Fall is an unusual time for the UNL lacrosse team, which has its regular season in the spring. The club held practices and meetings throughout the end of summer and beginning of fall to prepare for the Big Ten Conference lacrosse tournament in Chicago on Oct. 4 and 5.
These practices, which were high tempo, active and productive because of new coach Rob Mazanec, have also come with their fair share of difficulties.
Santo Marasco, president of the club, defenseman and senior economics and psychology major at UNL, saw the team itself as the biggest obstacle heading into the tournament.
“One of the challenges of entering a tournament during the fall is not everyone is mentally ready for lacrosse,” Marasco said. “Some pledge fraternities, freshmen are getting used to college life and other people have jobs. Every player must find their own intrinsic motivation for fall ball.”
Marasco also said injuries have been an obstacle with the loss of attackman Brett Wilms, who was out last year as well with a torn ACL, and midfielder Jamison Viera, who may be out all year after tearing his medial patellofemoral ligament. Attackmen Jake Belski is also out for good because he’s had too many concussions to continue playing.
“All of these boys contributed to our offense,and having them sit does us no good,” Marasco said.
Senior defenseman and treasurer of the club, Michael Killingsworth, approached the tournament by treating it the same as any regular season game.
“Relatively speaking, the Big Ten Tournament is not a huge deal,” Killingsworth said. “It is more for fun than anything. Now, that being said, we still want to do really well and show the rest of the Big Ten what we can do.”
Marasco said his goal for the team going into the tournament was to improve every game, watch other players, learn from their mistakes and stay mentally disciplined the entire game. Schools such as Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin made their pool one of the most challenging in the tournament so being able to handle and respond to that pressure is important for the team’s success.
“We have been on the cusp of much higher levels of success these past two years,” Marasco said. “If we can put together complete games and improve every single week/game, we have a very lofty ceiling.”
The tournament, which was hosted by the Great Lakes Lacrosse League, guaranteed participants at least three games. The Huskers played Wisconsin, Purdue and Iowa losing with scores of 0-6, 5-6 and 1-3, respectively. But while three losses might look bad on paper, Marasco said the team accomplished what it set out to do.
“It was cold, and we got beat up, but that’s the game,” Marasco said. “We were in every one until the end; they were all competitive. We improved every game, which was our goal as a team heading into the fall.”
Looking to the spring season, Killingsworth said the tournament helped him prepare by revealing his weaknesses. For the team, the greatest benefit from this past weekend was the bonding aspect.
“The team can really grow from this experience,” Killingsworth said. “This tournament serves the purpose of allowing our team the opportunity to really bond and become a team.”
Marasco also said one of his goals in realizing the team’s potential coming out of the Big Ten tournament and future fall tournaments is to bond.
“Fall road trips are always a great time for the team to develop chemistry, and I look for that to carry over in the spring,” Marasco said. “Teammates will develop on-field and off-field relationships with each other that will make them better.”
As for the Big Ten tournament though, Marasco said he still has some reservations about the game against Purdue, the reigning Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference champion. The Huskers led at halftime, but lost after Purdue put together a few good possessions to capture the win.
He said he can’t be too upset because the team still made memories together. In this case it came in a picturesque possession from one of the poles.
“He ran down the field, spun and cranked some sweet chedd from the restraining line, he then celebrated with a shmoney dance proving just how versatile he is,” Marasco said. “#swagtrain2015”