By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2013 Holy Cross men's lacrosse team returns 27 players and five starters from last season (5-10 overall, 0-6 Patriot League), while nineteen freshmen and two sophomores have also joined the program. The team will be led by senior captains Myles Gillespie (Rye, N.Y.), John Hannan (Manhasset, N.Y.), James Kennedy (Summit, N.J.) and Daniel Schmader (Radnor, Pa.). Kennedy, who enters the season with 64 goals and 39 assists for 103 career points, was named a Nike National Player of the Week last season and was on the Tewaaraton Award Watch List. The Crusaders are scheduled to play six home contests and will take on Patriot League opponent Navy at Citi Field on March 17 as part of the inaugural Metropolitan Lacrosse Classic.
Recently, head coach Jim Morrissey talked to GoHolyCross.com as the team prepares for the 2013 season.
GoHolyCross.com: How did the fall season go and is there anything the team can take from the fall that they can carry over to the spring season?
Jim Morrissey: The fall season was tremendous. Weather wise it was great so we like to take full advantage of the opportunity working on our stick skills and allowing the freshmen time to adjust to the speed of Division I lacrosse. I try and remind the guys that the time they spend working and focusing on the skills in the fall sometimes will not show up as signs of improvement until the spring. I think we are reaping some of the benefits of that time spent right now as the spring season is getting under way.
GoHolyCross.com: Can you talk about what the seniors bring to the team and how important they are to the success of the team?
Morrissey: Our seniors bring a ton to the team as they all play a significant role on the field. They lead by example and I am hoping we can send them out as seniors with a winning record because they deserve it. They motivate me as a coach every single day because their dedication to the program has been 100% since the day I arrived two and a half years ago.
GoHolyCross.com: Last season, the team picked up 425 ground balls which were the most since it earned 519 in the 2002 season. Do you think the team will continue to be strong in getting ground balls?
Morrissey: Yes I do. I hope to surpass last year's mark this year. Our dedication to getting stronger in the weight room has had a positive effect on battling and coming up with the loose balls. We work on the ground balls in practice just about every day and we have some guys like junior Kyle Kadlick (West Roxbury, Mass.) and Matt Ward (Massapequa, N.Y.) at midfield, and Hannan and Kennedy at attack, who are not afraid to get their noses dirty and fight for the ground ball. Hopefully our three face-off men can do as good a job as A.J. Guarente did last season at the face off X picking up the ground ball.
GoHolyCross.com: What do your captains bring to the team?
Morrissey: Experience, honesty and a strong care for the team to succeed. They lead by example every day.
GoHolyCross.com: The team returns four of its top five goal scorers from last season. What do you expect from your offense this season?
Morrissey: I expect us to surpass our goals per game total from last season as well as continuing to limit our turnovers and understand how important each possession is to becoming a winning team. We need to become much more efficient in the extra man offensive department. Our percentage last year was much too low to be a winning team. We need to also have more balance in the scoring department and I would like to see more goals be assisted goals versus goals that are strictly one-on-one goals.
GoHolyCross.com: What are you expecting from the freshman class?
Morrissey: I expect our 19 freshmen to improve every single day in practice and compete with the upperclassmen for starting roles by mid season. As a freshman, it takes time for things to click, but when it clicks I expect some of them will be ready to compete at the highest level of the Patriot League. We only go as far as our freshman class can push our upperclassmen this year. And they have to earn their playing time in practice. They have been working hard.
GoHolyCross.com: What is important for the team to do that will lead to success during the season?
Morrissey: We need to win some big Patriot League games to gain the confidence and belief that we can compete at the highest level of our league. We need to break through and realize it can be done. We also need to stay out of the penalty box. And when we do commit a foul we need to be much better than our man down defense was last year. Last year penalties were way out of line. It is something that is being addressed on a daily basis.
GoHolyCross.com: Is there a big sense of excitement from the team to start the season?
Morrissey: Absolutely. College lacrosse is getting more and more exciting every season and our seniors are very hungry to play and play well. And get this team to have a winning season.
GoHolyCross.com: Do you think the team has strong depth?
Morrissey: We do have some depth this season that is starting to build up. We have three different face-off guys we can put into a game. We have five attackmen I feel comfortable putting into a game as well as two strong midfield lines. We need to continue to bring along our third midfield line as well as build up some more depth at defense and short stick defensive midfield. The depth department is where I am counting on the freshmen to help us as well.
GoHolyCross.com: What do you see as strength of the team?
Morrissey: I think our offensive experience as well as our defensive midfield group is a strength of the team. We have some guys back who have been in my offensive philosophy for two years now so I think they understand what I am looking for them to do. Our entire starting defensive midfield group returns so I feel very confident about that group.