(Photo: Katherine Fitzgerald//WCSN)
After five seasons as an assistant coach under former head coaches Chris Malone and Joe Thon, current head coach Todd MacRobbie will now have his chance to lead No. 5 Arizona State Lacrosse in its first game of the season.
The Sun Devils enter the 2016 season against No. 12 Oregon State University in an early matchup between two strong top-15 teams.
The Beavers, coming out of the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League, are a defensively sound unit who will rely heavily on senior goalie Nick Widmer and senior defenseman Dylan Roach to provide key stops throughout the game.
As a junior, Widmer won Conference Defensive Player of the Year, allowing fewer than six goals a game while stopping more than 65 percent of shots he saw.
On the other hand, the Sun Devils are an offensive-minded team as senior attackman Finn Wells and junior attackman Rhett Rodgers return, along with their combined 75 points in 2015, to form a dynamic one-two punch.
In order to win, this combination of attackers will need to get to Widmer early and often.
“I can score on any goalie in the league,” Wells said. “He (Widmer) won’t faze me; he won’t faze Rhett, or any of the other attackmen. We are just going to put the ball in a good spot and we will finish him.”
Another key for Arizona State is clock management. Defensively, the team has six freshmen on the roster. As the younger players on the roster continue to grow, it is crucial that the offense controls the game by maintaining possession for extended periods of time.
“Time of possession and a low number of turnovers are always very important,” MacRobbie said.
One of the matchups to watch will be the face-off battles between sophomore midfielder Zac Mathien of Arizona State and sophomore midfielder Mickey Schaefer of Oregon State.
As a freshman, Mathien learned under former three-time All American Zack Handy while Schaefer led the Beavers in face-off wins with 142. This matchup potentially opens the door for either team to control the game.
“Face-offs are a huge part of the game,” Mathien said. “Just getting the possession to our offense and trying to keep the ball on their (Oregon State’s) side of the field is huge.”
The first face-off for ASU’s matchup against the Beavers will be at 12 p.m. tomorrow.
“If they [the kids] do what we ask them to do, it shouldn’t matter what Oregon State’s goal-against average is,” MacRobbie said.