Oswego State men’s lacrosse head coach Drew Bezek has turned around a 6-9 team he inherited in 2015 all the way into a 10-5 record in 2018. That record sealed Oswego State a spot in the SUNYAC tournament for the first time since 2009. The team is off to a 6-2 start this season, making the SUNYAC playoffs the standard.
“Our goal at the end of every year is to make the SUNYAC playoffs, so every single one of the SUNYAC games definitely brings a little bit more of a sense of urgency with them,” Bezek said.
The Lakers are 1-0 in SUNYAC play this season, taking down rival The College at Brockport by a score of 11-8 last weekend. Prior to that game, Oswego State had dropped five in a row to the Golden Eagles dating back to 2014. Even with the strong start, Bezek knows there is still work to be done.
“I think it was big for us to play close to our potential,” Bezek said. “We’re still a ways off, but to make sure you get in a good spot to start and then you have five more games to hopefully do well in and be in a good spot in terms of seeding for the playoffs.”
Senior Bobby Emerson tallied four goals on seven shots against The College at Brockport. He leads the Lakers with 22 goals. As one of only two seniors on the roster, Emerson knows the importance of getting hot at the end of the season.
“It’s extremely important,” Emerson said. “I’ve just got to stay dialed in every game and work on doing the little things right.”
In that first SUNYAC win of 2019, Lakers sophomore goalie Kevin O’Donnell tallied 17 saves. After being named SUNYAC Rookie of the Year last season, O’Donnell has upped his save percentage from .570 last year to .605 this season. This is credited to the work O’Donnell put in over the summer.
“It was working hard over the summer every day I could and playing in offseason leagues and making sure I fix what I need to fix, especially some of the poor tendencies that I may have,” O’Donnell said. “Eliminating those in the offseason is the best way to improve going into the next year.”
Even with those big saves, O’Donnell gives all credit to the guys in front of him.
“I credit my 17 saves to my defense, but I think taking that next step and beating a team we haven’t beat in five years is very important for our success and our future games,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell’s play in net could determine just how far the Lakers go this season. As his head coach has noticed, it was the consistency in net that is the key to O’Donnell’s success.
“One thing that he’s done a good job at, even in his freshman season, is he’s been pretty consistent for us,” Bezek said. “The biggest thing we preach to all our goalies is make sure we make the saves we’re supposed to and maybe steal one or two. But his consistency has been big for us defensively.”
The SUNYAC schedule consists of six games. Each one bears major significance for seeding purposes. The Lakers will meet SUNY Potsdam and Plattsburgh State this week and will have a couple of streaks on the line.
Oswego State has beaten SUNY Potsdam the last three meetings and owns the all-time series with a 25-15 record. But Saturday, at home against Plattsburgh State, is the game the Lakers have circled on their calendars. The Cardinals have gotten the best of the Lakers nine times in a row. A win over Plattsburgh State would be huge for the program.
“It would be huge,” Emerson said. “It would be big for our program and especially coach. He deserves it.”
SUNY Cortland will be the Lakers’ biggest test this season in conference play. They have an all-time 34-0 record against Oswego State and have won the SUNYAC championship nine out of the last 10 seasons. But, even in a conference with a team as dominant as the Red Dragons, Oswego State believes it just might have the most lethal attack.
“Really, it’s about making sure we match up well against every team and play our game,” O’Donnell said. “If we play our game, I believe we’re the most dangerous team in the SUNYAC.”
And, as his last season starts to wrap up, Emerson has one goal in mind for his squad.
“Our goal is to make SUNYACs and hopefully win SUNYACs,” Emerson said.
Oswegonian file photo from 2018