More than 2,700 miles from campus, the men’s lacrosse team sprung into its new season over spring break. A pair of games in California helped build chemistry and provide just the spark the team was looking for.
Since 2007, the Bombers have traveled to San Diego and Whittier, Calif., for two regular season games during spring break. Along with playing lacrosse, the Blue and Gold goes out to team dinners and spends some time off the field and on the beach together. Head Coach Jeff Long said this year’s trip helped strengthen the team dynamic.
“We got to know each other very well,” Long said. “The kids are really tight together during that week. We all know what direction we need to take and what we need to work on.”
Last season, the juniors and seniors started a tradition on the beach by playing a game they call “Lax Ball.” The team splits in half and draws a line in the sand tossing the ball back and forth using mini lacrosse sticks. The objective is to get the other team to drop the ball.
Junior Tom Mongelli said the chemistry formed in games like Lax Ball translates to the field.
“Everyone is able to open up and everyone is able to trust each other,” he said. “Just being able to rely on each other adds a whole new aspect to everything.”
For the freshman, the trip offered a chance to get more acquainted with their new teammates. Junior captain Tom Mongelli said the new players are more confident on the field after becoming familiar with each others’ play in California.
“It’s real important that they’re comfortable with us out there,” Mongelli said. “They know that they’re an Ithaca Lacrosse player; it doesn’t matter their age. They have the right to say what they want on the field, and people are going to listen to them.”
One freshman who made his presence known in California was midfielder Jake Long. He had a goal and an assist in the game against Whittier College on March 16 and was the only freshman to make the starting lineup.
“I came to this school knowing I potentially would have an impact on the team,” Jake Long said. “Being able to start was a great thing for me, and I am really proud of it.”
Jake Long said the relationship he built up with his teammates during the trip definitely contributed to his success in the game.
“When I came into the school I didn’t know anyone, and then once I met the team they became my best friends,” he said. “Just being with the team on and off the field was a great experience for me.”
But the trip wasn’t all fun and games for the squad. There were still two regular season games at stake and a reputation to maintain. Since their annual spring trip began in 2007, the Bombers are 9–2 all-time. This year, the Blue and Gold split their two game series, beating New England College 13–4 and falling to Whittier 8–7.
Mongelli said the team didn’t know much about their opponents coming in, so their practice leading up to the games was similar to their daily practice in Ithaca, focusing on man-up plays and fast breaks.
The Blue and Gold’s game against New England started with senior Jay Lucas dodging his defender taking the ball towards goal. After beating the Pilgrims goaltender for the first goal of the game, Lucas turned and gave a look to his teammates that pushed young players like Jake Long to want to win the game for the team.
“He just gave us a look like we had this all day,” Long said. “Our whole team’s confidence boosted after that one play.”
Meanwhile, the loss to Whittier marked the first of the season for the Bombers and only their second loss in California since 2007. Jeff Long said the loss helped establish where the team stands at this point.
“We have to sharpen up all over,” Jeff Long said. “It’s definitely early in the season. You can tell just with some of the turnovers and not finishing some of the shots.”
He said the squad came in overconfident in its loss and needs to focus on putting shots on net.
With the Bombers back on the east coast, Jeff Long said they will use the lessons learned from the trip to build on the rest of the year.
“Everyone got on the plane [in the] morning in great spirits ready to strap it back up,” Long said. “We’re looking forward to getting back on the turf and putting the work suit back on and seeing what we can accomplish here.”