May 13, 2009

Hoping to Learn from Past Mistakes

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

In each of the last two seasons, Jim Nestor has made the walk.

It isn't a fun stroll, walking away from the field in defeat after reaching the final weekend of the season. Everything races through the mind - each dropped pass, missed shot and unforced error.

"It nags at you a little bit," admitted Nestor, Salisbury's head coach.

It's also bittersweet.

Making it to the national championship game and the semis in consecutive years, as the Sea Gulls have, is concrete evidence that a program is operating at the peak of women's Division III. However, falling short of the ultimate prize leaves one with an empty feeling when slogging back to the locker room.

With Nestor and Salisbury entering their third consecutive final four, the memories of the previous losses are as clear as if they happened last week.

"When you look back at it in hindsight, last year's game against Hamilton, which was a one-goal game, you see how many mental mistakes we made," said Nestor. "Hamilton did a great job with its defense against our offense, but we had too many men on the field, we had a false start; just mental mistakes that cost us possessions. I thought that those were key factors."

Nestor is not about to let his team be satisfied with the small mistakes that cost them championships.

At this time of year, practices are usually for fine-tuning the general concepts utilized during the year. For the Sea Gulls, it will be about precision from the first whistle of practice to the last.

"We are definitely focusing on it," said Nestor of cutting out the little gaffes. "Instead of letting things go in practice, we're focusing on it a little more. Just make sure we're not making those same mistakes or errors again.

"Sometimes there's a situation within a game, maybe with a card and someone is off the field. Then somebody doesn't realize it and the next thing you know you're offsides. Some of the players weren't doing their job in terms of communication, little things like that."

This will be a significant challenge for the Salisbury players considering the amount of academic pressure that they'll be dealing with along with the usual stress of a national semifinal.

The spring exam period begins on Thursday and runs through the weekend, forcing some of the players to reshuffle their tests, but also cram study time into an already hectic schedule.

"I think they've been through it enough, but that's always in the back of their minds that they still have to come back after the weekend and keep on studying," said Nestor. "They have us doing so many things, but we'll be doing some studying on the bus and when we get a chance."

Along with finals, there is the small fact that Salisbury will be playing a Gettysburg team operating at a very high level right now. Nestor cites the pinpoint passing and cutting on the offense end a stingy zone as the Bullets' strengths.

The word he chose to describe Carol Cantele's team is efficient.

"I saw them early on and I've been telling my kids they are a very good team," said the Salisbury coach. "Don't be fooled by the F&M scores. They are just a very good team and I had a feeling we'd be seeing them at some point."

He wasn't sure it would be in the national semifinals, but that's secondary for Nestor and the Gulls right now.

Nestor just wants to be able to walk away from championship weekend without thinking about what could have been.

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