Interview with one of Drexel Lacrosse's Alumni

From the Sidelines - CAA Play Begins  




CAAs: This is it


This Past Week

            Our Drexel Dragons are now 4-5.

            We beat Michigan and Binghamton this past week, on the road and at home. While they were meaningless to our chances to repeat as CAA champions because they were non-conference games, getting a “W” is always welcome, hard to get in D1, great for confidence, and generally feels good.

            Captain Ryan Belka again separated himself from average players in the sport as he scored, dished the rock, and basically took the team on his shoulders as we expected (and wrote about last week). He put up another hattrick against Michigan in the Big House and then handed out three assists to go with a goal in the Binghamton victory. The goal against Bing-ain’t-tough was a lefty shot as he sprinted down the left ally, goalie correctly hugging the post, and yet the ball found a way through an impossible crack to get into the net. One parent looked at Belk’s father in the stands and said, “That was a professional goal.” This summer when we lament losing our start to graduation, and professional lacrosse in the NLL, Ryan will do that again and we will smile.

Co-Captain Nick Saputo won 10 of 19 against Michi-can’t and 10 of 18 on Tuesday. He had 13 groundballs in the two games. To put that in perspective only Miles Thomas, Jake Kiernan, and Will Gabrielsen have more for the entire season! Nick is a leader on the field and in the lockerroom, fun to watch, and in many ways dictates the emotion of the 2015 Dragons.

Sophomore Cole Shafer notched another hattrick against Michigan and then went 1G/1A on Tuesday. The Canadian Sniper is the same guy who put the ball in the upper in the 3rd OT to win Drexel it’s only league title in school history so you can argue it is his time of year arriving on Saturday as the CAA begins.

On D, Thomas, Kiernan, and freshman Michael Meurer have improved as a unit as they have now played half a season together, holding this past week’s shooters to under 10 goals. Jimmy Joe Granito stopped 18 shots (11 and 7) in this week’s victories. And Mason Pynn not only played solid defense as a Middie, but also notched goals in both wins.


Questions Answered and Questions Remain

            Winning is the ultimate salve to an open wound that losing creates.

However, if we are to be honest, Michigan and Binghamton were below average teams and the quality of lacrosse being played was poor in both contests. According to this week Drexel has played the 7th hardest schedule this season. Yet it was those first four games that put us there. The soft middle of our schedule may have built a respectable record on paper and something to build upon, nevertheless the reality the CAA teams we will face shall look far more like those Top 20 teams we began the seaon with.

The good news is our Dragons held their own for large chunks of time against Virginia and Maryland. The bad news is if we play to this past week’s level against the shooters on Fairfield, Hofstra, and Towson, not to mention UMass and Delaware, we are in for a rude awakening.


            Drexel needs a spark. It may be a ground ball. Maybe it’s a big hit. Usually it’s a net-ripping upper in a critical sequence or a fantastic save. None of us can say which one of these it will be, when it will come, or who will make it. But if you are a player who gets to see the field, even for just a half, a mere shift, or the whole game, are YOU going to be the one who makes that season-turning play. Put another way: Who wants to MAKE A PLAY?   


Turning Point Is Here and Now

Watching Fairfield dismantle Villanova last weekend was scary. Nova actually didn’t play poorly. It was the Stags who took it to them. They played a solid zone D, their Goalie made forced shots look like easy saves, and their O kept shooting. Shooting high heat, over and over.

Here are the facts: Drexel is home at Vidas for 3 of our 5 CAA games to end the regular season. We win those and we are guaranteed a spot in the CAA Tournament. We lose any of them and it gets tricky.

They come one-at-a-time and the next one is Fairfield. Take care of business, Fellas!

Shoot it hard(and overhand please!). Hit somebody so they remember being hit but not what number you wore because they are dazed (but don’t get a penalty—or if you do make it worth it!). Hustle as if it’s your last shift of your last game ever (regardless of your position!). Get Groundballs as if your life depends on it (your team’s life actually does!).


Breathe fire for a full 60 minutes. This is it. Make it count Saturday!


Go Dragons!


Dragonlax Reporter



From the Bleachers - The Turning Point 




Midseason: The Turning Point

The Facts

            Our Drexel Dragons are 2-5.

            We have played in snow squalls, biting ice, frigid subzero temps, rain and fog, and against some of the best teams in lacrosse and against some of the better teams with losing records.

            At times our team looks solid and on their way. And at other points they look lost.

            Changes at several positions have not worked, and the coaches have tried to mix and match as best they could to no avail and will continue to do so to create consistency.

            Our offense has turned the ball over almost 17 times per game (116 in first 7 contests), which is tiring out our young D who is letting in over 11 goals per game. That wouldn’t be a problem if we were averaging 12 goals on O and not 9.

            Captains Ryan Belka and Nick Saputo are playing their guts out. Belka is leading the team in scoring with 26 points (14g/12a) while Saputo is near the top of the charts nationally in ground balls (65) and face off winning percentage (58.5%). It’s hard to ask these two to give more as they are playing to the high level we expected them to and made them All Americans last year and in preseason voting. And yet under the circumstances they will need to push themselves to another level and drag the rest of the team along with them. This is what seniors and Captains are supposed to do. We expect these two to do exactly that.



            When a team has won only two games out of seven there are questions, of course. Being a spectator ala Monday morning quarterbacking, without knowledge of watching every practice or sitting in the locker room, makes it easy to second guess. But it doesn’t take an aficionado of lax to figure out that cherishing the rock is a must when you have an inexperienced defense. A struggling team simply can’t give a good—or other struggling—team the ball over and over and expect to win.

In the early stages of a season young squads face challenges. All teams from youth leagues on practice their fast break defense and clearing. All D1 teams watch film to get perspective on who the opposing shooters are and aren’t. Ball watching can be coached away. Are we doing these things? If so, are we doing them enough?

            If the object of offense is to put the ball in the net and your team can’t hit the cage shouldn’t they come early and stay late to practice shooting? If the sport is about movement and passing, dodging and dishing, and that’s not happening, are the right guys in the right place?  

            Drexel isn’t the only team struggling with these issues. Johns Hopkins, Penn, and Bryant were all NCAA playoff teams last season, and like Drexel are sporting losing records as of this week. Heck, there’s only one CAA team with a winning record so far in 2015 and we know this conference is full of excellent players and squads who can beat anyone on a given day.

            Freshmen and sophomores are often just happy to be playing. Getting on the field in Division 1 is a big deal. It’s fun to be out there because it’s fun to play. Having fans cheer and getting your name in the paper is cool. Going to parties and having hot babes ask you what your number is (not just jersey number) may be why many of us played in the first place (if we want to be honest).

            But for a team to win games, if not championships, it takes more than just wanting to play. It takes dedication. It takes communication. It takes hard work. It takes teamwork. It takes making plays.

            What it doesn’t take is finger pointing. Not on the field and not in this column. There will be no names mentioned here. Players who are not stepping up know who they are. It’s up to them and their coaches to scratch and claw their way back to competitiveness.

            Players don’t decide who starts and who gets on the field. That’s up to the coaches. All a player can do is be ready to play. And when that opportunity comes it is up to that individual to give everything they have, every shift, every pass, every groundball, every shot, every clear, every second. Not just happy to play, but eager to make plays.

            The question that matters is; when will this happen? This year? Next year? Or in another 50 years?

The Bleachers have only one question; Why not start today?          


Turning Point Time

We got a win in the sleet against St. Joes and another against shaky Bryant.

St. Johnswas better than their 1-5 record, but nowhere near the quality of team we saw in the first four games against Virginia, Albany, ‘Nova, and Maryland.

Michiganlies in wait this weekend. Michigan Offensive Coordinator Connor Ford knows our strengths and our weaknesses and you can bet your house he will have shared every iota with his new team. The Wolverines will be ready to defend their house, the legendary Big House, on Saturday.

Michigan and Binghamton are all that remain as tune-ups before the CAA wars.

The bright spots thus far are something to build upon in these next two contests. Jules Raucci has scored some sweet goals. He continues to separate himself from defenders with one of the best split-dodges in America. Every time Jules gets the ball, Shorty or Pole, we have an opportunity to draw a slide and thus create space for Cole Shafer to rip another nasty low to high upper. These two sit at the top of the scoring chart behind Belks, and are keys to our turning this season around. Keep shooting, Boys!

Jake Kiernanleads the team in caused turnovers (8) and is second behind Saputo with ground balls (16). His steal of a pass late in the Bryant game sealed that deal—a rare thing for a Dman to win a game, especially in that manner. Worth noting Jake made that play a week after getting pelted in the throat during the Maryland massacre. Keep that stick up Big #29! (P.S. those same Terps went on to crush Princeton and Villanova after they took Penn and Drexel down in flames).

Back to the good news and foundation to work on: Mason Pynn has flashed signs of Beastmode on O & D and turned the ball over only once. Jordan Cunningham has been reliable all year as has fellow SSM Jordan Klunder. Miles Thomas gets the toughest assignment every week and will continue to do so. Keep working hard fellas!

Put the first half of the St. Joes game and the first half of the St. Johns together (or the first half of Maryland and first half of Virginia) and you will find 60 minutes of Dragonlax. Cliché to say it takes sixty minutes…but can you argue it doesn’t?

We have taken our lumps and hopefully learned some valuable lessons (albeit the hard way). All will be forgiven and forgotten if we simply get our acts in gear and play—and make plays—from first whistle to last horn.

In front of us is one game. Just one. They only come one at time anyway.

We have faith in you Dragons. We know your potential. Players with recent championship experience are in your locker room.

It’s time to expose fangs and breath fire once again for a full 60 minutes. Make the Big House a Dragons lair on Saturday!


Go Dragons!


Dragonlax Reporter

Know Your Enemy - St. John's 




The Dragons advance to 2-4 overall and 2-0 in March after beating a struggling but talented Bryant team

at home.  Ryan Belka grabbed CAA player of the week honors scoring 4 and assisting twice against

Bryant.  That’s the kind of performance we like to see from the senior captain.  Congrats, Ryan.  Cole

Shafer continues to dazzle with a nifty behind the back goal in that game.  Jules is starting to catch his

stride.  It’s great to see guys like Frazee, Pynn, and Michael Kay contribute.  We’ll need them guys to

help come CAA time.  And finally it was great to see Frankie “fourth quarter” Fusco step up big with a

man-goal in the fourth.    

The Dragons hop on the bus and travel to Queens, New York to take on the St. John’s Johnnies (red

storm) this Saturday 3/14 at 1pm.  St. John’s is another team that’s had a tough start and at 1-5 they

have a similar look to Bryant and to us.  Their most recent games were against a top 10 ranked Yale

team that they took to overtime before losing 11-10 and Syracuse that they lost to 14-6.

Look for St. John’s to come out fired up.  This is a home game for them that they no doubt see as

winnable after the last two.  Most of their offense runs through a few usual suspects on attack.  Their

leading scorer who has 16 goals and 10 assists is Jr. attackman Eric DeJohn #8.  Stefan Diachenko #42

(sweet name bro) has dropped in 11 this season and has two assists.  Their other attackman #3 has 7

goals.  They’ve struggled at that face off winning just 42% of the time so far this season.  Like us they

seem to be figuring out their goal tender.  They have two that have split games and average .512 save

percentage.  There isn’t much else we can tell you about this St. John’s group other than to reiterate

that they are low on wins and are desperate to get one especially at home.  As Mike Avato reminds us,

“now you know and knowing is half the battle.”

For those that can’t make the game we realized after sending out the second email that there will in fact

be a live stream and you can find it online at espn3  For the New York contingent

of Dragon faithful, head to St. John’s at 1pm and help make it feel like a home game for the boys in blue!  

For those that have donated there will be long sleeve t’s in the parking lot for you.  Let’s go Drexel!