(Photo: Liesl Babicka/WCSN)
After falling short of their goals a season ago, the Arizona State University men’s club lacrosse team is setting high expectations for their new campaign.
When asked what his expectations are for the 2017 season, senior goalie Chris Roufanis had only one answer: “A national championship, always.”
Roufanis’ sentiments have been echoed by the rest of the team, who are hoping this year’s squad can be the first to capture a long-awaited national championship for the program; despite winning six conference titles and reaching the Final Four six times since 1995, the Sun Devils have yet to win the highest honor in club lacrosse.
ASU is hoping to rediscover the same level of form that lead them to five straight Final Fours from 2010-2014. While the last two years have brought national tournament appearances, the Sun Devils have suffered early exits, including last year’s second round elimination.
Head coach Todd MacRobbie enters his second season at the helm of the Sun Devils and is banking on some offseason adjustments to lead them back to the brink of a national championship.
“Every year is a little bit different,” MacRobbie said. “You learn from the year before. The players are different so you have to modify and fit with [them].”
The players have also hit the reset button this offseason, using the disappointment of their recent tournament eliminations as extra motivation during this season’s preparations.
Roufanis said the team has been “learning from our mistakes the last couple of years. Losing [in the second round last year], how bad that feels, we build off that and we make it into positive expectations.”
The Sun Devils won’t have to look far to find where their biggest obstacles lie in 2017. The Chapman Panthers knocked ASU out of both the Southwest Lacrosse Conference Tournament and the MCLA National Championships on their way to an undefeated season and national title last year.
Senior midfielder Zach Long has plenty of experience playing the Panthers in his college career, and is optimistic about ASU’s chances this season.
“We struggled with them [Chapman] last year, but we have a ton of returners and a lot of big players that are going to step up this year.” Long said.
Outside of Chapman, ASU will need to overtake the SLC’s defending South Division Champions Grand Canyon University, another team the Sun Devils lost to during last year’s 6-5 campaign.
In addition to some of their tactical and personnel changes, the Sun Devils have focused on their team chemistry as well this offseason. With a tweaked roster setting the highest of goals, the players’ bond with one another could prove to be the difference between raising a trophy and watching the national championship game from home.
“We are just doing a lot of team chemistry and team bonding events,” Long said. “Last year [and] my sophomore year, we weren’t as close of a team. So in the fall, as soon as we got back from winter break, we made sure we did team events.
“Everyone knows where everyone is from, what they can do on the field and off the field. It is kind of easier if you can feel comfortable talking to [one another].”