Posted: June 8, 2009
Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese arrived on the campus of Bryant University late Sunday evening as he gets set to tryout for the 2010 United States Men’s Lacrosse Team. The players gathered for their first meeting at 10:00 PM on Sunday and then it was off to bed. On Tuesday evening, Coach Cassese checked in with his latest entry.
Monday, June 8 – Morning Entry
Roughly 45 minutes to session number-one. I have the early game (9am) of the two games back-to-back session. Got up early this morning around 6:45 for the start of breakfast at 7:00 AM. I forgot how good cafeteria food is (sarcasm). Feels like I am back in high school at summer camp... which is actually a pretty cool feeling that I realize I have missed. Everyone is excited and anxious to get going. There is a lot of nervous energy among the tryout participants. Coach (Mike) Pressler's speech to the group last night was powerful and effective. We know what the coaching staff and selector committee is looking for...
Now its time to getter goin…
Monday, June 8 – Afternoon Entry
Session One is officially in the books. The first game of the week is always an interesting one. The pace is ferocious as everyone is trying to make the first impression a great one. No different today. The first five minutes saw six or seven goals scored and it was easy to see that every player was running on pure adrenaline. The level of play is absolutely PHENOMENAL. As my buddy, Scott Urick (assistant coach at Georgetown), and I looked at the game rosters this morning, he turned to me and said: "I have some pretty athletic middies on my team." I looked at the rosters, turned back to him and said... "Scotty, I think every team has some pretty athletic middies." Everyone is good and everyone deserves to be on this field. I do not envy the job of the selectors in this tryout process. After watching one session so far, I must admit, this is the most competitive group of tryout participants I have seen in my history with Team USA.
One thing is for sure, every single player will be better on the way out, then they were on the way in. It is impossible not to elevate your game in this setting. Side note: Nothing beats dorm living (more sarcasm). It brings me back to the good old times on East Campus of Duke University in Jarvis Hall. Except the pizza boxes, Dr. Peppers, and clock radios have now been replaced by Power Bars, Pedialyte, and iPod nanos. I have a solid group of suite-mates. My roomy in suite A is Scott Urick, who is one of my best buds in the lacrosse world. Suite B is Ryan Curtis (UVM head coach and former Boston Cannon) and Christian Cooke (former USA teammate of mine in 2006 and current Wash Bayhawk). Suite C is the Salisbury connection Stephen Berger (LI Lizards) and Justin Smith (Wash Bayhawks). And, last but not least, in Suite D is Ryan Boyle (USA teammate in 2002 and 2006 and current teammate with Boston Cannons) and Doug Shanahan (fellow Long Islander and USA teammate in 2002 and 2006). We have solid line-up... A good crew of guys. Should make for a great rest of the week.
For now... a quick 30 minute nap, a few phone calls to make (gotta check in with the wife who is holdin' down the fort in Bethlehem), off to dinner, and then we'll tee it up for session two at 6:30pm.
Tuesday, June 9 – Afternoon Entry
Sorry for the delay on my third entry. Since I last checked in, we have had two sessions. One last night and another this morning. Personally, it has been an interesting 24 hours. What started out as a smooth flight through the first session yesterday morning... became considerably more turbulent during yesterday's evening session. Mid way through the first half, I pulled/strained my right hamstring while sprinting back into the hole on defense. It was certainly a weird feeling... one that I am not used to. I have rarely had hamstring issues in my playing career, aside from the typical soreness and tightness that comes along with an intense multi-session tryout like the one I am currently experiencing. Long story short, I spent a bunch of time with the athletic trainers...I was diligent with the ice baths, wraps, and ibuprofen schedules. I did everything in my power to get myself into some semblance of playing shape for this morning's session and it seemed to work. I was able to make it through the morning session and actually thought I moved fairly well for an "old" guy with a bum wheel. I give a ton of credit to the sports med staff here (which consists of two trainers) as they have to deal with 84 aching bodies that are trying to stay/get healthy enough to make this team. I am not alone in the injury department. I lot of guys have developed some bumps and bruises. Many are nursing hamstring pulls, quad strains, and other soft tissue injuries. Everyone has slash bruises on their upper arms, and blisters have become a way of life. The overall pace of the games has slowed. After double digit scores on day one...I don't believe a single team scored over nine goals in the morning session today. I believe partly because guys are getting worn down and also because the weather in Smithfield, R.I. has been atrocious today. Torrential downpours for a good part of the morning were a major factor in the early games. Play was sloppy at times, mesh pockets were bagging out left and right, and the footing on the new field turf was rather slick.
Weather... Soreness... Injuries...Pressure. These are the elements we have been asked to handle. With two sessions to go, I believe that the players that can deal with these elements most effectively will have the best chance of making the team. With less than half the tryout remaining, the mental game becomes paramount... even more important than the physical game. Limit mental mistakes...make good decisions...let the game come to you. All things I have heard time and time again from the various coaches I have played for in my career...all things that I find myself repeating to my players here at Lehigh. When things matter the most...you fall back on your training...you fall back on the things that got you to this point...you dig deep and grind, scrap, and claw until the final whistle blows.
Approximately 24 hours from now, this tryout will be complete. I can't guarantee much, except for this...I will leave it all out there on the Bryant University Field. Nothing will be left in the tank, not one regret to be had.
Tuesday, June 9 – Evening/Early Wednesday morning Entry
12:30am...heading into the final day of tryouts. Session five will consist of two one-hour long games (8:30am and 9:30am). I drew the early game, so I'll make this entry quick and head to bed. Personal note: made it through the evening session with no further injuries and am happy to report, the hammy is hanging in there. It has been tough for a guy like me to be slowed by a hamstring injury. My game is predicated on speed, acceleration, explosiveness, and the ability to go from first gear to second gear in the open field. I don't feel like I've been able to hit that second gear in the most recent sessions, so I've focused my efforts on making the little plays, the hustle plays, and the plays between the lines. Hopefully, at the end of the day, it is good enough for the selectors to put me into the round of 40. I am excited about the opportunity for one final session to lay it all on the line. The nervous energy that was there on the night before the first session has returned...although now it is mixed with dehydration and exhaustion. I expect a fight to the finish tomorrow... It should be as competitive an atmosphere as we've seen to date.
A few random observations from the week so far:
1) There is no weak link at this tryout... Everyone is GREAT.
2) The goalies have all been terrific... I don't recall seeing one soft goal all week.
3) In a typical college or professional lacrosse game, it is a rare occasion when someone can shoot 100 mph. This week, it has been a rare occasion when someone cannot shoot 100 mph.
4) International rules are different from NCAA rules and MLL rules. Most noticeably, the officiating is much tighter. Slashing and cross-checking are called extremely tight, which makes it much harder to play defense. Your feet become more important than ever.
5) After losing the Gold Medal in 2006, I can sense that Team USA will be back on track in 2010. Guys are excited about the opportunity to play for the United States of America. They are excited (players and coaches alike) to fight for their country in the only way they know how... On the lacrosse field.
Bed time for me... Big day tomorrow... I will let you know how it ends up!