Spring Sports Preview: Lacrosse

Colin Duffy will be one of the leaders for St. John's this season. (Photo Credit: RedStormSports.com)

Colin Duffy will be one of the leaders for St. John's this season. (Photo Credit: RedStormSports.com)

Derrell Bouknight, Assistant Sports Editor

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Jason Miller’s primary message to his team this season has been brief. In his 11th year as head coach of the St. John’s lacrosse team, Miller has gone through his ups and downs as the top man. But as the spring season nears and the competition of the Big East hovers above the 2017 campaign, Miller has given his new and returning players words that, in their simplest team, resonate in a number of ways.

“Be ready to go.”  

Following a 2-12 record in 2016 and a 1-4 Big East record, the Red Storm look forward to what many are calling one of the toughest schedules in recent memory. Along with playing Syracuse, Yale and Marquette, all of which won their respective conferences last season, St. John’s will also face seven teams that ranked in the final 2016 USILA Coaches Poll.

Aside from their record, one of the aspects the Johnnies look to improve upon is playing and working better as a team. Jason Debenedictis, a junior attack from Holbrook, N.Y., believes that the team is making significant progress. “As a team, I think it’s very important to get team camaraderie,” he said in a phone interview. “Being a group together. The freshmen have done a great job, they’ve gotten better. The sophomores have gotten better, and we have a lot of returning guys.”

Debenedictis, who made the All-Big East second team following a 33-goal season, echoed Coach Miller’s sentiments of preparation for each player. “Coach said it doesn’t matter if you’re a captain,” he said. “Be a leader.”

Seven starters from last year’s team are returning. Debenedictis, who believes he’ll be looked at as a leader by his teammates, said that from what he’s seen on the field this year, the talent level has improved greatly.

“Team over everything,” he said. “We have a ton of talent this year.”

Already one game in, and the team has been awarded for their play.

Senior midfielder Nick Heller, who Debenedictis mentioned several times, was named to the first Big East Weekly Honor Roll of the season following a two-goal, one-assist performance against Rutgers.

Yet after a tough stretch last year in which they lost eight consecutive games before winning their final game of the year, Debenedictis reiterated that despite last season’s struggles, the fans have a lot to look forward to this year.

“I think once [the fans] see us this spring, they’ll be excited. Working six days per week, 7 a.m. lifts,” he said.

Fans and supporters in Queens should expect more this year from a team that has experience and expect more, even with a challenging schedule. “As usual, we are playing the best teams we can get, with maybe as good a home slate as we’ve ever had,” Miller said to RedStormSports.com. “There is not a game on this schedule that we won’t have to scratch and claw to win. We’ll need to be at our best every time out.” 

For St. John’s, it has never been about the individual, but players have improved in individual areas. The team as a collective unit is what will deliver and improve upon the down season from 2016. One day, one opponent at a time.

“Take every game,” Debenedictis said. “Don’t look past one game.”

 

St. John’s Lacrosse 2017 Schedule (Courtesy of RedStormSports.com)

 

LISTEN: Episode One of the new “Torch Talk” sports mini-podcast, hosted by Co-Sports Editor Troy Mauriello.

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