Men’s Lacrosse Looks to Bounce Back After Shaky Start to Season

Ryan Stuzin, Sports Editor

Spring seems to have sprung, and that means Colgate Men’s Lacrosse is back. After seven games (three of which were non-conference), the Raiders seem to be battling some early-season growing pains, posting a 1-6 record thus far. 

“I think the season has been unsatisfactory so far in the sense that we haven’t been playing up to our potential in a lot of the contests,” senior captain Donny Gayhardt said. “We have put in a lot of work in the fall and spring to solidify an identity, and I think we have made some really strong progress in doing so. All of the pieces are there, and we have some flashes of great lacrosse, the challenge is finding a way to channel that for the entire 60 minutes of a game.”

Several of the losses came against teams nationally ranked in the top 40, including Boston University, Air Force, Harvard and Hobart.

Sophomore defenseman Will Rizzo from New York City commented on the tough opponents the team has had to face regularly.

“The first half of the season has definitely taught us that the margin for error in Division I lacrosse is really small,” Rizzo explained. “We’ve been in a lot of close games but just haven’t been able to play consistently for a full 60 minutes.”

Their record might not make it obvious, but the Raiders have held their own against these tough opponents. Of their six losses, five were by a deficit of four goals or fewer, indicating success isn’t far off. However, the team’s schedule does not get any easier with face-offs against highly-ranked Army, Lehigh and Loyola coming up soon. Sophomore defenseman Quinn Fitzsimmons was hopeful that the team would see more success in the near future.

“We’re a tremendously talented team with guys who have invested a lot into both their individual and team-wide growth, but we’ve been on the wrong end of tight games for too long,” said Fitzsimmons. “Now is a crucial point in the season where we can dictate our postseason hopes.”

The team’s most recent game was a matchup against Harvard on Saturday, Apr. 1. Colgate jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead after a goal from senior attacker Adam Salvaggio, who finished with two goals. After that, however, Harvard went on a 10-3 run through the second and third quarters. The Raiders made a strong recovery in the fourth, but there just wasn’t enough time to complete the comeback. To be in a close, 14-10 game against a team like Harvard, which plays in the very competitive Ivy League, is an accomplishment, even if the result wasn’t quite what the Raiders hoped for.

Even though the team has faced some hardships, senior captain Thomas Colucci feels that the team is still performing at a high level.

“We have had a lot of great glimpses of playing the style of lacrosse we want to, but now we are focusing on putting all the pieces together,” Colucci said. “We feel great going into our remaining games.” 

On the bright side, the team has some extremely strong, young talent. Sophomores Rory Connor and Matt LaCombe won Patriot League weekly awards on Monday, Mar. 13, and there are several other first-year and sophomore players with serious potential. The season certainly isn’t over yet for the Raiders.

“We have some of the best young talent in the league with guys like Rory Connor, Matt LaCombe, Aidan Murnane and Max Yates,” Fitzsimmons noted. “This group has a lot of fight left, and I’m personally excited to show the rest of the Patriot League what we really have.”

Colgate’s true potential shined through in their victory over Navy on Saturday, Mar. 11. Battling chilly conditions, the Raiders held a dominant lead throughout most of the game, resulting in a final score of 17-8. In that game, Connor scored a career-high seven goals (five of which came in the first half), and LaCombe posted a career-high of 21 saves.

The team is looking forward to a tough but manageable remainder of the season. Rizzo believes that the team has learned from its losses and is ready for its next challengers.

“We play two top-15 teams in the next three weeks, but the good news is, if we’ve learned anything so far this year, it is that anybody can beat anybody on any given Saturday,” Rizzo said. “We definitely have our backs against the wall but we just have to claw ourselves into a Patriot League playoff spot, and once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen.”

Gayhardt added: “I have zero doubt in my mind that we can run the table and win the last four games of our conference play. It’s just going to take consistent execution of our game plan throughout the entire course of the game. I think we have learned some great lessons from our losses about what it takes to win at this level, and I know we are going to take those lessons with us for the remainder of the season.”

The Raiders will look to dominate in their remaining four games, starting with a home-field matchup against 12th-ranked Army tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. If the team can turn things around near the end of the season, the Raiders can put themselves into the Patriot League Tournament which starts May 2. Colgate is currently tied with Bucknell for the sixth and final qualifying spot.

“We are going to take it one play, practice, game at a time, and the focus for us will be how we can win each battle that is directly in front of us. If we can win that battle consistently, the results are going to take care of themselves,” Gayhardt said.

With that said, the Raiders are certainly looking forward to an exciting second half of the season.