MEQUON, Wis. – Concordia University Wisconsin Men's Lacrosse has exceeded expectations in every aspect and the 2014 season brings even more pressure to win and make a statement. With a new head coach and the first four-year class ready to leave their mark on the program, the season can't come soon enough for the Falcons.
CUW begins its 2014 season on Saturday at John Carroll University at 11 a.m. (CDT). Below is an outlook for the Falcons and what fans can expect over the course of the 17 game schedule.
Schedule poses challenges, opportunities
When a new program is formed, it is expected they will take their lumps and tally more losses than anything. During the first three seasons, the Falcons have gone against the grain and put together a 26-20 record. While it may not be flashy to be six-games over .500, they have come out in front when needed.
This season CUW will have its challenges, as seven of its 2014 opponents were above .500 last season, including two that made the NCAA Division III Tournament. On the other hand, they play two first-year and six second-year programs. Of the teams that had a record last season, they combined for a 116-123 (.485).
The Falcons were predicted to finish fourth in the Midwest Lacrosse Conference, as chosen by the coaches. A season ago, they entered the final game of the season controlling their own destiny and seeding in the MLC Tournament, but came up short, just missing out on the conference tournament. Winning the MLC title isn't going to be easy, as the three teams selected to finish higher (Aurora, Augustana, Carthage) will all face the Falcons on their home turf.
The schedule will pose its challenges and give CUW many chances, and CUWFalcons.com believes double-digit wins isn't out of the question.
Offense should again light up the scoreboard
CUW had its best offensive output in nearly every statistical category last season, including an average of 12.63 goals per game. They could score and piled it on several opponents last season, winning by double-figures in six contests.
With age, comes experience and the Falcons first-ever senior class should find ways to score when and wherever they want. Their top two scorers from a year ago – seniors Justin Krause (Hartland, Wis.) and Sam Wladyka (Winnipeg, Manitoba) – combined for 86 points, including 53 goals.
Junior Matt Larsen (Gurnee, Ill.) and sophomore Marino Best (Nanaimo, British Columbia) had 26 and 21 goals, respectively, during 2013. With the return of senior Danny Dahms (Calgary, Alberta) from a knee injury, CUW should boast a well-balanced scoring unit that causes opponents constant frustration.
In addition, the top three goal scoring games in program history came last season and twice they found the back of the net eight times in a period.
Defense can limit opponents in the heat of the battle
Yes, the offense was impressive during the 2013 season, but the defense played just as well. CUW allowed just 7.56 goals per game, which ranked 34th in the country. Offense will always make the highlights, but the Falcons defense has been strong in helping the team win five games over the past two seasons in games decided by three goals or less.
One leader that will have to elevate his level of play is senior goalkeeper Zack Davis (LaPorte, Ind.). He posted his best statistical season to date in 2013, but ranked 10th in the MLC allowing 6.29 goals per league game. He did have a hand in two shutouts and gave up three or fewer goals in seven contest, but will needed to secure more shots thrown his way.
Another player who can confuse opponents is junior Christopher Grenz (Centennial, Colo.). Last season he was named All-MLC First Team as a defender after leading the team with 29 caused turnovers, which also ranked 72nd nationally.
Falcons are a team, but Bundra can be a difference maker
The faceoff position in men' lacrosse is unique and if a team has a player who works hard at the craft, they can be dominant. Sophomore Danny Bundra (Lake Zurich, Ill.) showed flashes of his all-star capabilities last year, but on occasion showed his inexperience.
After taking over as the primary faceoff man in game four of last season, he won 174-of-281 faceoff attempts (.619), which included double-digit faceoff wins in the final 10 games. If CUW is going to become the team to beat in the MLC, Bundra's abilities will be a key part of that success.