November 3, 2011

Fall Ball Brief

Buffaloes Hoping Galvin Can Return Stability

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Colorado has managed to make the MCLA national tournament the last two seasons under two different coaches. Now that John Galvin, the architect of the Buffs two best seasons, has returned, the expectations automatically rise even further.
© Cecil Copeland

Using the conventional metric for determining the stability of a program – postseason appearances – Colorado has been a team on solid footing. The Buffaloes have punched their ticket to the MCLA championship tourney in each of the last two seasons, advancing as far as the quarterfinals in 2010. Peeling back the curtain, however, reveals that CU has been in turmoil since John Galvin, who guided the program to its best performances, resigned as the head coach at the conclusion of the '09 season.

It started in '10, when the Buffs ousted Pete Stevenson midway through the season, and it continued at the end of last spring when Mike Ryder – Stevenson's replacement – was dumped, as well. While the reasons for those coaches' ouster are reportedly different, the lack of continuity gave the impression that Colorado was in disarray.

Now Galvin is back at the helm, re-hired this summer to right a ship that has been to a national championship game in '06 and to the semifinals in '09. With all of the tumult of the recent past, Galvin's top priority will be to get his players believing that the coaching musical chairs is over.

"There's definitely a trust issue," admitted Galvin. "The trust will come when we're doing something right and the players can see it. Do these guys feel kind of jaded about it? I'm sure they have some hesitations about what they are working for. But the longer we work together, I think they'll get it. We're working hard to make sure that these guys understand that it takes hard work to be a top team in this league."

- Fall Ball Priority: Part of the trust component will be for the coaches and players to familiarize themselves with each other. The seniors on this year's team were freshmen during Galvin's last season and the acclimation process has been helped by that relationship. The sophomore and junior classes, however, will be the ones who will face the growing pains. Galvin admitted that he's already lost a handful of returnees after the first meeting when he laid out his philosophy.

Once the introductory period was complete this fall, the next goal was to start the painful transition to a new regime.

"The biggest hurdle the staff and I faced was getting them to buy into the system, and it was definitely something these guys weren't used to," said Galvin. "A lot of it is tempo; we're practicing as fast as we can. Also, we want to instill some discipline and accountability. Not to say that it wasn't there, but my style is a little bit different than what they had in the past. That's the biggest thing. It's more of a general picture than something in particular."

- Know this Name: Alex Puldy. The attackman only played in a handful of games last year (3g, 2a) as he was stuck down the depth chart on a deep unit, but the junior has already been named a captain for the '12 season.

"He's a guy who has worked hard and we're putting a lot on his shoulders as a junior," Galvin said. "He is mature enough that he can handle the pressure. We're looking for him to be a solid guy on attack and someone who can run the show. He will help us out in any type of situation, whether it's pushing transition, settling the ball or getting the right personnel on the field."

- Schedule Studs: Throughout all of the coaching contretemps, one thing always remained constant at Colorado: the Buffs played one of the stiffest schedules in the country. With non-conference matchups against the top teams in the country such as Michigan, Chapman and Duluth added to the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference slate, which includes Brigham Young, Colorado State and Utah, Colorado had the reputation for playing all the contenders. The power of the schedule was on full display in '10, when the Buffs lost in the first round of the conference tourney, but still managed to parlay a 6-7 record into a bid to nationals.

This year's schedule might be a little weaker, if only because of Michigan's departure. The Buffs open their season at Loyola Marymount and Chapman, and also face Duluth at home and Arizona State on the road. Colorado has the luxury of hosting defending champion BYU this year, and will once against face Colorado State at Invesco Field.

- Anchor Man: "Brad Macnee in goal is the backbone of our defense," said Galvin. You can't get more succinct than that, but it's pretty easy to size up the impact Macnee has on the team, as well as the peace of mind he'll give the new coach. Instead of worrying about the one position that can potentially make or break a season, Galvin knows he has one of the best netminders in the country.

Macnee came on the scene in '10 when he made 17 saves, including several of the clutch variety during the fourth quarter, helping the Buffs snap Michigan's epic undefeated streak. He was a steady presence last year, even in the face of sizeable turnover among the poles in front of him. Macnee's a game-changer, and he means that CU will have a chance in every game they play.

- Attrition Rate: As mentioned above, not all of the returnees have embraced Galvin's second coming. While he has 55 players on the roster right now and expects to carry in the mid-40s range during the season, the coach understands that there are talented players who don't want to accept the virtual varsity model.

"We want them to be student-athletes and we want them to be in the weight room at 6:45 a.m. two times a week and we want them to be working with our strength and conditioning coach on Thursday nights," Galvin said. "We want them on the wall. We're asking a lot of these guys. We've probably had some fallout from some of the players who probably would have returned, but in all honesty, we want guys who are going to work – whether that's 25 guys who want to work or 80 guys who want to work. We want guys who want to be lacrosse players.

"We're taking this program to a point where I left it in 2009. I'm not comparing to what has happened in the last two years; it's just the only way I know how to do it."

- Verdict: Just with the lacrosse talent coursing through the Boulder campus alone, Colorado will always be a formidable program in the MCLA. The challenge for any Buffs coach is a.) harnessing that talent with a disciplined approach, and b.) placating an autocratic club sports department. Galvin has a track record of doing both, so he's obviously the right man for the position.

Still, while there are solid players on the CU roster, it's difficult envisioning the Buffs playing on the final weekend of the MCLA season. The amount of coaching changes the program has endured has consequences. It will likely take a year for the new staff to get everyone on the same page. Colorado will be in Greenville, S.C., this spring, but not in a championship-threatening capacity. The '13 season will be the one to keep an eye on.

- News & Notes: In addition to being the head coach at Colorado, Galvin is also working with Breakaway Sports, located in Boulder. "I've been running around a little bit just trying to get used to the 'no-time' thing," he said...Hurt for most of last year, junior attackman Jack Cranston (21g, 6a) is expected to be one of the Buffs big guns...Galvin says Michigan is the team he'd like to emulate. Not a bad choice...Colorado was picked third in the six-team RMLC preseason poll...Former Buffs coach Mike Ryder is now an assistant at Tampa (NCAA D-II).

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