(Photo: Katherine Fitzgerald/WCSN)
ASU Lacrosse is about to begin upon the 2016 season in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association, and its first season under new head coach Todd MacRobbie.
“Luckily for me I was a head coach at a high school for 14-plus years,” MacRobbie said. “I had head coaching experience. The biggest difference is the voice. Now they are hearing my voice.”
MacRobbie was selected to become the Sun Devils new head coach after the departure of past head coach Joseph Thon. Before accepting the job as head coach of ASU Lacrosse, MacRobbie had been an assistant coach under Thon, and previously Chris Malone. His tenure as assistant coach lasted five years.
While he was assistant coach the Sun Devils boasted an impressive 77-19 record. The expectations on this year’s team are no different.
The team is not looking down the road too far, and wants to take the season just one day, and one game at a time.
“We have a long season,” senior midfielder Henry Archie said. “We just got together in September and we are going to be together until mid-May. We just want to get better every single day.”
Archie is also one of the three team captains that were named before MacRobbie took over as head coach. The others being senior midfielder Connor Ebner and junior long-stick midfielder Zach Long.
ASU also lost some key players at the end of last year along with its head coach.
Certain players are going to be key for the Sun Devils this season. Sophomore Zac Mathien is expected to become a highly skilled face-off specialist, replacing the graduated Zack Handy.
“Zac Mathien is the guy,” MacRobbie said. “It’s pretty hard to replace Zack Handy. Not only in his skill set, but his personality. But the fact is that Mathien got to learn from him, and Mathien is pretty good in his own right.”
Currently all of the faceoff specialists for the Sun Devils are injured, but Mathien is expected to be ready for the season opener.
Two of the main attackmen for the Sun Devils will be senior attacker Finn Wells and junior attacker Rhett Rodgers. Last season Wells totaled 25 goals and 12 assists, while Rodgers totaled 29 goals and nine assists.
“Those guys are really good,” Archie said. “Rhett shoots like a grown man, and Finn is just super shifty. I am excited to see those guys play together this year.”
There are also a few questions on the defensive front, where many of the players are young, while experience is hard to find.
The Sun Devils might find some solace in sophomore Nathan Blair who was a walk on to the team last year, he picked up 21 groundballs on the season. Also, look for senior defenseman Mitchell Drake, who did not play much last year due to injury, but can provide some experience and leadership on the field.
“Our best defense is going to be our offense,” MacRobbie said. “As long as we do not turn the ball over and make silly mistakes on the offensive side we do not have to play defense. The defense is not that complicated, the largest part for them is to be able to communicate.”
ASU is in arguably the best conference in the MCLA. This season the Sun Devils will face-off against eight of the top 15 teams from last years MCLA power rankings, including the reigning national champion, Grand Canyon University.
Besides the matchup with GCU, the Sun Devils will also have tough match-ups against Colorado State, Oregon State, Brigham Young University, and Colorado.
“Our toughest competition is not anybody on the schedule,” Archie said. “(Our competition) is our teammates, it is ourselves.”
ASU is power ranked at No. 5 in the country coming into this season, by the 2016 Under Armor MCLA Coaches poll, behind GCU and the University of Colorado.
The Sun Devils will also have a matchup against in-state rival, No. 11 University of Arizona, in the last game of the regular season.
If the Sun Devils can tap into their young talent they will be in good shape and should be projected to have a successful season, and are a huge threat to advance deep into the final tournament.