By Matthew D. Stokes
BerryVikings.com Staff Writer
ROME, Ga. – Berry's men's lacrosse team will hit the ground running as its season will get underway at Ford Field this Saturday afternoon against visiting Birmingham-Southern College.
Last season Birmingham-Southern successfully defended their home turf against the Vikings, winning 11-4.
The Vikings played their inaugural season of 2011 with a small roster of only 16 players, which oftentimes created a disadvantage, according to Berry head coach Chris Delfausse.
"In a lot of games last year, we were in them all the way up until about the end of the third quarter," said Delfausse. "And in the fourth quarter, our legs just gave out."
A partial end result of this fatigue factor was the team's 5-9 record, but on the bright side the team picked up the pace in its last six games following a 2-6 start, playing .500 ball (3-3).
One of the biggest differences over last season that could immediately be noticed in the fall was the larger roster size. After struggling to muster any semblance of depth last year, the Vikings were fully-manned. As the season opener nears, the Vikings' roster sits comfortably at 28 players.
"I learned that we're a lot deeper than we were last year," said Delfausse of what he gathered from fall practice. "It's nice to have some numbers."
January and February Practice
With school back in session for the spring semester, Delfausse and the coaching staff focused on several large concepts.
"We worked on implementing our offenses and defenses, but also tried to get a young group of players to understand what the demands and expectations are of a college program and to set the benchmarks of what a successful program should be about," Delfausse said. "We spend a lot of time teaching not just about lacrosse, but what it really means to be a college student-athlete."
Last year's scheduling often left players quite literally gasping - as if the 16-man squad was not already huffing and puffing enough. In one two-week span, the Vikings played six games, an absurd number when compared to traditional college lacrosse schedules.
"We had some limitations based on geography and not having a conference alignment," said Delfausse in a June 2011 interview. "You're really just left up to scheduling whoever will schedule you. You tend to get some unbalanced schedules like that."
To the entire team's relief, the Vikings will not have to go through that ordeal again in 2012.
"This year it's more evenly matched," said Delfausse of the spread of games that will be played. "It's definitely more spaced out and our guys will have good recovery time between games so we can really put forth a good effort in each game.
"We're excited because overall the competition level of the schedule is certainly higher than it was last year. We're trying to improve on it each year, making it better and better competition."
When asked about his thoughts on the team's offense, Delfausse used the word "intrigued."
"I'm very curious to see what we're going to do this year," Delfausse said. "I think we had a lot of successes last year with limited ability so now that we've got depth at attack and midfield, I'm very intrigued to see what they're going to be able to do out there. We've shown a lot of promise in practice, but you never really know what you have until you play another team and see different defenses and players."
As Saturday's game against Birmingham-Southern nears, the attack group will feature five players.
"That's one of the areas where we're a little low on depth," Delfausse said. "We're not very deep at attack, but we're experienced.
Two returners, sophomores Michael Emanuelo and Cal Supik, figure into the attacking equation as well. Emanuelo tallied a team-highs with 15 assists and 43 points in 2011 while Supik had 20 goals and 34 points in just 10 appearances.
"They're doing a very good job for us already in practice as far as being steadying forces and being the experience of the offense and settling us down," Delfausse said.
One new addition, freshman Cory Hall, is expected to be in the mix for playing time immediately.
"He's going to do a good job for us," Delfausse said. "He'll be an instant impact player as far as adding skill and scoring and feeding ability."
As is the case at many of the team's positions, the depth at midfield has been greatly aided by the expanded roster size.
"We were probably two, three midfielders deep last year," Delfausse said. "Now we've got six or seven guys who we think we can really count on. Midfield's definitely been a surprise for us as far as our depth there. Coming into the fall, we were a little worried about that position, but now getting closer to spring, I feel like that's a strength for us, for sure."
One player who has made the switch to midfield is sophomore Nat Morey. Last year he played attack.
Sophomore Bryan Byers, the team's goal-scoring leader in 2011 with 32, will be looked upon to continue making the opponent's net his second home.
Some changes from last year's roster will demand that the Vikings adapt defensively.
"We've got a lot of holes to fill," said Delfausse of the defense. "We lost a couple of guys who we were really counting on, so it's going to be a group that'll get much better as the year goes on. They're on a learning curve right now. The faster they can pick stuff up, the better off we'll be."
A defining trait of Vikings' men's lacrosse thus far has been stout defense, but inexperience at the position will need to be addressed immediately to continue this tradition.
"We'll be pretty young there right now so we just got to get those guys on track as soon as we can," Delfausse said.
Long Stick Midfielders
This will be a position that the Vikings develop into this year.
Sophomore Wes Goldsberry returns to the position where he starred at while at Harrison High School in Acworth, Ga. Goldsberry led the team with 43 groundballs. Two other players to watch are sophomore Tommy Edgeworth and freshman Jake Lane.
"Tommy gives us a lot of experience, and he's great on groundballs, which is key for that position," Delfausse said. "Jake's a good athlete."
"It's a position that we'll grown into, but I like because we have a freshman, sophomore and junior," Delfausse said. "That should be a strength for us as we move forward."
After playing an entire season with one goalie, the Vikings now are stocked with three players at the position. Sophomore Jordan Boreman manned the goal last year and made 178 saves on his way to posting a 60.1 percent save percentage.
"Jordan did a phenomenal job for us last year," Delfausse said.
"We have three keepers who could each easily start out there so we're in one of those lucky positions- tough and good- where you don't know who you're going to play, but you know whoever you put in there is going to do a good job," Delfausse said. "If someone hits a bad streak, we've got other guys who can support him and go in there. I'd say without a doubt that is our strongest and deepest position right now."