For the Albion College men’s lacrosse team, their recent success has been a long time coming. The four-year-old program started its first season with only three wins. The team now holds a 4-3 record with nine games left in the regular season. Perseverance of its original members through the program’s beginning years has resulted in a solid foundation for this young team to move forward and become a stronger, more competitive program.
After only having eight players their first year as a program, the Brits now boast a 36-man roster, a significant increase compared to past seasons. The program’s stronger recruiting instilled confidence among individuals and has brought players closer together.
“This year, we’re a lot calmer in situations that would often invoke anxiety,” said Ian Monkman, Bloomfield junior.
During a huge win on St. Patrick’s Day against Augustana College, Monkman, a team captain, said the team kept their heads up after tough officiating and going into a triple overtime. He admitted that in the past those tight situations would have put the team in a hole, but players kept their cool and came out with a big win.
“It’s stuff like that that shows our growth and development in just four years as a program,” Monkman said.
The coaching staff has continued from day one to recruit and bring in new talent from high schools with successful lacrosse backgrounds. Jake Decola, head coach, said that the biggest ongoing challenge they have found is recruiting players who best fit Albion’s lacrosse program.
“All players who we bring in were the best on their high school program, but when they come to us they are competing against every kid who was the top kid in his program,” Decola said. “So we really have to adjust our work ethic because we are extremely demanding. Some of our guys take a bit longer to get used to working this hard every day.”
In previous years, players were more focused on getting playing time than their roles on the field.
“Players are starting to realize that the team is more important than the individual,” Monkman said.
Jamie Kehoe, Clinton Township senior and team captain, reiterated the same thought that, in previous years, players were worried about their own things.
“The common goal is all the same now,” Kehoe said. “Having more players has built that comradery.”
Decola said the first-year class seems to show a greater understanding for the program’s values than seen in previous years. He mentioned that Cameron Smyk, Birmingham first-year, and starter on defense has played well consistently throughout the season thus far. Smyk has shown a strong work ethic and potential for leadership among his class.
“We need to mature and come together and play our best every day,” Decola said. “Then I believe that we can be a very good team with great chemistry and have the ability to win.”
The team has worked to adapt to the college-level speed of the game, as its much more fast-paced than what newer guys were used to in their high school careers.
While Decola admits that the program is still very immature, leadership has played a huge role in getting this team on its feet and pushing new players to adapt to a college level game and progress as individuals.
“Our biggest challenge right now is really ourselves, not our opponents,” Decola said. “As a young program, however, we sometimes lack the self-motivation to consistently work hard every day and in every situation, and this could bite us against tough opponents. In fact, it already has in a one-goal loss to Concordia.”
Decola mentioned Monkman as an especially strong leader on the team and someone who represents the values that this program stands for.
“Everything he is, our program is,” Decola said.
This year, the team will graduate it’s first senior class of Kehoe, Dan Genord, Ann Arbor senior, Mitch Loney, Commerce Township senior, Jeremy Simms, Montrose senior and Brandon Allwood, Williamstown, VT., senior.
“They’ve seen everything from complete failure to success,” Monkman said.
The graduating senior class has built a strong base for the program and has watched it change over time. The strong chemistry amongst the team, as well as finally coming together as one, is a result of many older, more experienced players stepping up to guide the team towards a common goal.
“Feeling like we’re leaving something behind is a big thing for us,” Kehoe said.
Moving forward, the Brits continue to overcome its weaknesses, become a more established program and work toward what Monkman described as a “potential threat” in their conference.
“I’ll be honest, we have an opportunity to host the first ever MIAA lacrosse championship here at Albion as the top seed,” Decola said. “But with that comes the responsibility of working extremely hard every day at practice.”