The No. 13 men’s lacrosse team (7–3, 3–2 Ivy) has been red hot as of late, winning three straight games, including last Friday’s 7-6 overtime win against Brown. Through nine games,defenseman Michael Quinn ’16 is third on the team in groundballs (23) and leads the team in caused-turnovers (15) after moving from long-stick midfield in his freshman campaign. The Bulldog defense, despite losing two key seniors from last year’s record-breaking campaign, has again shown its teeth with a staunch 8.1 goals against average, good for ninth best in the nation. With two thirds of the Elis’ season played, the News sat down with Quinn to discuss how the year has gone, the team’s character and the Elis’ overall goals.
Q. How has the team developed as the season has gone on?
A. I think that we have definitely been getting better as the season has gone on. That’s something that really leads to our success. Last year as an example, we tried to get better every year and by the end of the season you have a product that is pretty good. It is a process to break things down to fundaments and to keep getting better. When you add all the little things up, you keep winning games, and your season won’t end until the end of May.
Q. What has it been like for you dealing with a lot of preseason criticism about the defense and now answering those critics with solid performances throughout the season?
A. Jimmy Craft ’14 is a great leader as our captain at the helm. He has really done a great job integrating as we have had a couple injuries this season. With Christopher Keating ’17 going down, guys like David Better ’15 and Alirio DeMeireles ’15 have stepped up and both have played great. But Jimmy is the orchestrator. We had a chip on our shoulder with all the guys at Inside Lacrosse Magazine talking about how we lost two great players in the offseason. However, I think we have used that to our advantage to work hard in the offseason and prove people’s predictions about us wrong.
Q. How important has goaltender Eric Natale ’15 been to the team’s success?
A. He has been extremely important. No matter how well we play as a unit, he is our backbone. There are certainly times in every game when the defense breaks down and the only person left standing is Eric. He’s played great all season, specifically against Providence and this past weekend at Brown. He has continued his success from last year. As a defenseman, it is nice knowing you have someone solid behind you so that you can play a little bit harder and take a bit more risk and knowing that he is most likely going to bail you out if you get beat.
Q. What has surprised you about this team and its character or abilities?
A. We have been able to deal with a lot of adversity this season. Losing a bunch of contributors from last year like Kirby Zdrill ’13, Michael McCormack ’13 and Peter Johnson ’13 was hard enough. On top of that we have had a number of injuries, with AJ Rocco [’17] going down as well as Keating, and we have had to deal with day to day injuries to myself and Alexander Otero ’15, to name a few. Everyone is stepping up all over the place and that is exactly what we needed. My experience about this team is that everyone will keep grinding it out.
Q. The Brown game was a bit of a scare for the team. How are you hoping to build off of that?
A. We definitely didn’t do a very good job of game management at Brown. The offense was clicking very well in the first quarter. After that I think we started playing more conservatively. We stopped making that extra pass or the extra play, and that let them get back in the game. We definitely have to give Brown credit. Their goalie made a couple point blank saves. Defensively, we got off the game plan and stopped thinking about fundamentals. A big key this week is getting back defensively to what has been successful. I think we need to look back to the Lehigh game, where we executed really well.
Q. Is playing in the Big House something you look forward to or more of a distraction from the crucial Ivy campaign?
A. I think it’s a good thing. We only have one more Ivy League game with Harvard as our last game. This is definitely a really exciting experience for a lot of guys on the team including myself. We have never played in a big venue like the Big House. We don’t really play many games where we are flying places. It is good to be able to take our mind away from Ivy League for a week. Everyone is really pumped. It is a really cool opportunity for us against a team that is young but very dangerous.
Q. What does the team need to do better if it hopes to get to the NCAA tournament?
A. Moving forward, we are going to have to stick with the fundamentals. We need 5 percent more from every player, and everyone has to play a little harder, faster and with a little bit more hustle. Both offensively and defensively, we need to play a little smarter. We can definitely do a better job executing and doing the things we do in practice. We do drills in practice to simulate game time plays, and I think sometimes nerves are high, and sticking with fundamentals and the process will help us. If you think about the next five seconds instead of the next 10 minutes, we will be in a good place come May.
Q. What are the team’s goals for this year? Is there a motto for the season?
A. On the back of our lifting shirts, our slogan is “build a boneyard.” It means making the little plays and doing the little things right. Whether it’s in practice, in film or in a game, when you do that, then you are putting a bone in the boneyard. Come gameday at the end of the week, if you have had good practice then that boneyard will be full, and we are going to play the want we want to play. Focus on details and the little things. That’s what separates teams come playoff time. We have the highest goal of becoming victorious on Memorial Day weekend, but we can’t look too far ahead. We know we have had success in the last few years, but it’s a new year, and we have a lot of crucial games coming up.