Geneseo men’s lacrosse coach Jim Lyons is weeks away from kicking off his 16th season on the Knights’ sidelines. As we count down the days to the team’s first practice, we asked Coach Lyons to answer a few questions about what is happening with the team at this time of year and what we can expect once the season is underway.
We are less than two weeks from the first practice. Give us some insight into how the team is preparing for the season at this time of year.
Semester break is a very important time for our team. There is a lot of physical preparation and conditioning is going on. From cross training and interval work to lifting and running, the guys are getting in as much as possible now since we typically don’t have as much time with our game schedule throughout the season. While we will still obviously be lifting during the year, establishing that base of endurance and strength and burst of speed that will get fine-tuned as we go forward is crucial. They will also have things to work on specific to their role with the team. We put a major emphasis on stick work and fundamentals so our guys should be getting on a wall or working with a partner as much as possible. Anytime they can put their pads on and go one-on-one with someone, it is those things that will pay dividends later on in the season. It is all about shooting, running and lifting as we countdown to the start of the season!
How is the coaching staff getting ready?
For the first time in program history, I’ll have three assistant coaches on my staff, so we know we are going to be able to do more in practice. So our regular meetings have been about asking some tough questions. Our two new assistant coaches (Steven Cregan ‘15, Parker Weeks ‘15) just graduated from the program in the spring, so their input give us the ability to dissect things a bit more thoroughly with their most recent insight as players. The gloves are off – we are talking about making changes in any area we can. We haven’t necessarily been as successful as we have wanted the past couple seasons so we have been spending a lot of time looking at the areas we haven’t necessarily been happy about and asking a lot of questions as to how we are going to change and improve those areas this season. With practice starting on Jan. 25, we’ve been taking a look at what we want to accomplish in the first two weeks of practice. We have a scrimmage three weeks after our first practice and play our first game soon after, so much of our discussion is centered on personnel. We’ve been looking at where we have depth, where we have holes and where we can combine them to shore up the issues we see.
How is College Stadium going to affect how you prepare for the season?
The stadium and turf changes every single aspect of how we will be able to practice. Previously, we’d be confined to practicing in Kuhl Gymnasium in the early spring due to the fields being covered in snow and we typically weren’t able to get outside until the fields were playable. Many times, the first day that we were able to practice such things as riding and clearing weren’t until we were playing in our first scrimmage. We’d go into early contests not having done anything in transition or worked on any full-field concepts which are crucial to success on a lacrosse field. The turf opens up the ability to do everything right from our first practice, so we anticipate being a dramatically different team this year than we have been in the past. We won’t have to worry about any type of weather conditions keeping us from practicing. We’ll be able to have more variety in the types of drills we do and to keep things fresh with the players, instead of being limited to the same types of things every day when we were forced to practice inside in a much smaller space. The turf also gives us the opportunity to do things we couldn’t do inside or even when we were able to practice on grass because we had to be concerned with tearing up the surface. The footprint of the stadium is much bigger than what we previously had at our disposal, so now we can run more drills at the same time than before. The most important resource we have is time and being outside will allow us to give players double and triple the amount of touches that we were able to do inside in the same amount of time.
What is the outlook for the Knights in 2016?
Looking at a team that graduated a class of 14 seniors, it would be easy to say we are probably looking at a down season. However, we expect it to be a great year. The focus is improving on the successes we’ve had previously, especially in the conference. Overall, I expect to have a winning season and compete for a spot in the SUNYAC Tournament. I think that, with all the opportunities we’ll be able to take advantage of with College Stadium, you’ll see us have a little bit more success early on and that will help us achieve those goals. We have a solid returning core of talent, and will also welcome a combination of some experienced transfers to go along with our incoming first-years that I anticipate will make an immediate impact for us. I look forward to having some depth we didn’t have last year at some different positions. While all teams deal with Injuries, last season we had a senior captain that couldn’t play at all, another suffered a knee injury in the fifth game of the year while another captain missed five games due to injury. Our starting goalie was also only able to play a third of his senior campaign due to injury. You have to hope that, with a little more continuity along those lines, we’ll be a better team.
What are some of the strengths and areas of improvement to keep an eye on this year?
I can’t say enough how much the turf will allow us to practice more effectively. I anticipate being an improved face-off team as well as in unsettled situations, while I hope a more effective ride will yield an area that we’ll be able to turn into a weapon on offense. We’ve been pretty solid defensively, but we need to increase our offensive output. Often times when we’ve struggled on defense, our offense wasn’t effectively possessing the ball which forced us to play too much defense. Ultimately, we need to develop more of a killer instinct, which is a work in progress. I’m looking for players that, when the chips are down in a one-goal game, they can put us on their shoulders and make a difference. We’ve put ourselves in position to score goals in the past, but we have to work on having more of a shooter’s mentality that every time we shoot, it is going in. Even if it doesn’t, we still need to have the confidence to shoot again. We also had a first-year goalie have the opportunity to some valuable experience and play some important minutes last year, so we have the luxury of not starting from scratch in between the pipes.