2014 Season Preview: Warriors Out to Get Back to Basics

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. Watching first-year head coach Chris Scanlon work with the Lycoming men's lacrosse team, it becomes clear quickly what this team's identity will start with respect. Scanlon wants the team to focus on the fundamentals of lacrosse, aggressively working to get ground balls, keeping possession, doing all the little things that make the big things take care of themselves.

"The guys are really buying into what we are focusing on," Scanlon said, "which is just focusing on the process, on Warrior lacrosse. Our expectations are to keep things fast, focus on the fundamentals and just play quality lacrosse. They are doing a nice job with it and working hard."

After not making the conference playoffs for the first time in five years in 2013, it's the perfect approach for the Warriors, who have posted a .676 winning percentage in conference play during the program's 17-year history in large part due to a focus on the fundamentals.

With eight starters and 20 letterwinners returning from a squad that missed the Commonwealth Conference playoffs by only a game, Scanlon hopes the focus on the fundamentals will bring the Warriors back into the mix in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, as foes Stevenson, Widener and Albright are all receiving votes in the initial USILA poll, with Stevenson, the defending national champions, starting at the top of the poll.

"We haven't talked a lot about any opponent," Scanlon said. "We are focusing on us right now and really buying into the process. In order for us to be successful, we have to embrace it. You can't win games without an appreciation for work ethic in practice and focusing on the details. I've been proud of this group in how they've embraced that. Our goal this season is to continuously get better and build on our foundation and grow our IQ. If you focus on the elements of the game you can control, you are putting yourself in a better position."

Although only four players on the team will start the year listed as attacks on the roster, the Warriors have a bevy of solid experience, including an honorable mention all-conference selection in sophomore Mike Cooper (Riva, Md./Archbishop Spalding), the Commonwealth Conference's leader in goals in senior Matt McCaffer (Marcellus, N.Y./Marcellus) and the conference's leader in assists in junior Sean Reilly (Corning, N.Y./Corning Painted Post West).

"Coming in, we really sat back and just let them play," Scanlon said. "We figured out and evaluated what they are comfortable with as well as what they lean on as a group. We started to put in some things with them, work on angles and build off the chemistry they have already established. It's a really good group. They find each other really well, and they can have a really successful year."

Cooper had a solid freshman year for the Warriors, finishing with 22 goals and 16 assists, while showing off a mobile shiftiness that offers the team an important alternative look to the team's most successful scoring option in 2013 which was Reilly finding McCaffer for a goal.

Reilly has proven to be a magician passing for the Warriors during his first two years with the program, already entering the top 10 in school history in assists with 53. As a junior, he led the league with 34 helpers (2.27 per game), while also notching 11 goals and finishing eighth in the league in points per game (3.0).

McCaffer, meanwhile, stepped into a scorer's role as a junior, averaging a league-best 2.93 goals per game, scoring 44 times. He found a nose for the goal as a junior, but almost as important, he was economical with his shots, finishing 12th in Division III with a .518 shot percentage.

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