The Mack Report

Young Warriors Look To Stay With Winning Ways

mrsc7h9aqyjwko57

If the Merrimack men’s lacrosse team were to look in the mirror, it would see difference faces than it has in recent years, but the Warriors hope the reflection remains the same.

Merrimack is loaded with underclassmen on its roster, much different than teams most recently that have been dominated by upperclassmen.

“It goes in cycles,” said Merrimack head coach Mike Morgan, whose team is off to a 3-2 start this spring, playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation. “We need to get some of that experience, but we’ve talked about it as a staff and we think this team can be as good as last year’s team, and we honestly felt like we deserved a spot in the NCAA tournament last year, and we think we can be as good as that team was.

“People kept asking me in the fall and in the preseason, ‘how do you think you guys are going to do this year?’ And honestly, I just told people that I thought we could be as good as we were last year because I thought we had great depth.”

Paul Jones, who is second on the team with 10 points, is the only senior currently in the top-8 scorers for Merrimack. Freshman Tucker Schwarz leads the team with 14 points in five games, and four of Merrimack’s top-8 scorers are either freshmen or sophomores.

Though early in the season, Merrimack is leading the NE-10 with 5.61 goals-against per game and the Warriors’ 10.2 goals scored per game is fifth in the conference with captains Brandon Waiter and Jimmy Holland leading the young group.

“We’re still trying to find that chemistry,” Morgan said. “We have a lot of new guys, not only freshmen, but some transfers too, so we’re trying to just find that chemistry. We’re starting to see it.”

The Warriors are testing their new bunch right out of the starting gates. After opening with league wins over Saint Rose and Franklin Pierce, the Warriors traveled to No. 5 Limestone in Maryland, an 8-7 loss where they had the ball in the final minutes looking for a tie.

After returning home for a conference win over St. Michael’s – Merrimack is 3-0 in Northeast-10 play – it was back on the road to face No. 6 Dowling earlier this week, a 10-9 setback, after coming back late in the game and again having a possession with a chance to tie late in the game.

“It’s rare to gain confidence in losses but I think we know that we’re right there,” Morgan said. “A lot of times coaches are the ones who are always not impressed, and we’re always saying we need to work harder. It’s not that I don’t think we need to work harder, because you always can, but I think I’m probably more confident in our guys than they are at this point. These two games, even though we lost, I think it’s going a lot way in building that confidence because we know how close we are. We were in position to win both of those games, and we’re still trying to find ourselves as a group. That’s motivating if you’re a player.”

Part of the reason the Warriors loaded up their schedule this spring was the result of last season’s NCAA selection, where the Warriors missed out on the NCAA tournament despite beating three teams that did qualify in the region.

On top of the two road games already played, Merrimack will host a very good LIU Post team in a non-conference game next month (April 2).

“We felt like we had something to prove,” Morgan said. “Last year was a tough pill to swallow. We wanted to make sure that we proved we weren’t afraid to play the best. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, some times these teams have full schedules, but it worked out this year that we were going to be able to play Limestome and Dowling and Post. I guess you could say we over-scheduled, but we felt like we had to. These are all great tests for us and when we have teams like Le Moyne in our conference, these are quality opponents. ”

Merrimack hosts AIC on Saturday before it travels to Le Moyne on Tuesday.

Le Moyne and Merrimack have spurred quite the rivalry the past few years.

The Dolphins, two-time defending NE-10 champions, have only lost seven games over the past four seasons, and three of those have come at the hands of the Warriors.

“They have been the bar that everyone else is trying to be,” Morgan said. “Those first few years, it wasn’t really a rivalry, they were just winning so many games. Lately we’ve been able to get some wins, we beat them at our place last year and then they won again later in the year. You want to test yourself against some of the best teams in the country, and that’s what Le Moyne is. We’re taking it one game at a time, we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, but games against them the last few years have always felt bigger. Part of that, I think, is that they usually have something on the line. When we play Le Moyne, it’s either because we have something on the line in our league or in the NCAA picture.”

Remaining home games on Merrimack’s schedule include LIU Post (April 2), St. Anselm (April 16) and Adelphi (April 19).