January 22, 2011

Merrimack Starts Season with 'Judgement Day'

from press release

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – For the second straight season, the Merrimack men's lacrosse team teamed up with The Program to go through Judgment Day, a two-day, team-building camp that requires teams to complete physical tasks while coping with mental exhaustion.

But unlike last year, the Warriors went through the first day of the two-day program in a blizzard.

"This was the first time we did Judgment Day where the elements played a factor," said senior captain Michael Balbuena (Falmouth, MA). "There were five inches of snow on the turf, and it started raining about an hour into it so that made it more challenging."

But despite the elements, the team remained focused, using its experience from last year to accomplish its mission.

"We came in focused and ready to work," said Balbuena. "I love the fact that no one let it get to them. Having a second go at it was very beneficial because there was no fear of the unknown."

Balbuena viewed Judgment Day as especially helpful to this team, which features 14 freshmen and just five seniors.

"It shows the younger guys just how hard the road is going to be to become a National Champion. It's also great because it brings our team together right after having a long winter break."

Balbuena believes putting athletes in physical and leadership positions that they are not accustomed to is what makes Judgment Day most valuable.

"It's great because anyone can talk about being a leader, but when you're physically pushed to your limits, you have to find the mental toughness to relay and guide your team so they can accomplish the task at hand. It's really tough, especially if you're a quieter guy. You really learned a lot of about your teammates when they're out of their comfort zone, and believe me, there is nothing comfortable about Judgment Day."

Head coach Mike Morgan thought his team did an excellent job with the demanding two-day session.

"The guys met every challenge. The hard work, leadership and accountability across the entire team were outstanding over the two days. The guys hung tough together along the way improving our mental and physical toughness. This is no doubt this experience, like last year, will benefits us during the course of the season."

The Judgment Day initiative, spearheaded by Strength and Conditioning Coach Mike Kamal beginning in the summer of 2009, has been embraced by the Athletics Department at Merrimack College and will continue to enable varsity programs to partake in the team-building sessions throughout the academic year.

The men's lacrosse team gathered at 6 a.m. the next morning to complete its two-day session at a local pool, which Balbuena found the most challenging.

"I thought I was a good swimmer until I was treading water with a sweatshirt and sweatpants on. Then receiving commands to take the sweatshirt off, hold it above your head, switch with someone, and then put theirs on. It's very challenging."

The defending Northeast-10 Champions open the season at New York Tech on February 26.

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