By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11)
For a third-year program, the Coast Guard Academy men’s lacrosse team has certainly exceeded expectations.
The Bears, who transformed from a club program into a varsity team two years ago, have shown great improvement under third-year coach Ray LaForte, who has his squad on pace to match the program’s record for wins in a single-season (10).
Not only have the Bears shown improvement since their initial campaign in 2015, but have scored some important wins this season, most recently a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) victory over Wheaton College on Wednesday.
Their 15-5 triumph over the Lyons happened to be the Bears’ first-ever victory against Wheaton – it was also a contest that saw first-year Riley McNulty shatter the program’s single-season record for points (40).
In addition to their lone league win, the squad has also scored some impressive regional victories this season, defeating Lasell College (12-5), Eastern Connecticut State (18-5) and Norwich University (15-5).
This Saturday, the Bears will look to continue their current momentum when they compete against Merchant Marine Academy. Yet, unlike the past two seasons, this particular contest will be played at the United States Naval Academy following Army-Navy, which is scheduled to face-off at 12 p.m.
“It is really exciting,” LaForte said when asked about playing this weekend’s contest at the U.S. Naval Academy. “Our Athletic Director Tim Fitzpatrick did a great job in putting this game together and it is looking to be a great event for our academy.”
According to LaForte, Fitzpatrick was looking to create a special event in the spring between the two academies and was able to set-up an opportunity for them to intersect in Annapolis, Maryland.
LaForte, who was quite excited when it was announced last November that the two programs would meet in Maryland, considers it a great opportunity to showcase both teams and their student-athletes
And one of those student-athletes that are eager for Saturday’s face-off is senior captain Blaise Curtis, who hails from Riverside, Maryland.
“There are a lot of guys that are really excited (about this game),” said Curtis. “There is a very big atmosphere change from us playing any other team with a lot more emotion and energy, so I expect Merchant Marine Academy to bring the same type of emotion and energy that we will bring for sure (on Saturday).”
Curtis is optimistic about his team’s chances this weekend despite the fact that the Mariners have captured the past two contests, including last season’s match-up, which saw Merchant Marine Academy push ahead for good with a five-goal spurt in the second quarter.
“I could see (this game) being a grind until the last quarter,” said Curtis.
Similar to Coast Guard Academy, Merchant Marine Academy enters the contest with seven wins, including five victories in Skyline Conference play.
While the countdown has officially begun for face-off (tomorrow), Curtis, along with his teammates will keep the focus on playing their best lacrosse against a rival he has enjoyed competing against for the past two years.
“I think this will be one of the biggest rivalry games and stages I have been able to play on,” said Curtis. “I am really excited to get out on the field and give our best effort against Merchant Marine.”