Before the 2023 season even began, the Ithaca College men’s lacrosse team was reminded of how important it was for the entire team to be ready for anything.
During a preseason practice, graduate student attackman Blake Eischen, who scored 19 goals in the 2022 season, went down with a season-ending knee injury. Junior midfielder Derek Stout said that injury served as a bit of a wake-up call for much of the team.
“As big of a loss as it was, it was kind of like, ‘Alright, where are we going? What’s next?’” Stout said. “I think that’s where a lot of players kind of realized the reality of the situation … and a lot of players are stepping up and filling out the role that needed to be filled.”
Sophomore attackman Kyle Proctor said it was scary for the team when Eischen went down, but it also meant the rest of the team had the option to either quit on the season or push on regardless.
“We gotta win these games, nobody’s going to stop playing just because one person got hurt,” Proctor said. “So I think that means a lot to everybody that, no matter what happens, we’re giving it our all for each other.”
As of March 28, the team has gotten off to a 4–1 start and the bench has played an important role in earning wins. Through the first five games, 13 athletes have played in at least four games without earning a single start, including Stout, who has taken part in all five. He said the amount of players coming off the bench has illustrated the depth the team has to offer.
Although he has seen plenty of playing time this season, Stout played in just seven of the team’s 16 games his sophomore year. However, Proctor has had a different journey as another key bench contributor in 2023.
Proctor started 13 of 15 games for the Bombers in his rookie season, tallying 18 goals and 11 assists. This year, though, he is yet to start a game, which he said is because of a deeper roster than in seasons past.
“My role right now is just trying to be on the field wherever the team needs me the most,” Proctor said. “Right now, it seems like I’m that reliable person coming into the midfield, where I think people expect me to be able to initiate in the offense and … be a vocal leader on the field.”
In lacrosse, Stout said, substitutions can be done on the fly without waiting for a pause in the game. This means the team can have lines, with substitutes coming in to give the starters a break, and some players can run in and out depending on if the team is on offense or defense.
First-year student Jace Dockx is one of the players that comes on the field for certain situations, playing as a defensive midfielder. Dockx said he comes on and off the field with a long stick, better for defense, as the game moves along.
“They’ll have me start on the wing at the faceoff … and they’ll have me either get the ground ball to get to the offense and then sub off, like I won’t stay on with the long pole,” Dockx said. “Or if I’m playing defense, they’ll keep me on until we either get scored on or get the ball back.”
But Dockx also said he did not expect to have this role coming into the season. As a first-year student, he is one of just a few rookies on the team who have earned significant playing time but knew he had to be ready for anything.
“I really did not anticipate it,” Dockx said. “The coaches saw something in me, so I step on the field, I do what I need to get done and then that’s it.”
While having the bench play a big role can be good for keeping everyone fresh, Stout said that there are a few potential drawbacks.
“It can lead to some players not getting in their groove,” Stout said. “But that being said, it does allow for players that may have made a mistake to take a breather, evaluate the situation and head back onto the playing field.”
Stout said having several players ready to go in at any given moment also helps prevent the starters and consistent bench contributors from becoming overly comfortable in their roles.
“A huge thing that we kind of talk about within the team is never strive for complacency,” Stout said. “Once you get to that point, you just level out. So we want to always keep pushing each other … and hold each other accountable.”
As the season goes on, Proctor said he and the team just need to stick to their current mentality and stay prepared, because they never know what might change.
“The mentality we’ve been going with all year, be ready for anything, I think that’s really helped me, personally,” Proctor said. “I’m not expecting anything. I don’t think I’m going to start, I don’t think I’m not going to start, I’m just staying ready.”