The Oswego State men’s lacrosse team has been in the basement of the SUNYAC for the last several seasons; however, after a pair of wins this past week, first year head coach Ryan Martin has the Lakers heating up as they begin to prepare for the conference play.
On Monday, March 21, Oswego State traveled to Keuka College for their fifth straight road contest to open the season. The Lakers were sitting at 1-3, and the game against Keuka was either going to net the team a much needed victory or put them on track for another losing campaign.
"We had to get off to a great start (against Keuka)," Martin said. "We have been struggling to get going early in games."
The philosophy led to a slew of goals early in the game for Oswego State. The Lakers won both the first and second quarter, taking a 6-3 advantage at halftime. Junior midfielder/attacker Casey Balzer scored two first-half goals and junior captain Andy Lever put up two assists.
Oswego State would go on to win the game 7-5, despite being outplayed despite scoring only one goal in the second half. According to Martin, the second half exposed his teams biggest weakness: finishing.
"The team has struggled with putting up a full-game effort," Martin said. "We have had great quarters or good halves, but we have to keep building as the game goes on."
The difficulty with closing out close games might correlate to the youth of the team. Oswego State starts and plays a significant amount of freshman and sophomores, something Martin thinks will help the team in the long run for this season and beyond.
"We have a lot of young players playing big roles and growing pains are expected," Martin said. "But we also expect these guys to step up. They know they are there for a reason."
"Coach Martin has showed a lot of confidence in the young guys this year," said freshman defenseman Andrew Crumrine, who has started two games this season. "Everyone on the team knows they have something to contribute and coach Martin knows how to utilize us in the best way."
When the Lakers took their home field for the first time this season, March 23, they were primed and ready to close out a victory. Oswego State took a swift 13-2 lead at halftime, scoring quickly and often against Cazenovia. Lever had five points in the first half alone, and would finish the night with three goals and three assists.
"Andy (Lever) is a very good leader who has done a nice job quarterbacking our offense so far this season," Martin said. "We think he is capable of improving even more this season."
In addition to Lever’s three-goal performance, junior midfielder Brett Sarubbi and freshman attacker Chris Porten produced hat tricks of their own. Martin has been impressed with the demeanor of Porten since day one with the team.
"Porten is already a huge leader on this team as a freshman," Martin said. "He gives us everything we need from him, night after night."
Senior midfielder Pat Decker and sophomore midfielder Adam Jean put up two goals each for Oswego State, giving the Lakers five players who scored multiple goals in the game. Freshman attacker Bobby Horan gave the best performance of his young career, putting up a goal and three assists in the first 18 minutes of the game.
Oswego State held Cazenovia scoreless in the first period, and gave up no more than three goals in a single period over the rest of the game. One player Martin holds accountable for the successes of the defense is junior defensemen Eric Miccio.
"(Miccio) has been a great leader for our defense," Martin said. "He is a tough kid…he is a great addition on and off the field."
The Lakers will take on Utica College, in Utica on Wednesday, March 30. Last season, Oswego State beat Utica to end a four-game losing streak. The victory sparked a 5-5 run down the stretch of the season, giving Oswego State much needed confidence heading into the 2011 campaign.
The Utica game, once again, may represent a potential turning point in the season for the Lakers. A win against Utica would give the Lakers their first winning record since March 2007.