Coming off a season where his team won second in its division and was ranked in the Top 25 nationally, MU men’s lacrosse coach Keith Euker knew the team had high expectations this fall.
“We’re really assessing from an overall standpoint where the team stands,” Euker said. “That includes everything from our conditioning to our offensive and defensive play to our understanding of various concepts and situations.”
During the fall, practices are held four days a week. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, the team runs practice at Stankowski field, working on situational drills. Tuesdays are spent preparing for games through running and core conditioning.
“Coach Euker has the benefit of having a really young team,” junior Clayton Cruthirds said. “He was my coach freshman year, and he’ll be my coach until my senior year. He really has a chance to build the program and have chemistry with the guys, and that’s just the benefit of having a young team.” Two weeks after completing tryouts and starting four-a-week practices, the men’s lacrosse team will head to St. Charles this weekend to participate in its first and only tournament of the fall.
“Fall tournaments to me are always about seeing what we have and getting the younger guys a lot of experience in game situations and seeing how they react,” Euker said. “It’s really an overall analysis and assessment of where we are and what we have to work on moving forward into the springtime.”
The Tigers will face Dayton and Missouri Baptist on Friday. The following day the team will take on Fontbonne as well as tournament host Lindenwood. Junior James Stannard said that the team is looking forward to playing Lindenwood again after losing to it twice in the past two years.
“They’re our rivals, and we have a lot of bad blood going back for a ways and we just like to get after each other,” Stannard said. “That’ll be our best game.”
Between the practice squad and the travel team, 13 freshmen joined the lacrosse team this fall. Only a select few will travel with the team during the season, but for now they’ll have an opportunity to work and train with the entire team.
“So far, the team chemistry has been great,” Stannard said. “We’ve had years in the past where it has been a little rough, but this has been a great year and the freshmen have been fitting in nicely.”
This weekend’s tournament pits the Tigers against the some of the region's most well regarded club lacrosse teams, including former division champions Lindenwood. Last season’s 15-14 loss against Lindenwood prevented the Tigers from winning a division title.
“It’ll be good to face competition other than ourselves and actually see some real game action against teams that have been practicing and doing the same stuff as us,” senior Sean Hogarty said. “It’s not like playing in the spring, but it’s a good preview, especially for our young guys.”
The Tigers will have one more game before the fall portion of their schedule ends, a home scrimmage Oct. 29 against Washington. After the game, the team will move to its winter practice schedule of conditioning and stick work.
“I think we look better now than we did this time last year and certainly this time two years ago,” Euker said. “I'm pleased with our progress but we still have a long way to go.”