Shane Kelly, Staff Writer
As the month of February comes to a close, Utica College says goodbye to the winter sport seasons and starts getting ready for spring sports. The UC men’s lacrosse team is anxious to take the field and start their Empire 8 season.
“This upcoming season is going to be a great one,” senior Brandon Souza said. “I think we are on track for one of our best seasons yet. With a combination of the veteran leadership and the new young talent, I think this could be a great season for our lacrosse team.”
Last season the Pioneers finished with a record of 8-8.
“We had a pretty good season,” head coach Mike Parnell said. “But our ultimate goal is to be Empire 8 champions. We just need to be a little more consistent with our offense and defense.”
Though there is still snow on the ground, this preseason has been different for the 2016 Pioneers. In years past, the team would take to the turf in below freezing temperatures, usually with snow on the ground, and try to run practice. This has always worked for the Pioneers, but practicing outside is now obsolete.
“Practice has been going well with the addition of the dome,” Parnell said. “The ability to practice inside a climate controlled facility and teach gives us a huge advantage right now with the weather being the way it is.”
Coaching in an indoor environment helps freshman players learn how lacrosse is played differently at the college level. Not only does the dome make coaching easier, it gives the players a huge advantage. The advantage of not having to practice outside helps the players recover and save their bodies for the season.
“The dome is the best blessing this lacrosse program has received since the program was founded,” senior Alex Finnegan said. “There are too many memories of snowy below freezing days out on the turf, where the sweat froze immediately as it dripped. With this dome, we can comfortably practice all the aspects of the game in which we couldn’t in previous seasons. This can give us a huge advantage over teams less fortunate.”
Aspects the Pioneers are looking to improve on this season are their efficiency with the ball and being consistent on finishing opportunities.
“We are looking to be more efficient, both on offense and clearing the ball in the middle of the field. Being able to control the ball can be a real advantage for us,” Souza said.
The Pioneers are close to becoming a top-tier team in the conference. A few tune-ups and finishing opportunities are what they think they need to be competing for an Empire 8 championship.
“We are looking to improve on finishing opportunities once they present themselves,” Finnegan said. “In the past we missed opportunities that can make or break the season.”
The Pioneers start their season March 2 against St. Lawrence University. Home play starts March 16 as they take on local competitor SUNY Poly.
The Pioneers have all the advantages to make a historic season. The team is ready to take the field and has nothing but positive thoughts.
“I think we have a lot of new faces who bring a new style of lacrosse to this program that will compliment the returning players well,” Finnegan said. “With the personnel we have right now there’s no doubt we can make it to playoffs and bring home that E8 championship.”