Rosemary Chesney, asst. sports editor
The Berry men’s lacrosse team accepted 20 incoming freshmen players for the upcoming season, doubling their roster from 25 players to 44 players. With a strong freshman squad and five returning fifth year players, Berry’s men’s lacrosse team anticipates a bright season, hoping to bring home a conference championship.
Despite their small roster last season, the team finished with a winning record of 5-4 wins. However, COVID-19 complications shortened their season from 17 games to nine. Also, multiple committed players from northern states dropped out before the season began due to COVID-19.
Beginning the 2021 lacrosse season, only three senior players and one manager graduated while 20 incoming players joined the team. Five of the 20 incoming f r e s h m e n are lacrosse champions for their high school, representing 14 different states. With a larger team, Head Coach Curtis Gilbert said he is most excited to be able to scrimmage every practice. He also anticipates longer practices, more substitutes during games and less playing time for athletes.
“I think so many people joined Berry this year because they visited this campus and saw what a community it is,” Gilbert said. “If you’re in the locker room, you’re part of the team. I think kids liked seeing that and just felt safe here.”
Along with 20 new freshmen, five seniors Noah Miller, David Gottesman, Noah Steiner, Matt Gilbert and senior captain Jake Sheeran, decided to stay at Berry for a fifth year in order to play an extra season. Gilbert said that many of them didn’t want to end their college lacrosse career with a nine-game season in 2020.
“The biggest thing for me [in lacrosse] is the brotherhood,” Sheeran said. “I see every teammate as family, like a brother from another mother.”
The team’s two main goals for the season are to win the fall alumni game and win the conference championship. Berry’s men’s lacrosse team has won two regular season championships and been to the Conference championship game three times, falling short each time.
While the team hasn’t started official practices yet, Sheeran and junior captain Nick English have reserved the Valhalla Stadium for the team to practice on their own throughout the week. With the largest lacrosse team roster Berry has ever seen, however, comes potential challenges for the team. Less playing time is available for each player and every player must get integrated into the team.
“I think the big team size will make everybody more competitive,” freshman Benjamin Rosenbloom said. “You’ve got a lot more guys fighting for a spot, so you’re going to have to be that much better than the guys behind or in front of you. I’m sure there will be challenges [within the team] with the competition but nothing to break the team dynamic, just your normal butting heads.”
The team has a five week fall season and regular spring season, starting on Jan. 19. Their fall season consists of three day a week practices, an alumni game, a high-stakes game and a charity tournament event facing off against eight other college teams. This year, Gilbert expects the charity to raise money for either Afghanistan refugees or the HEAD strong foundation, research for Leukemia.
“I’m excited for the first [official] practice to show everyone what I’ve got and get a better connection with the guys,” freshman Andrew Brown said. “I’m not nervous for the season but I want playing time. I want to do what I can to help win Conference.”
Team culture is an important component of the team, according to Gilbert. Each new player is assigned a “big brother” returning player on the team who acts as a mentor throughout the season. Gilbert said that the main word to describe culture on the lacrose team is “family.”
“I would say the biggest challenge with the large team is integrating all the freshman into the system and getting them all on the same page,” senior captain Sheeran said. “I want to personally have a relationship with everyone and think that will just take a bit longer with so many new faces.”