February 6, 2012

Keene State Opens Spring Practice

from press release

© Chris Palermo

KEENE, N.H. – The Keene State College men's lacrosse team certainly has caught a break from Mother Nature this spring. Instead of holding frigid sticks and running on the frozen and icy Owl Athletic Complex turf field, the Owls have been greeted by unseasonably warm weather. "It's been beautiful. Maybe it's a good sign," said senior attack Matt Schairer. "Last year we were out here on the first day and it was covered with ice, so hopefully we can get a couple of weeks ahead of where we were in the past and be ready to go."

Lacrosse might not have a shot clock, but the clock is ticking on the Owls, who have a scrimmage scheduled against Wheaton College and St. Anselm in Manchester on Feb. 18 and their first game 10 days later at Bates College.

The schedule has forced Keene State coach Mark Theriault to accelerate his team's training. "We've had to change our plan," he said. "We do a lot more stick stuff, plays, and lacrosse IQ drills rather than just the conditioning part. We have to be ready to go."

Theriault has recruited two new coaches this season – Alec Corliss, a former Owl keeper who will work with the goalies, and Matt Griffin, who joins the Owls from Keene High where he was the lacrosse coach and school resource officer. The coaches will help implement Keene State's offense as well as handle recruiting. Griffin's presence has already been felt in the area of conditioning.

"This season, there's definitely more of an emphasis in the weight room," said senior Sean LeBlanc, the LEC's reigning defensive player of the year. "We're trying to get more organized and beef up our team a bit."

"We still need to get in shape, but Coach Griffin will get us there," said Schairer. "I promise you that."

A lot of the groundwork was done in the fall. Theriault cut down his squad from 70 to 43 players. He was also encouraged by a couple of fall tournament wins over Hartwick College and Endicott College, the latter ranked 14th in the Lacrosse Magazine preseason poll. "It worked out well because we were able mix some of the veterans with some new players," said Theriault. "We actually had some key spots open in the line-up and a few transfers have stepped up and demonstrated they can get the job done."

The Owls lost six players to graduation, including Justin Flessa-LaRoche, a second-team All-Little East defender last spring.

Keene State is coming off a season that saw it go 14-3 (6-0 LEC) and capture a second straight LEC title. But a 12-8 loss to Amherst in the opening round of the NCAA tournament left a bad taste. "We've been thinking about that game since it happened and we are by no means satisfied with that NCAA run, so we're looking to get back to work," said LeBlanc. "We're excited the coaching staff is excited. This is the most talent we've ever had here and I really think we can do some great things this year."

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