SUNY Brockport lacrosse players have fought through adversity to get to the 2023 season. Members of the men’s and women’s team lost a season to COVID-19, lost teammates to graduation or transfers, and lost their coaching staffs. They both sit 0-1 in the SUNYAC after a close opening weekend from both teams. Each player has come in with a new outlook as each team finds their identity again.
Brockport Men’s Lacrosse
The Brockport men’s team went through a similar turnover as the women’s team however it was a bit more hostile. Head Coach Ben Wineburg had been with the team since 2000. Despite coaching the team for 22 years, he only tallied five winning seasons and the writing was on the wall when it came to the number of graduate students and seniors on the team. Wineburg put together one last stand in his final season notching his second-best record at Brockport. They brought home SUNYAC co-coaching staff of the year along with seven players earning all-conference honors.
Coming into the fall, the team finally got an announcement about their new head coach. Colin Cornaire was the Geneseo offensive coordinator before earning his own program at Brockport, and brought defensive coordinator Ian Nash along with him from the Knights. They had an interesting scene to walk into. A roster full of lacrosse players who hadn’t played a full competitive game of lacrosse for two years.
“Obviously it’s awful what these guys had to go through, I couldn’t imagine not being able to play and then having absolutely zero control. Really the fact that they kept training, they kind of found other avenues where they could still get better without having the actual gameplay has been really great to see,” Cornaire said.
The time off the field did a lot mentally to the Golden Eagles roster. Multiple players utilized the opportunity of a new coach to find their game again and prove they could play on the team. Some players lost 30-40 lbs while some honed in their shot. Cornaire has been given the best version of his athletes.
“If you get a guy who is an all-star in his high school team but they’re not very successful then you’re dealing with the ego of that player. I think the two-year buffer kind of remove that ego from a lot of these guys that maybe otherwise would have that,” Cornaire said. “They’re easily moldable… the best thing about them is the willingness to accept the changes, there’s not much push back, it’s a lot of asking questions instead of asking why.”
In the fall there were still so many questions around the team, they almost all rolled into the spring preseason. Still question marks in goal, at the face-off x, and in who would be offensive or defensive midfielders. Not to mention, what would this team look like in a game that counted against their record?
The first question was one that was quickly answered in the spring. Cam Kuzniar took the starting spot in net and never looked back. “Donkey” as his teammates call him, posted 144 saves through nine games for a .603 save percentage as he looks to be one of the best net-minders in his conference.
Face-offs are one of the most crucial aspects of men’s lacrosse, a battle on the ground between two specialists in the middle of the field. First they fight to win the clamp over the ball then a three-on-three battle for a ground ball often follows if the specialist can’t obtain possession themselves. This is where possession domination can show in a game, if a team keeps winning face-offs then the other team will not be able to get on offense and score goals.
Brockport has had a battle at the face-off x between three main specialists. Freshman Bobby Alexander led the way at the X through non-conference play. However junior Drew DiPalma has started in conference play. The freshman has posted a .452 win percentage, winning 38 out of 86 faceoffs on the year. After two games of conference play however, DiPalma has emerged as the starter, going 31 of 91 so far on the season.
When it comes to midfielder specialization, most of that has occurred through non-conference play. Coming into this season, Cornaire wanted his midfielders to play both offense and defense but in an ideal situation specialization would occur and it has.
Men’s lacrosse allows four defenders to use 60” sticks as opposed to the attacker’s and midfielder’s 30” shaft. This means two defensive midfielders utilize “short sticks” and are often singled out by an offense to try to generate a goal. Offensively the midfield has proved to be key to running the offense of Brockport as they have optimal space to generate one-on-one opportunities to win with a dodge and get an open shot.
Aidan Long, Ryan Haugh, and Blake Pelozzi have cemented themselves as the best short pole defensive options for their coach. On the offensive side, Jackson Worden, Nate Askin and Ryan McCarthy have taken the first line offensive midfield duties. Worden had one shot in his collegiate career before this season, through four games he has scored six goals and notched eight assists but an injury has sidelined him since. Askin, only a sophomore, currently leads the team with 15 goals.
Another midfielder who seemingly does it all is Jhovanny Olivares, someone who played significant minutes last season and is now a captain on the team in his senior season. He scored three goals against Oneonta on Saturday.
Through seven non-conference games, Brockport has posted a 2-5 record while most recently falling 11-10 on a buzzer beater to Nazareth College. They have yet to put together a complete game with intensity on all areas of the field for all four quarters. Often coming into games slow and exiting them in similar fashion.
There still has a lot of questions as they sit 0-2 in conference play. Will the face-off specialist position be won this season? Can they bring more energy to the first quarter and close things out in the fourth? Are the Golden Eagles really No. 5 in their conference? All of these questions will be answered in the SUNYAC.