The Oregon men’s lacrosse team will begin its regular season schedule this weekend as the Ducks head to Southern California to play San Diego State and Chapman.
Both teams are ranked in the top 25 of the 2017 Under Armour MCLA Division I Preseason Coaches Poll, released on Feb. 2. San Diego State is No. 23, while Chapman, the defending national champion team, is ranked No. 1.
In the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League, or the PNCLL, a subdivision of the MCLA, the Ducks head into the season ranked second behind Oregon State Beavers.
The Ducks, ranked No. 13 in the MCLA, return a few key players from last season. One of those players is sophomore John Finegan. Last season, Finegan was second on the team in scoring and assists and is also on the PNCLL Players to Watch List. Michael Marcott, who led the team in assists last spring, is not returning this season as a player, but as head offensive coordinator on the sideline.
Last year, the Ducks beat the Beavers 12-10 in the first matchup. Just eight days later, they fell to Oregon State 10-8. With that loss, the Ducks ended up No. 17 on the MCLA selection committee’s 16-team list of qualifiers, ending thus their 2016 campaign earlier than expected.
Now, they’re back with a vengeance.
Junior long stick middle Troy Romstad said he likes the No. 2 ranking behind the Beavers, but “strongly disagrees” with it at the same time.
“We think we’re better,” Romstad said, “but one of my teammates and president, Dylan Alpha, said a great quote: ‘the enemy that underestimates you is already at a disadvantage.’ So, if they come in with that attitude, that they are already better than us and they’re going to beat us, then that’s what we want.”
The Ducks won an exhibition match against Western Oregon on Feb. 3 by a score of 22-6. Although the Ducks won by a sizable amount, head coach Markus McCaine says that they need to be quicker in transition, limit penalties and play faster if they if they want to compete with teams like San Diego State and Chapman.
“It will be a tough test on the road and it will be a quick turnaround from Friday to Sunday, but we’re just trying to focus on us and we’ll prepare the best that we can,” McCaine said. “For the most part, it will come down to fixing some of those mistakes we made against Western that better teams will really punish you for.”
Senior team captain Justin Knowles agrees with McCaine that there are a lot of things that the team needs to improve on from the Western exhibition game.
“As a team, we had a lot of flags, a lot of turnovers, a lot of things that if we have those mistakes against Chapman, there’s no chance we’re winning the game,” Knowles said.
Knowles is aware that Chapman, who went undefeated in 2016 to win the national championship, is a formidable opponent. However, he believes that the Ducks have a chance to go down to Southern California and upset the undefeated Panthers.
“Everyone in the league is going to be shooting for Chapman,” Knowles said. “Everyone is like, ‘Alright, these guys need to lose. Who’s going to be the team to beat them?’ And coming out of the gate, were going to be the ones to beat them, for sure.”
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