By Shelby Townsend
The men’s lacrosse team’s spring season is quickly approaching, with the first two preseason games scheduled for Feb. 3 and 6 in St. Leo and Lackland, Fla.
Coach John Jez is entering his eleventh season as head coach of the Pioneers. His team is ranked seventh in the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s preseason poll for division II lacrosse teams. This year’s defense consists of many returning starters, including four All Conference defensemen; but the offense is very young with about 14 new faces, which Jez describes as “new territory.”
“There are a lot of young guys and new faces compared to last year, but that’s not a bad thing,” senior middle Nick Zebouni explained. “They bring a great energy every day and are fitting into our system nicely.”
Coach Jez hopes that the veterans on the team will take the hard work and success from last season and teach the new players “what’s needed to play for a conference championship.”
Junior middle, Kris Alvarado, is one of those returning who has been helping integrate the newcomers into the team. “We try to keep the morale high with the younger guys and keep their confidence up so they can play to their full potential,” he said. Alvarado said that many of the younger players are “beginning to find their grove” and gain more confidence as the first games of the season approach. The players cut their holiday break a little short, and returned to campus on Jan. 10 to start training.
The first week of regular season competition is shaping up to be a challenging one as the Pioneers open on Feb. 18 by hosting third ranked Merrimack, the team that was responsible for two of their four losses last year. That game will be immediately followed by a tough match against eighth ranked Adelphi on Feb. 25. With six nationally ranked teams in the East Coast Conference, the Pioneers will have a very challenging schedule.
“It’s not an easy schedule but that’s what you need to make the conference tournament,” Coach Jez said. The Pioneers have won the last three East Coast Conference Championships and hope to keep that streak alive this year.
Their upcoming trip to Florida could be just what they need to kick off a successful season. The Pioneers will face Saint Leo University and Florida Southern College, two teams that are both ranked each year and play in very strong conferences as well.
“It’ll be nice to get out of the cold and play two games without dealing with the elements and just focusing on our play on the field,” Jez explained.
“Our little goals [throughout the season] are just to get better every day and set a foundation for the future with this group and continue the success of this program,” Jez said.
The Pioneers will return to Bethpage Federal Credit Union Stadium on Feb. 18 with a home opener against the Merrimack Warriors at 12 p.m.