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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 29, 2012

Seattle trip has positive effect on Dutchmen lacrosse team
By Jordan J. Michael

GUILDERLAND –– The Dutchmen played some competitive lacrosse during a trip to Seattle last weekend, and the team had some fun off the field, too.

During Guilderland’s stroll through Seattle last Saturday, the team passed through Pike Place Market, a nine-acre marketplace that is known as “The Soul of Seattle.” It’s been in operation for more than a century and is home to more than 200 businesses.

Guilderland Head Coach Sean McConaghy had heard about the “world famous” fish- tossing that goes on at Pike Place, so the team was curious.

Junior Stephen Jill said that one of the men tossing fish asked, “Who’s got the best hands?” Assistant Coach Kris Bremer sarcastically volunteered Jill because, said Jill, “I don’t really have the best hands.”

The fish are tossed from 10 to 15 feet, Jill said, like a fast lob, but they are pretty slippery, he admits.

“I went up there and snagged the fish pretty good,” said Jill at practice on Tuesday. “Then, BremDog (Coach Bremer) went up there and bobbled the catch a little bit.  It was funny. I would say that I had the better catch.”

The Dutchmen went on a ferry ride and got a group picture taken at the bottom of the Space Needle. The team was together for four straight days –– leaving at 4 a.m. on Thursday and returning on Sunday.

“It was fun,” McConaghy said. “It’s a life experience we’ll never forget, for sure, win or lose.”

Guilderland played two state champion teams, beating Lincoln, 12 to 5, and losing to Bellevue, 9 to 5. The games were played in Mercer Island, a short drive from Seattle. The Dutch had a scrimmage on Thursday night after flying across the country for 12 hours.

“They slept on the plane,” McConaghy said of his players. “If they even slept on the plane…”

McConaghy and Bremer played lacrosse at the University of Albany with Bellevue Head Coach John Baumann and Mercer Island Head Coach Ian O’Hearn. McConaghy played for the Great Danes from 1996 to 2000 and Bremer from 1997 to 2001.

Baumann and O’Hearn have invited Guilderland out to Seattle plenty of times since McConaghy started coaching the Dutch in 2005, but this was the first time Guilderland was able to make the trip. It took a full year of fund-raising to afford round-trip airfare for 26 players.

Guilderland held a garage sale in the fall, sponsored a youth tournament, put on a few clinics, and hosted numerous pizza nights and other types of fund-raisers. Each player ended up paying $135 to cover the rest.

“It was a lot of work, but totally worth it,” McConaghy said of raising money. “The booster club, the parents, the families, and the kids –– total group effort. We appreciate everything that everyone did to make this happen.”

Jill told The Enterprise that the Guilderland teammates already had great relationships before the Seattle trip, but now it’s even better. Everyone seemed in a upbeat mood at Tuesday’s practice.

“We were hanging out all day for four straight days,” Jill said. “Now, we’re even closer as a team.”

Playing against top West Coast opponents made the Dutchmen better on the field, but the Seattle trip was focused on team bonding. McConaghy hopes that the trip brought his team together like “you’d never believe,” and he thinks it has. “This group will come together when adversity hits,” he said.

The Guilderland players stayed with host families and also with teammates that they probably wouldn’t have stayed with otherwise. McConaghy said that senior Sean Klim, the starting goalie, wants to go back to Seattle this summer.

“These host families had never met these kids before, but they kept saying how well behaved the boys were and that they wanted to keep them for their own,” said McConaghy. “We’re really proud to hear that kind of feedback.”

Overall, Jill was pleased with the trip, but he said Seattle driving was strange. One of the vans got backed into a pole and Jill noticed that his host parents frequently drifted in and out of lanes.

“That was interesting,” Jill said. “I don’t know if it was the people or Mercer Island. Guilderland drivers are better than Seattle drivers.”

Lincoln is a team from Oregon and Bellevue is across the bay from Seattle as both teams are former state champions. Guilderland had its hands full in those games.

Lacrosse, a Native American sport, originated as a school sport on the East Coast, but that was a long time ago. West Coast teams have caught up and are just as good.

“Lacrosse is booming all over the country now,” McConaghy said. “They have raw athletes just like we do over here –– they pick up the stick and go.”

McConaghy said that the Dutch had great ball movement in its win over Lincoln, and that the defense was consistent in both games. However, clearing the ball from defense to offense was a glaring problem, he said.

“We didn’t have the luxury of fixing problems over there, so that’s what we’ll have to do this week,” McConaghy said.

Guilderland’s biggest problem will probably be the Suburban Council competition –– Niskayuna, Shenendehowa, Saratoga, Shaker, Colonie, Ballston Spa, etc. The Dutch open the 2012 season on April 3 at home against Columbia.

McConaghy focuses on the offense and Bremer deals with the defense, but lacrosse is a combined effort. McConaghy says that he and Bremer bounce ideas off of each other morning, afternoon, and night.

“The most important thing is to win every little battle –– ground balls, face-offs, rides, clears, saves,” said McConaghy. “If you win all those little battles, then you probably win the game.”

Jill said that the Dutchmen were a little disappointed with last season’s effort.

“Everyone’s working real hard and we proved to ourselves that we can compete at a high level last weekend,” said Jill. “One team. One love.”

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