GEORGETOWN, Texas - Southwestern lacrosse has much to be excited about as their young program kicks off their first season with a senior class that has competed here their entire career.
Jamie Long and Elliott Kelly have been more than just important players on the field, they have helped build this program from the ground up into one of the top teams in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Long, an attackman from Shreveport, LA, has stamped his name all over the record book and been a two-time Second Team All-SCAC selection. He led the team in goals and points last season and was second on the team in assists. Kelly, a middie from Keller, Texas, was tied for fourth in goals and points and third in assists. "Long and Kelly both have been extremely important for us," states Coach Bowman. "Jamie has led in every scoring category while Kelly doesn't necessarily show up in the stats all the time but has so many intangibles on the field that help us out."
A large junior class will serve as the core of the team this season. Eight juniors have a lot of experience to fall back on and are ready to shake things up on the field. The class includes second leading scorer and main faceoff man Tyler Downing, assist leader Michael Villa and third leading scorer Carter Cowan. Also in this group is Daniel Ayala who caused the third most turnovers last season.
"[This year's junior class] is the group that really allowed us to get to the conference semifinals," said Coach Bowman. "They have another year under their belt and we are really hoping that with their ability to become leaders that they will be able to fight through and win some of those games that we were close to winning last year. There isn't one junior who isn't an extremely important part of what we are doing this year."
The sophomore class has seven familiar faces to SU lacrosse fans and will fill very important roles this season. "[The sophomores] came in last year and did a really good job," states Coach Bowman. "They are going to fill some very serious roles for us this year."
Twelve newcomers are added to the mix and provide the Pirates with some much needed depth. "We have a lot of guys coming in that will definitely help us out all over the field and provide us with the depth that we have been lacking in the past."
Coach Bowman feels this is the year the Pirates could post their first winning season which will excite Pirate fans. "We feel like we have gotten some much needed depth that we have been lacking in years past, specifically in the attack and middie positions. Our expectations are, if we stay healthy, to have our first winning season and to vie for a conference championship this year."
Sweeping rule changes will shake things up for Southwestern and everyone at the college level. The rule changes, aimed largely at speeding up the game, will force players to be more well-rounded and has taken away some of the specialty roles on the field. Substitutions will only be done on the fly, similar to hockey, and a shot clock has been put in to play.
This season the Pirates have a solid mixture of winnable and challenging games and will begin testing their team from the outset, hitting the road to face former SCAC foes Rhodes and Hendrix. The games, particularly Hendrix, have turned into big rivalry games for Southwestern and will give this young team an early taste of the intensity that comes with competing at this level.
"The Hendrix game always brings out the best in both teams and is a heated rivalry," shares Coach Bowman. "We are excited about these games and we think we should have a strong showing to open the year."
SU then heads to California to face Whittier and Oneonta State, two games that will push the Pirates to the limit and test their resolve early. "We have some top teams that are going to be great challenges for us and then we have a lot of games that I feel that if we are clicking it could lead us to the best season we have had to date."
SCAC conference action will play a huge role in the success of this year's team as Southwestern will face each opponent twice, a first for the conference. While every game is winnable for the Pirates, Colorado College still remains the measuring stick to which SU compares. "We will potentially play them three times this year with the third time being for a conference championship; if we are lucky enough to do that," says Coach Bowman. "That is the team that we really want to work on because we know that Colorado College is on a level nationally that we want to achieve."
Other non-conference games will allow SU to face some of the top players in the nation including pre-season All-Americans and the best player in the best conference.
"In order to be successful, we have to execute and manufacture goals and do the things we are supposed to. We have to make sure that we take our athleticism and put it to use within our system," says Coach Bowman. "When we do that we can play with anyone and those are the things we are trying to work on and get better at. I am excited about the season. The schedule is set up so that this team has the opportunity to do something we haven't been able to do as a varsity team."