Fueled by memories of three straight losses in its conference championship game, the Virginia Tech club lacrosse team came out strong to win its second preseason fall tournament, the Southern Showdown.
Tech entered both the A and B teams, with the A team winning an 8-5 thriller against the Maryland Terrapins to claim the championship. The B team also had a strong showing, placing third.
“In terms of team synergy, I’m satisfied with the way that we’ve been able to mesh our young guys with the experienced guys,” said TJ Loeffler, a senior team member. “I think we’ve done a good job making them feel like they’re a part of the team, and making them feel like they’re a part of the system.”
In the championship game, Maryland dominated early, controlling possession of the ball and scoring just three minutes into the match.
However, the Hokies wasted no time in striking back, getting their first goal of the game 10 minutes later.
In the 22nd minute of the game, a Tech defender delivered a crushing blow to a Maryland player, knocking the ball free from his possession, which allowed junior defenseman Matt Hart to score on a fast break.
The Hokies wouldn’t look back, scoring another five goals before the Terps finally got back on the board early in the second half.
Tech surrendered three more goals toward the end of the second half, but a score on a perfectly executed give-and-go in the 49th minute of play put the game out of reach.
The 8-5 win allowed the Hokies to claim their first Southern Showdown championship.
“We’re doing this tournament with (National College Lacrosse League) teams, which is a completely different league, so it’s a completely different type of challenge and competition, (and) it really prepares us for the season,” said Brent Willess, a senior.
Other participants in the tournament included Wake Forest, Navy, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Miami (OH), Alabama, Lynchburg and Richmond.
Despite the team’s success, team leaders still see plenty of room for improvement.
“As we go into the season, we know we need to improve on our midfield defense and we needed to change up some of the things we’ve been doing on offense and we’ve been working this fall on actually making those changes,” said Joel Nachlas, head coach.
The team is especially intent on finally coming through and winning the South Eastern Lacrosse Conference championship that has eluded it these past three years.
“I think that the reason you lose in the championship game three years in a row is because of a lack of discipline when it comes down to the wire, so it takes finishing a game to win,” Loeffler said.
The travel squad features only five senior players, and dealing with the team’s youth will be a major challenge throughout the course of the season.
“In my four years I think we have the most rookies on this team to ever make an impact,” Willess said. “We have a freshman starter on the top midfield line, a couple good defenders and a bunch of good attackmen, so I think the rookies on this team are very good.”
The leadership of the older members of the teams was particularly emphasized.
“As the (players) mature and become upperclassmen, they step into leadership roles, they set the standard for the younger guys and they set the patterns of discipline and behavior and this year’s upperclassmen have certainly done that very well,” Nachlas said.
Next, the team will travel to South Carolina to play in the Clemson Fall Tournament, which starts Nov. 12.