February 15th, 2013

Bellarmine Prepped and Ready for Michigan

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer

Bellarmine Prepped and Ready for Michigan
Bellarmine's Will Cary in game action last year v. Loyola / file photo by Timothy Sofranko

Knights face Wolverines in first conference game of season

The Bellarmine lacrosse team welcomes Michigan, yes the Maize and Blue, to Owsley B. Frazier Stadium for its first home game of the season Saturday. This marks the first official Eastern College Athletic Conference game between the two schools, as Michigan is playing its inaugural campaign as a full-fledged Division I lacrosse team.

Last season, the Knights traveled to Ann Arbor and defeated the Wolverines 13-9 in the first lacrosse game played at historic Michigan Stadium. Bellarmine is looking for its first home win since defeating VMI 9-8 on March 16, 2011.

“We haven’t won a home game in two years, so we’re looking to start fast on our home field,” Bellarmine head coach Kevin Burns said. “We went up to Michigan last year and beat them in the first game played at The Big House, so we know they’re going to be fired up to play us here.”

A traditional lacrosse power on the collegiate club level, Michigan is the latest team to join the highly competitive ECAC — a league that includes defending national champion Loyola (Md.), Ohio State, Air Force, Denver, Hobart and Fairfield.

“Our goal for this season and this program is to make the ECAC playoffs, something this team has never accomplished,” Burns said. “You’ve got to beat ECAC teams and get in the top four of the conference. With Michigan, they’re probably not too happy with us after we went up there and won, so you add that to this being our first ECAC game of the year and it’s really big for us.”

Bellarmine opened its 2013 campaign with a hard-fought, come-from-behind 9-8 win at Robert Morris last Saturday. The Knights trailed 7-5 at the half but tied the game quickly in the third period on goals by sophomore Ryan Scinta and junior Cameron Gardner. Senior Will Cary scored the game-winner.

Burns, who is in his second season at the helm of Bellarmine's program and at age 31 among the youngest Division I head coaches in any sport, has built his team on speed, speed and more speed and is looking forward to the challenges that Michigan will bring to Frazier Field. Burns played his college career at traditional lacrosse power Loyola (Md.) and has a defensive pedigree. Though he preaches sound defense, he wants his Knights to play at one speed: fast.

“There’s a huge difference this year with the guys having played in our system for two years now,” he said. “They’ve embraced the system and love playing it. We’re trying to push the pace at all times, and we want to play as fast as humanly possible. We want to be the fastest team in the country. Everybody can play at the even strength, but we want to create chaos with our speed.”

In the blink-of-an-eye pace of a lacrosse match, there’s no substitute for speed. The Knights have embraced the motto “Thrive in the chaos” for this year’s squad.

“We’re going to make our living in the five-on-four situations, fast break opportunities and off of face-offs,” said Burns. “If we can score on a good percentage of those situations, those will bring extra goals for us that other teams won’t get. Playing at this pace is a completely different way of playing for these guys that we instituted last year, but they’re really getting it now.”

And the Knights will need that speed to overcome a Michigan team that relies more on a controlled pace. In basketball terms this game will be a matchup of a fast-break team (Bellarmine) against a work-the-clock, half-court offensive team (Michigan).

There will be plenty of local players on the field, including two big contributors for the Knights from St. Xavier High School. Long stick midfielder Bobby Schmitt and midfielder Reid Wesley, both sophomores, are keys to the Knights' offensive success. Scinta is a KCD grad and Cary is Collegiate alum. Cole Killion, a freshman defenseman from Trinity, will be sidelined with an injury.

For Michigan, prized freshman recruit Brad Lott — another Trinity product — will make his debut as a faceoff man for the Wolverines after sitting out last week due to a violation of team rules. Much is expected from the high school All-American, who was ranked as the No. 1 faceoff man in the nation last season for the Shamrocks.

“I'm sneaky. I'm not the biggest faceoff guy, but my technique and the things I do are a little bit different compared to everyone's traditional stance,” Lott said. “I just do little tricks. I see other people facing off and I see what they do and I kind of put that into my game a little bit. I'm always tweaking the way I face off to win as many faceoffs as I possibly can.”

Rest assured that the Knights will test Lott and the Wolverines and see if they are capable of “thriving in the chaos” that Bellarmine hopes to create.

Faceoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. You can watch the live webstream of the game at www.louisvillecatholicsports.com.


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