Although February over, RIT men's lacrosse is just beginning their 2017 season. The Tigers held an astounding record of 18–2 in 2016 and are ready to prove themselves once again this season. However, the team is still bouncing back from a devastating loss in the second round of the NCAA Division III Lacrosse tournament to Amherst College with a score of 14–17.
“The expectations this season is that we work hard, embrace the suck, continue to improve each day, and make progress through the season,” said head coach Jake Coon, going into his eighth year of coaching men’s lacrosse. “It’s expected that they keep a good balance with school, lacrosse and their social life.”
In just seven seasons at RIT, Coon has become the winningest coach in RIT lacrosse history with a record of 127–17. He has also led the Tigers to seven straight Liberty League conference titles, and the team's first ever appearance in the national championship game in 2013.
"I don't really think you can put into words all that Coach Coon has done for the RIT lacrosse family."
“I don't really think you can put into words all that Coach Coon has done for the RIT lacrosse family, and all the men that have been coached by him,” said fifth year Marketing major and captain Braden Wallace. “The biggest impact Coach Coon has had on me is off the field. Teaching values, how to conduct yourself and the difference between right and wrong is something Coon preaches on a daily bases. He has taught me some life skills that I can use for the rest of my life outside of the lacrosse field.”
With Coon's guidance, Wallace is expecting his team to take home the NCAA Tournament trophy this season. “The expectations for this year as well as any year is a National Championship,” Wallace explained. “Last year everyone involved in RIT men's lacrosse was disappointed with a loss in the quarterfinals.”
For every college sports team, the offseason is an important part of what makes a team great. Coon and Wallace had some input to share on how it went for the team.
“Over the summer we have team workouts that we follow and track our progress through. I would also say everyone on the team is playing lacrosse over the summer on some level, we had a few guys that competed on that national level over the summer,” said Wallace. “With so many new personnel, it did take some time to get to know everyone and get comfortable with each other. Now that we are back in season and practicing six days a week the guys are really starting to mesh and that translates on and off the field.”
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves and our team,” said Coon. “Some good, some bad.”
Coon also added on what areas of the game the team needs to work on this season. “We need to improve everywhere of course. But as of today being able to play fast and not turn the ball over is something we need to continue working on,” he said. “Our special teams with our man up unit and man down group need to be better. More consistency at the faceoff as well.”
The seniors on the team are also gearing up for their last season of representing RIT lacrosse. “Each year we talk a lot about our seniors and how appreciative we are for their efforts and how their time is running short," explained Coon. "We have a great group of seniors and they are extremely important for our success."
“I am excited for them but also sad knowing they will be gone after the season. The rest of us just want to send them out on a high note because they deserve it,” Coon continued.
"I know that no matter what happens after school, playing lacrosse will never be the same."
Wallace was in agreement. “Being a fifth-year senior this year really is a bonus year for me. Seeing how heartbroken the seniors were last year and knowing that could have been my last year too I am just trying to make this year everything it can be and cherish the time I have left,” he said. “I know that no matter what happens after school, playing lacrosse will never be the same.”
“Some guys on the team I have played with for five years and really only have four months left together, so [I'm] just trying to take everything in and make some lasting memories,” added Wallace.
In order to gear up for the season, the Tigers participated in a scrimmage on Feb. 9, against the Hill Academy, a private high school located in Vaughan, Ontario in Canada. The Hill Academy is known in the lacrosse world as one of the best lacrosse teams in the country, ranked #1 at one point for the entire continent of North America. In a fantastic victory, the Tigers came out on top against the Hill Academy with a score of 15–9.
“They played a great game,” said Hill Academy defensemen Teddy Leggett. “They’re good enough to play in (NCAA) Division I lacrosse.”
The Tigers kicked off their official 2017 lacrosse season by travelling to Delaware, Ohio on Feb. 18 to play Ohio Wesleyan University, where they took home a 12-11 win.
“We have a very difficult schedule, so any game could be a tough one. We play eight top-20 ranked opponents... ” said Coon. “Any of those would be ones to watch and even some of the teams like Naz (Nazareth College) or Union (College) who aren’t ranked are very tough teams. We will need to be ready every time out.”