Sam Ashton, the head coach of the University of Dallas men’s lacrosse team, spoke to the players about the game they had during practice Saturday, Jan. 28.
“We’re getting really greedy on the crease, I know we see him,” Ashton said as he placed his hand on the shoulder of Ryan Thie. “And he’s somewhat open … but he’s gotta be able to make a play on the ball.”
“I’m not that good,” Thie interrupted.
“He’s got to be able to make a play,” Ashton repeated. “It’s really hard, okay, if the goal’s right there, it’s really hard to come towards [the ball], grab it, turn and make a play back behind your body.”
Ashton sounded tough, but he also said to each group that played during the exercise:
“Both ways, great job.”
After he sent the team to run several laps around the field, I asked him how the team was looking.
“Defense is looking solid,” Ashton said. “We got some returners there, we got a lot of our leadership there: two seniors on the back end [and freshman] Tyler Smith, who played [only] a little bit last year due to some injuries, [but] he’s coming back strong. I’m feeling confident about the defense.”
“[Our offense is] looking good,” Ashton continued. “We [have] just got to get some more chemistry and get everyone dialed in to our schemes. [Sophomore] Pete Early is a guy returning who had a lot of shots for us last year and is a big part of the offense. Jake Frederick is coming in. He’s a freshman, a big midfielder who’s gonna be able to have some matchups. Big Rig, Ryan Thie, is coming back as well. [Sophomore] Ben Blessard is looking good. We’re also gonna switch [junior] Josh McClendon from midfield to attack. We’ve got three sophomores on attack, nice and young. We’re looking to build around them.”
Since Ashton, who was hired this summer, is a new member of the team I asked some of the players how the team performed last season.
“We had the talent, I believe, and the numbers, for a while, but we just couldn’t put it together,” senior defender Nick Baeza said. “We had too many injuries, which meant we lost at least six guys, so by the time of the last game we only had 12 or 13 guys who could play. We also had a big schedule of 18 games, so it was tough to go with 16 or 17 guys after all the injuries.”
Senior defender and captain Jacob Tom mentioned how the team struggled to clear the ball away from their goal and bring it toward the goal of their opponent.
“Usually, a team wants a clearance rate of 75 percent,” Tom said. We got 59 percent last year, which is pretty… bad. It means our defense played a lot more, which puts more of the weight on them because they have to keep playing over and over again.”
In spite of these challenges, the players sound positive about this season.
“I feel like this is the best team we’ve had so far because our offense is looking good this year, and our defense is talking and playing well together,” Baeza said. “So I believe this is going to be a better year.”
“The team chemistry is fantastic,” Early said. “I guess that comes from having a small squad of only about 18 dudes. A small team might mean there’s not a lot of players and people have to do more than necessary, but the smaller the team, the better the brotherhood.”
Men’s lacrosse plays their first game Tuesday, Feb. 14, on the road against Dallas Baptist University.