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Thursday, Apr. 27, 2017
Laurentian lacrosse, by the numbers
2016-09-23
by Randy Pascal

In any team sport, a combination of talent and depth tends to form a potent “one-two” punch, the very foundation from which championship rosters can be built. Certainly, in that sense, field lacrosse is no different.

More than any other time since the program’s inception, the Laurentian Voyageurs can now lay claim to boasting a solid mix of at least two key ingredients to success. Exactly where that leads, facing some schools with long and storied traditions in the sport, is anyone’s guess. Little surprise, however, that head coach Derrick Gordon is excited at the prospects.

“One of my first years playing (at Laurentian), we had a huge roster, something like 35 people,” said Gordon. “But the problem was that most of them had never played any high level of lacrosse. Most of the guys on our team this year have at least junior lacrosse background.”

The end result, he hopes, will be a small step forward from the 5-7 record that the Voyageurs posted one year ago, finishing in a fourth place West Division logjam with both Nipissing and McMaster.

“I think we were a team that had a lot of potential, and we showed that with a big win against Brock,” said Gordon. “But we also showed a lot of our inexperience with our younger players by losing games against Nipissing, McMaster and Laurier.”

While the newcomers to the fold in 2016 might not represent a boatload of superstars capable of single-handedly leading Laurentian lacrosse to the promised land, the top to bottom balance across the lineup creates an environment that will alleviate some of the need for Gordon to pull out all stops in his role as master motivator with this crew.

“Our hands have kind of been tied in previous years, having to play players just because of our limited numbers, regardless of their performance on or off the field,” he stated. “Now, we’re so deep at every position, it’s going to keep everyone honest and push guys a little better.”

“I can’t look at any one position and say that any one person is going to be in that spot the whole season,” Gordon added. “There’s a lot of guys that are right on the heels of everyone else, so it’s going to be a battle for playing time.”

Defensively, it all starts with veteran goaltender Ian Walters, who is backed up this year by Hill Academy graduate Jake Kelly. Long poles Cameron Genge, Graeme George and Evan Connolly can draw on a couple of years of CUFLA (Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association) experience, while Grayham Santin returns for a sophomore season.

Some very familiar names through the midfield as well, with the likes of Neil McInroy, Mike Kussman and Blair McDonald very much battled tested. Joining that trio are Sudbury native Austin Bouchard, back from a year spent with the Mars Hill University Lions in North Carolina, and three year LU hockey veteran Caleb Apperson.

The attackers see less turnover than a year ago, with Patrick Fitzhenry and Brad Gerrow right in the thick of things, while rookies expected to quickly make their presence felt include Sammy Postma (formerly of the Brevard College Tornados – North Carolina) and Adam Elinsky, a top end junior scorer with Halton Hills.

Still, it is this end of the pitch where Gordon will focus his attention in the early going. “The big things for us will be controlling the clock on offense, and utilizing our speed,” he said. “We have a lot faster team than we had in previous years. For us to generate offense, we’re going to have to really work on the opposing defense, doing a lot of running and a lot of ball movement.”

With the Concordia Stingers dropping from the CUFLA ranks this year, and Nipissing moving from the West to the East, Laurentian will enjoy a nicely balanced home and home schedule with the six remaining teams in their division.

Coach Gordon and company have targeted a third place finish, and early season results appear to back up this assertion. The Voyageurs opened the fall at home, downing the Laurier Hawks 10-6, bolting to a 5-0 lead as Mike Kussman enjoyed a four-goal performance to show the way. Caleb Apperson proved to be a quick study, making the move from the ice to the grass, and netting a hat trick in the process.

A little more drama in game two, at home, as Laurentian needed overtime to overcome the McMaster Marauders. Rookies Sam Postma and Adam Elinsky came through in the crunch, snapping the 9-9 tie in the extra session, and combining for six goals between them, five of which came off the stick of Postma.

It was a tougher go on the road for the L.U. lads, beaten 13-7 by the Brock Badgers last Saturday, after trailing 6-4 at the half. Kussman, Postma and Elinsky scored two goals apiece in a losing cause.

Sunday’s matchup with the Western Mustangs proved to be no contest at all, as the London based squad pummeled the visiting Voyageurs 21-2. Not much time for the team to lick their wounds, as Laurentian travels to Hamilton to face McMaster this Friday, and returns home to host Brock on Sunday at 4:00 p.m.

Local content on the team this year, over and above Bouchard, includes fellow Collège Notre-Dame graduate Jean-Francois Larochelle, as well as David Withers from Lively.

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