By Canio Marasco
After a 3-0 start to conference play, the Canisius men’s lacrosse team has dropped two straight games, as they prepare to battle for first place against the Monmouth Hawks.
The Griffs third conference match-up of the season was against the Siena Saints, a team who entered the game with a 1-10 overall record. A slow start hurt the Griffs badly, as they were forced to play catch-up the entire game. The Saints outscored the Griffs 6-3 in the first quarter, as they dominated play and shots, 9-5. The Saints dominant play continued, extending their lead to 8-3 early in the second quarter. The Griffs added two goals before halftime trimming the Saints lead to three.
In the third quarter, the Griffs completed the comeback, tying the game at 8-8 with only minutes left in the frame. The Saints responded with two unanswered goals to re-take the lead before the end of the quarter. The Griffs, again, responded with two goals to tie the game in the final frame. The Saints scored with six minutes left in the game to take a decisive 11-10 lead. The Griffs poured on the offense in the final minutes of the game, but they were unable to find the equalizer and dropped their first conference game of the season.
“Any loss is really disappointing,” said Coach Randy Mearns. “We game planned, we practiced, we prepared. But, we didn’t get off to the start we wanted to and then they got up on top of us. But, we had a lot of grit and resolve, and we got back into the game. We chipped away. At the end of the day, we had an opportunity to tie it and put it into OT, we had the guys that we wanted on the field and they got shots, but unfortunately it didn’t fall our way. That could have put us into the conference championship. Four wins will typically get you there. So that was a big one.”
The Griffs next match-up was against the Robert Morris Colonials, who entered the game with an 8-4 record. The Griffs scored the first goal of the game, but the Colonials added three unanswered goals to end the first quarter. The Griffs and Colonials traded goals to start the second quarter to make the game 4-2. But, the Colonials added four unanswered goals, as they started to pull away from the Griffs. The Griffs and Colonials traded goals to end the half, as the Griffs trailed 9-3 heading into the break.
The Colonials continued their dominant play in the second half. Although the Griffs started the half with a goal, the Colonials responded with two goals of their own. In a rather uncontested fourth quarter, the Griffs scored three inconsequential goals, as the Colonials coasted to a 12-7 win. The loss marked the Griffs second straight defeat, as they hit their first losing skid of the season.
“They scored and we didn’t,” said Coach Mearns jokingly. “We had some opportunities, but Robert Morris is a really capable team. They’ve floated in and out of the top-20, and they’re coached really well. But, we were in the game. It was kind of a ‘chaos game.’ There wasn’t a lot of settled offense and things just happened really quickly. Unfortunately, we had some glorious opportunities and their goalie stunned us with some saves. They had some opportunities that they buried, and all of a sudden we were four or five goals down…Everyone felt that was a game we could have won and unfortunately we didn’t.”
The Griffs two losses to the Saints and the Colonials exemplifies the largest issue the team has faced this season: consistency. Coach Mearns described the season as a “rollercoaster,” because the team has had some serious ups and downs.
“I think our coaches are doing a phenomenal job with prep and game planning. I love our guys. They’re committed and they sacrifice, they stay focused and they’re engaged. We have all the pieces to be successful…and that’s a great thing. But, what we need to improve upon is consistency and putting it all together. In the games that we’ve won this year, it has just felt like everything has fallen into place. Games where we’ve had a setback, there are specific parts of the game that have fallen away. So, we have all the pieces, but everyone has to be running on all cylinders.”
Junior attacker Ryan McKee, who is currently third on the team in points, echoed the same sentiment as Coach Mearns. He stated, “Focus. At times, these past couple games, we haven’t stuck to the game plan the coaches have put together. So, I really think we have to focus on executing that.”
The Griffs next game is a pivotal conference matchup against the Monmouth Hawks. The Griffs enter the game one spot back of the Hawks. The winner will take first place and likely a spot in the conference championship. The Hawks are in first place for a reason – they are a very good team. They are outscoring their opponents 130-99 this season. This is largely due to the play of their two top players, Tyler Keen and Bryce Wasserman, who both have over fifty points on the season.
“We have a lot of great spirits,” said Coach Mearns. “We’ve prepared, we’ve videoed up, we know who they have and what they bring and we know how we need to play to be successful. Everybody’s pumped. It’s playoff time. We need this one. We’re excited for the opportunity.”
McKee, on the match-up, stated, “I think the team has done well with handling adversity. We’ve had an up and down season and I think we’re down right now. But, I think we’re ready to come back up against Monmouth.”