be announced.
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