Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier Sports Editor
Conference play for the Berry men’s lacrosse team will start on March 23 against Centre College. The team is optimistic that they can win the conference this season.
While the team’s current record is 1-4, Curtis Gilbert, head coach, believes the teams that the Vikings have played up until now are much better than the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) competition they will face.
“A couple of them were top 10 [teams],” Gilbert said. “One of them was arguably the best team in the country right now, Salisbury.”
Berry lost 9-7 to Salisbury on Feb. 3. Gilbert said that the Vikings should have won that game but Salisbury found a way to win it.
After a loss to Washington College on Feb. 16, the team played Colorado College on Feb. 23 and the University of Mary Washington on March 2.
In the latter two games, Berry lost in overtime. Both Colorado and Mary Washington are top 25 teams, according to Gilbert.
“Those are good teams to play against,” Gilbert said. “It would have been great to beat them.”
Gilbert said that the team bounced back after this losing streak and won 17-7 against Virginia Wesleyan University on March 3.
“Virginia Wesleyan was a pretty good team, not the same caliber as the other four that we played, but it was good to see having played those other teams, we got weathered and matured,” Gilbert said. “Then, we were able to put it all together on Sunday.”
Berry would currently be undefeated if they had shot the ball and played defensively like they did in the Virginia Wesleyan game, according to Gilbert.
“The guys saw that when we do what we practice and fall back on our training, things work,” Gilbert said.
The biggest keys for the rest of the season are staying healthy and remaining positive and not dwelling on the past, according to Gilbert.
“We can’t go back and win those games,” Gilbert said. “All we can do is win the next one and the one after.”
The team also plans to refine their game and limit their mistakes in the future.
Gilbert said that when the men’s lacrosse team loses, it is not the other team winning as much as it is Berry turning the ball over and a lot of shooting poorly.
“As long as we continue to iron out our kinks and fix our mistakes, then we’ll be fine when conference hits,” Gilbert said.
On the whole, Gilbert said that he believes that the team is going in the right direction this season.
The seniors on the team especially want to win the conference this season, according to Gilbert. They do not care about going undefeated or being a top five team. They simply want to win conference and host the conference tournament.
Senior Justin Westbrook was named SAA Men’s Lacrosse Player of the Week this week for scoring a total of 15 points in the games against Mary Washington and Virginia Wesleyan.
To accomplish this, Westbrook said that he tried to hit targets when the ball came his way. However, he said he does not take full responsibility for these points.
“Half of these points came from my teammates scoring goals,” Westbrook said.
Even though the team has faced some lows already this season, there is a lot to look forward to, according to Westbrook.
He said that the team does not need to lose another game this year.
“I have pretty high expectations for the rest of the season,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook said that he believes that Rhodes College and Sewanee: The University of the South are going to be the two biggest conference competitors this season.
The team has not yet beat Rhodes and has only beat Sewanee one time in the last three seasons, according to Westbrook.
Westbrook said that he feels like he has had a good personal season so far.
“At the end of the day when we’re 1-4, you can’t feel too good about it because there’s clearly work that needs to be improved on,” Westbrook said.
Sophomore Mitchell Estes said that he is slightly disappointed with the season that the Vikings have had so far because he has had high expectations from the start.
However, he said that he adopted Gilbert’s mentality that they are not playing easy teams at the beginning of the season.
“When we get to playing our conference, there may be lesser competition that we are prepared for,” Estes said. “As long as we keep playing at the high level that we were playing at the beginning of the season rather than falling to the level of our competition, we will certainly be successful.”
Estes said that he had little contribution to the team in 2018, but is now able to contribute more in his sophomore year and this is exciting.
“At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter,” Estes said. “I could turn the ball over 10 times a game, but if we still won the game, it would be worth it.”
Senior Andrew Elgin said that the team still has the majority of the season in front of them.
“I send [the team] messages in the GroupMe every so often saying, ‘Let’s keep working,’” Elgin said. “‘Today we’ve got to get better. Let’s go building up to the conference, getting ready to take them on.’”
Elgin said that even though the team’s season started disappointingly, he is looking forward to the team hitting its stride.