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Thinking Outside The Box With Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy is in his eighth season as an assistant coach with the Army lacrosse team. Under his tutelage, the Black Knights have consistently been ranked among the nation's top defenses, while he has also guided some of the most prolific goalkeepers in Academy history. A native of Beverly, Massachusetts, Murphy graduated from New Hampshire in 1996 where he was a three-year lacrosse letterman for the Wildcats.

October 14, 2010

Notes from the Fall

Greetings once again from the substitution box. I didn't think I would get a chance to share my thoughts with you until the spring began, but low and behold when our "new" sports information director Christian Anderson asked me if I wanted to blog about our fall season. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.

A few housekeeping items:  as I mentioned Christian Anderson has taken over for Tim Volkmann as our SID. Tim has moved into the Development area of our Athletic Department and Christian returns to the banks of the Hudson after serving as the Head SID at Norwich. We wish Tim the best and look forward to working with Christian. He started great "buttering" me up saying he wanted me to get my blog going again.

As many of you may have read we participated in the Play for Parkinson's fall tournament this past weekend. As Coach A was quoted saying "it was a good end to a good fall." As usual, well said Coach! I would like to take this moment to say thank you to the organizers of the event for inviting us, we had fun. (More on that later)

It was a good fall! I am sure you are asking yourself what makes up a good fall. Well, I think that question can be answered by asking and answering some simple questions about our team.

How do we replace what graduated?

-We graduated some key seniors who really stepped up in their final season. Gone is Tyler Seymour at attack.  Tyler did a great job of producing for us as the third attackman. This fall we needed to see who would start to fill that role. Junior Connor Hayes, senior Cory Reiser and plebe Alex Carros have done a good job laying claim to that spot so as coaches always say competition is good! 

-Gone are Andrew Maisano, Tyler Oates, Alex Gephart and Matt Poulos at the midfield. Andrew was the glue on the first midfield line and was such an important cog in creating offense from the midfield. Coach Diange and Coach Alberici used a combination of young guys to start to fill that role. Sophomores Pat Brennan, Alex Van Krevel and Andy Boyd really have raised their game. Patrick needs to continue to learn to make plays with his head, Alex continues to gain confidence in his great athletic abilities and Andy is doing a good job of adapting his game to the midfield from attack last year. In addition, junior Brian LoRusso continues to improve his game as well as freshmen Nate Gustafson. Nate along with the other plebes are learning that the way you practice intensity is a big part of your development in the Army lacrosse program.

The leadership of Alex Gephart was a real concern for us as we entered the fall, but captains Jeremy Boltus and Bill Henderson have calmed those nerves. This firstie class as a whole is a very good group and will be key to any success we hope to have. As far as Alex's role on the field, junior Matt Hurley and seniors Brandon Butler, Charlie Sauter and Shane Smith will share the short stick d-middie chores. Each has been great. Matt has actually really stepped up his overall game, adding some punch in transition.

I have been very pleased with the development of our young face-off group. Derrick Sipperly has picked up from where he left off last year and continues to improve at the "X." Sophomore Matt Mezer is pushing Derrick, which is making me the most happy. We have a group of plebes who, though inconsistent, have been working hard and continue to grow.

On defense is where it was the most concerning for a few reasons. The graduation of Sam Harrison and Joe Conroy was part of it, but the fact that we were not going to have the services of All American Bill Henderson had more to do with the staff's jitters. Bill was going to have a minor surgery that would keep him out of fall practice. Who would step up in his absence? Well we got that answered pretty quickly. Junior Larry LoRusso has continued to improve his game, senior Matt Marasco has come back for his final campaign with a great attitude and seems primed for one of those typical Army lacrosse senior seasons.  The coaching staff has been the most pleased with the development of sophomore Brendan Buckley. Brendan day in and day out has really improved his game. Senior Pat Mulholland, sophomore Drew Kearns, junior Shane Finlay and plebe Pat Hart made impressions on the staff as well as throughout the fall. Plus, Mr. Bill did his best helping tutor the young guys and did a fine job developing his off hand, the one not in a cast...right Bill!!!

Juniors Tim Henderson and Tom Dalton were very consistent throughout the fall as well as senior Chris Day, so our long stick midfield group continues to improve. Plebe Kevin Epp, junior Markus Spicer and sophomore Ted Hospodar did a nice job this fall and all have chance of adding depth to this group.

In the goal, I have been very happy with the way the 2010-11 version of the Red Army has practiced. All-American Tom Palesky has come back hungry, healthy and a little hostile, but in a good way. I have always been impressed with Tom's work ethic, but he has stepped it up a notch this fall. He is healthy after his injury in the quarterfinals, but the thing I have been most excited about is he is now being a little more vocal with the guys in front of him. He is demanding their best, while showing his best. Junior Zach Palmieri has been pushing Tom everyday. Zach was able to work as a squad leader this summer and had a chance to work with me at a camp this year and I think it has helped with his overall game and attitude. Sophomore Evan Danahy and plebes Bobby Sincero and Zerric Butters have worked really hard. Our focus on fundamentals, efficiency and consistency in the goal can be the hardest thing for a young goalie to adapt to, but the young guys have shown flashes of really getting it.

Back to the fall tournament, however this may be a little redundant if you followed us on our new Twitter account. Senior Alex Panosian tweeted all day Saturday, but if you are not up to speed with Twitter here is my take on the day.

We got off to a slow start vs. Georgetown, but settled down and many of the guys I have mentioned throughout played tough. Senior Rob McCallion and junior Devin Lynch held steady in the midfield, while senior Jeremy Boluts and sophomore Garrett Thul played strong at attack. Sipperly and Mezer were okay at the face-off "X."  The defense was solid and all the goalies performed well. The younger players performed well in the second half and the staff was pleased with the overall play versus the Hoyas. They are a team we do not regularly play and they like to pressure you and make you play in a hurry. We responded well and from what they tell me we came out on top. They do not keep score in fall scrimmages.

The Virginia game was truly a tale of two halves. Our veteran guys responded well to the very impressive and athletic Cavaliers. After giving up a goal off the initial face-off we responded with a transition goal of our own and from there on out went back and forth with UVA. I think our better players played like they know how. We got some great attack play from Jeremy and Garrett, the midfield was good on both sides of the midline, got some outstanding goaltending from Tom and the defense held up well against the speed and creativity of Virginia. We ended the half tied.

The second half was a different story as our young guys faltered versus many of their younger players. Their speed and skills really seemed to affect our younger guys and they made some costly errors both on offense and defense, but most glaringly in the clearing game, where we gave them too many second chances. I think our younger players realized that my line of "if you can't catch, throw and scoop, you can't play the game" is not just coachspeak. Many of our mistakes were stick-work errors.

As a whole, the fall was very productive. Younger guys got to show their stuff and the older guys did a fine job of leading by example. We got better everyday, whether on the field or between our ears. We grew as a team and the beginnings of the 2011 Black Knights started to take root.

This week the team will be set and the next chapter begins...boys you think you know Coach Swanson...you haven't seen nothing yet. There is a reason why they refer to him as "Satan."  Oh yeah bigger, faster and stronger is coming and it is not for the meek of heart!

Coach Murph

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