Dwayne Stewart seemed ready for his next challenge.
After assisting Ryan Kuhn with starting a men’s lacrosse program at Lincoln Memorial University as both an assistant coach and offensive coordinator from 2015 to 2018, Stewart was ready for his next challenge, coaching a first-year varsity squad at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
“I was excited because I was going to be the leader of a team,” said Stewart, who is currently in his second season with the Hawks.
Being involved with a new program seemed “normal” to Stewart, who has aspirations of one day winning a championship – “I want to do that fast,” he said when introduced as the school’s first-ever men’s lacrosse coach on August 9, 2018. Stewart has won a championship before when he played midfield at the University of Albany in 2013 but as of Thursday morning, the Copiague, New York native seems determined to provide his squad with as much playing and practicing experience as possible this season.
Stewart and the team used the lockdown, as well as the past few months to begin planning for this season – so far, the squad has competed twice, and despite dropping their initial State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) clash to the State University of New York at Plattsburgh(SUNY Plattsburgh) on Monday, Stewart and the Hawks were able to gain a better understanding of what they must work on, so they can be better prepared for future league matchups.
“It was great to see the level of play (in the SUNYAC),” Stewart said of his team’s recent outing with Plattsburgh. “I am sure my guys learned a lot.”
The Hawks will gain more experience as the season progresses – in fact, they will learn a lot more over the next few weeks when they compete against other league foes, including the State University of New York at Potsdam (SUNY Potsdam), a team they will see next Monday, as well as later this month. But beyond the offensive and defensive reps, Stewart also plans to use these next few weeks to “instill” a team culture, as well as improve the system he is currently teaching the Hawks.
Like any coach, Stewart knows his system – and yes, his team’s goals – will be tweaked over time. But as for his vision – well, more his dream for where the Hawks can go from here is something his young team already believes in.
“You know, I pretty much sold them a dream (for this new program when I was hired in August of 2018) and they believed that dream and vision,” said Stewart when reflecting on his time the past few years with the program.
“We had a really strong showing (last February) against Elmira, and after we got that first win, along with an overtime win against SUNY Purchase, the team really started to buy into that message. And they’re feeding (into it more and more) as a second-year program.”
The final day of March has arrived – can you believe it?
I can’t, but what I can say is it has been a busy few weeks in the NCAA D-III lacrosse world – hopefully, you have stopped by to read our various player perspective interviews, along with our weekly notebooks this month! – but before we usher in a brand new month, along with the second half of the season, I thought we could revisit some of the storylines (and yes, headlines, too) from the past few weeks.
Salisbury University Women’s Lacrosse is off to a fast start
Let’s begin with Salisbury University, specifically the women’s team, which recently scored its eighth-straight win, as well as its third conference victory. The Sea Gulls are averaging 15 goals per game – so far, they have deposited 124 shots – and appeared to be in mid-season form earlier this month when they beat The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), 14-8.
Seniors Alexis Strobel (12 goals and 37 assists), Lydia McNulty (21 goals and three assists), and Julie Talbert (11 goals and two assists) have highlighted the Sea Gulls’ impressive attack, which has also received a boost from sophomore Erin Scannell, who has recorded career-highs in goals (26) and points (27).
With five games remaining, the Sea Gulls appear to be the team to beat in the Coast-To-Coast Athletic Conference (C2C) – one game to watch next month is Salisbury’s regular-season finale against St. Mary’s College, which has won three of four contests thus far. The Seahawks’ lone setback occurred earlier this month against Salisbury (14-10 setback).
John Carroll University boasts two NCAA D-III Goal Scorers
Skyler Blake and Colleen Grombala of John Carroll University are currently leading all NCAA D-III lacrosse players in goals – yes, I know this can change with games set to commence later today and this evening.
The Gents recently restarted their lacrosse program and defeated the University of Dallas earlier this month – the win is certainly a step in the right direction for the Maroon and White, which is currently the only NCAA squad in Louisiana.
As of this afternoon, Centenary boasts a 1-8 record but I’ll be rooting for them in their next two contests against Southwestern University and Dallas.
Averett University men’s lacrosse has shown improvements in its fourth season
The four wins are the most for the Cougars, who are scheduled to compete this Saturday, April 3 against William Peace University. This will be the first of two meetings between the two schools this season.
As of this afternoon, first-year Liam Taylor leads the Navy Blue and Yellow with 24 points on 18 goals and six assists.
Keep your eyes on Christopher Newport men’s lacrosse next month
The one-goal win over the Hornets was the first for Christopher Newport in four attempts (Lynchburg would even the season series six days later with a 12-5 win).
Despite a recent loss to Lynchburg, Christopher Newport has looked quite impressive this month – they are scheduled to face some challenging foes in Colorado College, Salisbury University, and Washington and Lee University over the next few weeks.
The Captains and Sea Gulls will square-off this Saturday, April 3 in Maryland with a face-off set for 4 p.m. I would highly recommend streaming the game.
The Washington and Lee women’s lacrosse team has won six-straight contests and will commence the second half of their schedule tomorrow when they visit Shenandoah University. After visiting the Hornets, the Generals will play four more contests before competing in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Tournament.
The George Fox University women’s lacrosse team will enter the second half of their schedule with a 7-0 record – the Bruins recently scored back-to-back wins last weekend against Willamette University. Andrea Garcia-Milla highlighted her team’s seventh win with six assists to go with five ground balls and one caused turnover.
The first weekend of New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) action is set to commence this Saturday, April 3 with three contests. Trinity College men’s lacrosse will visit Connecticut College at 11 a.m. followed by Bates College women’s lacrosse visiting Colby College. Connecticut College women’s lacrosse will entertain Tufts University at 3 p.m.
SUNY Cortland men’s lacrosse will enter the month of April with a 2-1 record – they recently defeated Clarkson University, 11-9, thanks to four goals and one assist from Zak Jones.
One year after leading the Coast Guard Academy men’s lacrosse team in goals (17) through six contests, Caleb Holdridge picked-up where he left off last weekend by leading the Bears with seven points on six goals and one assist in his team’s season-opening win against Springfield College.
Holdridge, who grew up and played high school lacrosse nearby in Waterford, Connecticut, admitted he did not anticipate logging that many points in his team’s first contest since last March. Instead, the second-year attackman gave credit to his offensive teammates, who he believes will also enjoy similar success later this spring.
“Our offense this year is very versatile – we have numerous people who can score, finish and get an assist,” said Holdridge, who also scooped three ground balls while recording one caused turnover last Saturday. “In our game against Springfield, we had seven people come out with a point, so I think that in itself is impressive.”
Indeed, the Bears’ opening day performance was impressive as every member of the Blue and Orange contributed to the program’s second win against Springfield, including Matty Johnson, who netted the go-ahead and eventual game-winner with 2:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, and Will Iorio, who concluded the game with two tallies and three assists.
Noontime Sports recently caught-up with Caleb Holdridge to discuss his team’s first win of the 2021 season, but also their outlook for this Saturday’s home date with Babson College.
This may sound like a simple question, but what changed for you (and the offense) in the second half as your team outscored Springfield, 6-3, during the final two framesto secure an opening-day win?
I think the second half is when we finally showed what we had been working on in practice.
The first half was just getting the jitters out and settling our nerves because nobody had played a game in over a year, so it was a surreal experience being back on the field playing against a different colored jersey again. However, once this feeling passed and (my teammates and I) settled in, we were able to display our team’s true potential. We were all able to operate on the same page, and I think this was especially shown in the fourth quarter (when we outscored the Pride. Our offense put away four goals (during the final frame) while our defense did not give up a single point. They also had two crucial stops at the end of the game.
With your team playing a limited number of games this spring, how important was it to earn that first win? Additionally, do you believe an opening-day win against Springfield will provide the squad with some extra momentum heading into this week’s contest against Babson?
I think it was a major momentum builder especially with the number of young players we had getting in the game and producing (on both ends of the field).
Dan Lucas recorded 12 saves in his first collegiate start and stood on his head in the fourth quarter with a doorstop save. Ryan Flynn and Dan Zarillo each recorded their first goals, and Gunnar Brodfuehrer won 60 percent of his face-off attempts. All four of these guys are sophomores, too, so I think it is a major confidence booster when we can produce from everywhere on the field no matter the grade or experience.
Wins like this are extremely impactful to get the ball rolling for the next game and even more so with a shortened season.
What must you and the team continue to do this week as you prepare for your second game? Any adjustments on the offensive end?
Given it was our first game in over a year, there are definitely areas we need to clean up, but that is also the best part because we have yet to show our true potential. And while this was only our first game of the season, we were still able to show impressive production on both sides of the field. We believe we still have a lot to work on, but it was a good start to this shortened season.
Finally, tell me about returning to the field last weekend. What sort of emotions were both you and your teammates experiencing when stepping onto the field to play a game for the first time in roughly a year?
It was definitely a surreal experience being in that type of atmosphere again. The week leading up to the game felt a lot longer than it was and I would get goosebumps every time I thought about the game. But once I caught the first pass it was such an easing feeling where it finally felt like something was back to normal in this era of Covid-19.
“I had no idea what to expect going into that first game, especially against Babson,” said Sarnacki, who also recorded three caused turnovers and captured one draw control. “I wasn’t sure how their defense would come out, and if we would have to make adjustments if they threw a face guard (at us), but they just let us play and we were able to put the ball in the back of the net.”
While Sarnacki led all scorers with seven goals, Springfield received additional contributions from Taylor Pichel (three goals and one assist) and Katie Martel (three goals). First-year Maddy Roy recorded her first collegiate goal and classmate Colleen Browne picked-up her initial win between the pipes with seven saves.
Springfield’s opening-day win should certainly provide the Maroon and White with some momentum heading into their next few games – Springfield, as well as the Beavers, are playing a conference-only schedule this spring with each team competing in five contests. The Pride are currently one of three teams in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) that boasts a 1-0 record as both Coast Guard Academy and Wheaton College captured their initial contests of the 2021 season last weekend.
With four games remaining, Sarnacki, along with her teammates, know each matchup is critical in accomplishing their overall goal of winning a conference championship.
“I think it’s even more important with a shortened season because it sets the tone,” said Sarnacki, who has netted 115 goals in 44 contests with the Pride.
“In a normal season, the first half of your schedule is against non-conference opponents so you have time to figure out what works and what you need to adjust to prepare for conference play. This year, we don’t have that time or luxury, so scoring an opening-day win boosts our confidence as a team, but also fuels us to keep getting better every day because we know what we are capable of (doing on a weekly basis).”
Said Sarnacki, “We will definitely work to improve our transition game a little bit, and focus on discipline so we can limit our yellow cards on Saturday. Our main focus will be to continue improving all over the field while continuing to enjoy this opportunity to play together.”
After starting their season last spring by winning three of four contests, the Trinity College men’s lacrosse team has continued that momentum, winning back-to-back games this month against Castleton University and Endicott College. Dane Crowley highlighted the Bantams’ second win on Wednesday against the Gulls by capturing 22 of 28 face-offs while Reid McDonald recorded a season-high three goals and four points. Trinity will host Union College in a non-conference clash on Sunday, March 28 with face-off scheduled for 1 p.m.
The Gettysburg College women’s lacrosse team will attempt to score its second-straight win on Saturday when they host Muhlenberg College – the Bullets opened their shortened season last weekend with a 16-8 victory against Washington College. Bri Stokes, who played lacrosse locally at Lincoln-Sudbury, recorded her 100th career point in her team’s 2021 season-opener.
Kat Walton knew she was closing in on Kara Hines‘ all-time points record (248 points) with the Capital University women’s lacrosse team, but she may have not know that it would only take her six games this spring to establish a new record after registering six goals and two assists last Wednesday in her team’s 21-9 win over Ohio Northern.
“I knew (before) our season started that I was close (to Kara’s all-time points record) and there was a chance I could break it,” said Walton.
Walton not only broke the record, but recently established a new mark of 262 points after tallying 11 goals and five assists in her team’s last two outings.
Stacey Florence, who is the head coach of the Crusaders, announced at halftime last Wednesday that Walton had broken the record – she also presented the Pickerington, Ohio native with a game ball.
Said Walton, “I absolutely would not have this record without my teammates.”
In addition to becoming the all-time leader in points, Walton also became the second student-athlete in the program’s eight-year history to reach 200 goals last Saturday when she completed her hat trick in the second half of her team’s 22-10 win over Baldwin Wallace.
Noontime Sports recently caught-up with Kat Walton to discuss the Crusaders’ current campaign, but also what it means to be the all-time leader in points.
Tell us about last Wednesday’s record-setting performance against Ohio Northern. How were you able to produce a season-high eight points on six goals and two assists?
As a team, we were really fired up coming off of a loss (to John Carroll University). We knew what we needed to do – we needed to execute and play our game, and we wanted to make a statement. We knew that driving to goal was going to be our biggest threat that night and it just worked out that I had a hot hand.
Looking back on the past four years with the Capital women’s lacrosse team, did you think it was possible that you would break Kara Hines’ all-time points record?
I truthfully did not know if it was possible as I was and still am surrounded by so many talented players.
I played with Kara for two seasons – my first season was cut short due to an injury after six games, but I was able to see how talented she was, but also that she set the bar high.
From your perspective, how has the season gone thus far? Did you anticipate your team would win six of seven contests to start the season?
We are having a great season. As a team, we are all just happy and thankful that we are playing again after losing last year (to the Covid-19 pandemic). Every game we go into we want to win of course, but also have fun because that is when we play our best lacrosse.
We are about to enter the second half of our season, so I am expecting to see a lot more wins coming from our team.
What must you and the team continue to do to improve week-by-week and game-by-game?
We need to learn something new about ourselves as individuals, but also as a team. I think each week we must continue to improve our chemistry. We are learning more and more about what we like to do on the field, but also how we can set each other up for success on offense and defense.
Finally, being that this is your final season, what would it mean to end your time with Capital by capturing the program’s first-ever Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) Tournament title?
To win our first Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) tournament title would mean everything to our team. Every single year our goal is to win the conference tournament and sadly, we have fallen short, but I truly believe this team has the heart to do it.
I came back for my final year to play with my best friends and to win the conference tournament championship, and I am positive this is an attainable goal.