Men’s lacrosse starts strong

A temperature in the teens, strong gusty winds, and a dusting of snow on the turf may not sound like reasonable conditions for a Carnegie Mellon men’s lacrosse game, but play they did, and win they did, leaving Penn State–Behrend a long bus ride home to thaw out and lament a fruitless trip to Pittsburgh.
Carnegie Mellon men’s lacrosse opened their season Saturday afternoon with a 9–7 win in a scrimmage against Penn State–Behrend, a win that was integral for the team to see where they are and what they need to do in order to prepare for their upcoming league play.

The Carnegie Mellon men’s lacrosse team has gone through a complete transformation during the past year, switching from the National Collegiate Lacrosse League into the more competitive Men’s Division of Intercollegiate Associates (MDIA). The MDIA is a league strictly for universities without a varsity program but with players who want to play varsity-caliber lacrosse. Teams within the MDIA practice five times a week and are mostly funded at a varsity level. The MDIA consists of 170 teams in nine conferences that span the country. Carnegie Mellon falls within the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association (CCLA) of the MDIA. The Tartan’s new division is home to colleges such as the University of Dayton, Grove City College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Taylor University.

This year’s addition of head coach Anthony Stamatopoulos adds the experience and guidance the team needs in order to successfully navigate their way around the CCLA. Stamatopoulos is a native of Baltimore who played for and coached for Ferris State University, another CCLA program. Assistant coach Rich Grant was an outstanding lacrosse player for the University of Pittsburgh and is able to extend his passion and skill to Carnegie Mellon’s program.

The increased practice time paid off Saturday afternoon as the Tartans were able to play with high intensity throughout the 60-minute game, racking up nine goals. Sophomore captain Matt Adams led the team with four goals and an assist, while junior captain Rick McMullen added to Adams’ four goals with two of his own. The remaining three goals were scored by senior Troy Cox and sophomores Devin Blais and Zach Teeple. Adams, Blais, Teeple, and Cox each had an assist to round out the Tartans’ offensive. Unfortunately, Penn State–Behrend countered Carnegie Mellon’s attack with an attack of its own. Going into halftime, the score was even at four apiece as the lead transfered between the two teams throughout the game. McMullen commented, “When we had the ball on offense we were able to play well and score, but we couldn’t win faceoffs, and we couldn’t get the ball out of our own defensive zone, so we rarely had the opportunity to score. We are going to have to put some serious work into our faceoffs and defensive play.”

The team’s strength lies in its depth and raw talent. With 21 players on the roster, the majority of them upperclassmen, the Tartans have a real chance to make an impact within their division. It is Stamatopoulos’ goal within the coming weeks to develop that raw talent into a team. “Typically teams, when they join the MDIA, have a very difficult time adjusting and aren’t successful,” he said. “However, I don’t perceive that to be the case for this team. The CCLA is probably the toughest conference in the country on the B side. However, we have lofty goals. My immediate goal for the team is to get them to play together as a unit. We need to transition to a point where we aren’t thinking, we are just reacting. Last season I coached a playoff team in the CCLA; we are a lot better than that team. Making a deep run in the playoffs and being a top-25 team is definitely an option for this team. Going to Dallas and the national tournament is not out of the question either.”

The Tartans’ first divisional home game is Wednesday, March 22, against Indiana University of Pennsylvania at 7 pm in Gesling Stadium. Hopefully, temperatures will be at least 30 degrees; warmer conditions will be more spectator-friendly. As Stamatopoulos said, “The goal for Carnegie Mellon lacrosse is to build an organization that is both successful on and off the field. Our philosophy here is to do what it takes to compete at the highest possible level and represent the University well. We not only want to create a national powerhouse, we want to create something special on campus too.”

Carnegie Mellon’s men’s lacrosse team is looking to create that buzz and excitement surrounding athletics that is often missing from the Carnegie Mellon community. So this spring, help the Tartans achieve this goal by taking an hour and a half out of your studies, donning a Carnegie Mellon T-shirt, and heading over to Gesling Stadium to lend your support to the men of Carnegie Mellon lacrosse.