By Forest Stulting
This past weekend the Furman men’s lacrosse team played Lehigh (ranked 16th nationally), beginning not only the season but a new era in Furman athletics. Furman also added a women’s lacrosse team, though they will not compete at the Division I varsity level until next year. Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in America and around the world. Adding the sport is another way to promote the school on a national level.
The game against Lehigh was a back and forth battle early on. Lehigh started strong with two quick goals, but the Paladins soon responded with a pair of goals of their own. Matt Geran scored the first goal in Paladin lacrosse history with 5:29 remaining in the first quarter. But then Lehigh took back the lead with three unanswered goals. Both teams added one more goal each to make it a 6-3 game going into halftime. The second half was very similar to the first, with Lehigh scoring several goals in a row. The final score was 13-6 in favor of Lehigh. Other Paladins putting the ball in the back of the net included Graham Dabbs with two goals, Clay Adams with two goals, and Kenny Meinsen with one goal. Although it wasn’t a win, the game was a positive start for the lacrosse program.
The Paladins are led by Head Coach Richie Meade. Before coming to Furman, he was the head coach at the University of Baltimore, where he had 80 career wins and 83 losses. Next he coached at the Naval Academy, where he put together an impressive 95-11 record. Even though Furman’s program is in its first year, they are not taking the easy road with a daunting schedule ahead of them. The Paladins will play three teams ranked in the preseason top 20 (including Lehigh), two of whom are in the top three (Duke and North Carolina). They are also scheduled to play against Georgetown, which just missed out on making the top 20, along with other strong lacrosse schools, Army and Michigan.
The Paladins will play five conference games, three at home (High Point, Richmond, and Jacksonville) and two on the road (Virginia Military Institute and Mercer). The Paladins were picked to finish fifth (of six) in the Atlantic Sun Conference. However, despite the low pick and Saturday’s loss, expectations are higher inside the program. I had the chance to speak with junior midfielder Kenny Meinsen to get a closer look at the men’s lacrosse program.
The Paladin: What is going to be the hardest part about being a first-year program trying to establish itself?
Meinsen: Many of our players have not played at the collegiate level yet, and so I’d say the hardest part about being a new program is the inexperience of our team as a whole.
P: What are the expectations for the team in its first year?
M: Our expectations for this year are very high. We expect to win the Atlantic Sun Conference and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament.
P: As of now, what are the main concerns for the team?
M: Again, the biggest concern for our team is our inexperience. We are one of the youngest teams in college lacrosse. However, that will not affect what we plan to accomplish this year.
P: What are some of the team’s strengths?
M: Our strengths are on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. We brought in a very big recruiting class this year who will all contribute to our success.
P: What are your thoughts about the game against Lehigh?
M: I think we played well on both offense and defense, but if we could have limited our mistakes, the outcome could have been a lot different.