Blogs and Commentary

posted 01.23.2012 at 10.39 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Hochstadt's Prepared for Second Season

Craig Hochstadt has the pedigree to be a good college coach. He cut his teeth at Boys' Latin and then went on to a productive career at Maryland. He is familiar with the Starz club system and the Adrenaline camp circuit that his brother, Scott, has created in the western part of the country. As the brains behind the LXM Pro Tour, Hochstadt also has his finger on the pulse of the sport's culture.

But, as a lot of coaches have found out, there's a certain science to being a successful coach in the MCLA.

"There's definitely a learning curve," said Hochstadt Loyola Marymount's second-year head coach. "The MCLA is an awesome league, but there are definitely some things that are different than the NCAA culture. Once you figure those things out, it can be really fun. But there is definitely that learning curve."

At first glance, it looked like Hochstadt was stepping into a perfect situation for a first-time MCLA coach in 2011. He was following in the footsteps of Mark Frey, who became the first head coach at Division III Ferrum (Va.), and was left with a solid roster and an extremely strong schedule (which is valuable in the SOS-centric MCLA). The Lions were also carrying a preseason ranking after finishing the '10 season with a 13-5 mark.

LMU started off 2-3, which wasn't terribly surprising considering Michigan and BYU were among those setbacks, but the Lions hit a four-game skid late in the year, including a somewhat surprising loss to SLC lightweight UCLA. LMU finished as a .500 team and didn't make the conference tournament.

"I don't know how the preseason expectations work, but we're a better team this year," Hochstadt said. "Of course, when we were ranked in the preseason last year, it was almost a kiss of death, especially for a new coach. This year, on paper we should be what we supposed to be going into last year, even though we had a 7-7 record. I don't have any expectations, other than what we have internally as a team. The kids have the best attitude in the world. We're getting there, but I don't want to speak too soon."

Hochstadt is pleased with the 19-man recruiting class he's bringing in this spring, which includes Colby Rhodes – a starter on attack for the '08 Penn State team. Not only is it a talented bunch, but it's also a group that will play the game the right way, something the Lions are known for after recently earning the Ace Adams Sportsmanship Award for their performance last spring.

"It's funny because these kids are the type of kids that will continue that tradition," Hochstadt said. "It's a great bar for them, the new guys, and it was set by the guys who just finished. We had a local fan base with the community. There were a lot of fun things going on in addition to the hardest schedule in the program's history. You learn a lot from things like that. To get an award like that in the first year means a lot to me."

The schedule is not as daunting as '11, which is a good thing for a team looking to build a little confidence. If the ball bounces the right way and his new class is as good as Hochstadt thinks it is, the Lions could potentially carry a 5-0 record into the game at No. 13 Texas on March 2. They'll still need to survive the SLC North after that, which features No. 3 Chapman and No. 12 UC Santa Barbara – a team that LMU has never defeated – but that's way down the line.

Part of the learning curve for every coach is not looking past the next game. While Hochstadt feels every team on the schedule is beatable, he knows just about every team could beat his squad, as well.

"There are a lot of games in there that could be great experiences for our team," Hochstadt said. "It's all about that experience, but at the end of the day, we want to win everything single one of these games."

We'll learn a lot about the Lions this spring.