May 19, 2010

Continentals Have That Familiar Feeling

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter

The Continentals have that old familiar feeling, but it's still Blake Hargest (above) and Franklin & Marshall who are the defending champions.
© David Sinclair

The speed and depth of the team maybe better than any other Hamilton team in program history, but head coach Patty Kloidt is getting that old familiar feeling reminiscent of 2008 – the year the Continentals won it all.

“It has similarities to the 2008 team in the team chemistry and goofiness and the fun that they had playing,” said Kloidt. “In fact, this senior class has a lot of respect for the senior class of 2008 and really wanted to emulate their leadership when they took over as seniors this year.”

This year’s edition of the Continentals has actually one-upped the ’08 franchise in that they are a perfect 20-0 heading into the national semifinals whereas the team two years ago had one loss.

Where the national championship winner had the edge was in experience. That team was stocked with grizzled juniors and seniors like Nicole Tetreault and Kaillie Briscoe who were confident in taking on the best teams in the country.

Kloidt’s team this year is astoundingly young for a title contender with 18 of the 29 players on the roster either being freshmen or sophomores. The upperclasses have talent – senior Liz Rave (42g, 6a) and junior Sarah Bray (28g, 45a) are two of the best midfielders in the country – but will the youngsters be able to survive the glare of the national semifinals?

“When you get to the final four, do you have the ability to make decisions at a quicker pace?” asked Kloidt. “And handle the stress of reading momentum and having the composure to handle the ebb and flow of a really tight game? The youth on our team have gained a lot of experience. We played most of our roster in a lot of the games. We’re running two middie lines and we’re probably going seven or eight kids deep on our bench, so there is a lot of experience being had by those young kids.”

They’ll be going against a Franklin & Marshall team that had to transform itself after graduating a massive amount of points after its national championship run in ’09. Still, with seniors Blake Hargest (51g, 38a) on attack and Lidia Sanza (6.08 GAA) in goal leading the way, the Diplomats have managed to get within two games of repeating.

Could the role of underdog be suiting F&M?

“We don’t really look at it like that,” said Dips coach Lauren Paul. “When you get to this point of the season, every team is very good and there aren’t any underdogs.”

While Franklin & Marshall won’t be favored against the undefeated, top-ranked team in the country, the Dips are a dangerous squad late in the season, as they showed Gettysburg in the Centennial finals. After losing, 8-7 to the Bullets during the regular season, F&M flipped the result in the title game, snatching the 9-8 overtime victory.

“We realized we had to be ourselves,” said Paul. “Our style is to go to goal and get a shot off in 20 seconds. We needed to get back to that and not try burn a lot of time of the clock like Gettysburg does.”

Not only are the Dips back to the run-and-gun style, but they’ll be playing in very familiar surrounding – “This will be our third trip to Gettysburg this year and we’ll be on the same bench,” said Paul.

Will that be enough to upset the Continentals?

Maybe, but if the Dips pull it off, it won’t be because the Hamilton senior class didn’t do everything they could to rekindle the good vibes of 2008.

“They are really just taking very good care of every person on our team,” said Kloidt of her six seniors. “Every person has value and everyone is making sure that everybody gets it – they understand our system of play, our standards for behavior, our culture, and holding each other accountable. We’re just having a lot of fun.”

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