Author: Zach Heerwagen
After ending their season three years ago with a 2-11 record, the Occidental Men’s Lacrosse Team knew something had to change.
But, change came during that offseason when they brought in a new coach, Steven Luna, who since then has helped to provide stability. Last season after building up the roster, the program reached a new high, going 8-3 before losing in a nail-biter to CSU Fullerton on a couple of last minute goals.
The Tigers’s core group from last year is now joined by seven new players who are ready to compete at a high level. The season started off with an impressive victory over Division I USC last Saturday. This 12-10 nail biter came against a Trojan team that, besides being a top-tier club team, is also positioning their program to become a full scholarship NCAA competitor.
In its quest to earn legitimacy and build upon the last few years of success, the program is relying on its seasoned veterans to come through with clutch performances. One such veteran is Doug Calder (junior), who put up a solid fight against the Trojans, and earned the respect of his teammates as an integral player in the game.
“Doug Calder doing such a crazy job on the face-offs this weekend was huge,” club President Thomas Kelly (senior) said. The dominant play of Calder assisted the Tigers in controlling the pace of the game and determining tempo.
“When I take faces, I block everything out and focus on the ball,” Calder said. “I read what my opponent and wing men are giving me and play off them. I won 16/18 face offs I took against USC. That’s a great stat but I couldn’t have done it without the help of my wing men.”
The team effort extended to all players who stepped onto the field with all players contributing to the victory.
After allowing 10 shot attempts in the first quarter, the defense locked down USC, holding them to only eight attempts for the rest of the game.
Kelly’s prowess in the net allowed the Tigers to withstand the early barrage until the offense was able to slow down and better control the ball.
“He’s Mr. Reliable,” Calder said. “He always picks up the team’s extra slack and keeps us in tough games to give us a fighting chance.”
Senior defenders Brian Cropper and Dylan Griffiths added in strong performances, with Peter Burrows (first-year) injecting a shot of youth into an otherwise veteran cast.
On the offensive side, Teran Mawhinney (first-year) provided a burst by scooping up 10 ground balls and adding three goals. A Division I recruit in lacrosse, Mawhinney adds a new dimension on offense.
He joins Jake Kahane (sophomore) who scored over 50 goals in his first season. Mawhinney and Kahane provide multiple scoring options for the Tiger offense and will pose a constant headache for opponents this season.
With returning key players in almost every position, the team is poised to make another postseason run. They are currently waiting on all the players to return to full health. The added bodies will not only help in spelling starters on game-day but also in practice intensity.
“We’re waiting on injury, once everyone’s healed up we should be three lines deep at midfield with four to five strong defenders,” Kelly said.
The Tigers continued their success with a solid 15-7 victory over UC Irvine this past weekend but will have a more challenging task on Friday when they take on league rival Channel Islands at 8:30 p.m. at home.
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