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Thinking Outside The Box

Mike Murphy is in his eighth season as an assistant coach with the Army lacrosse team. Under his tutelage, the Black Knights have consistently been ranked among the nation's top defenses, while he has also guided some of the most prolific goalkeepers in Academy history. A native of Beverly, Massachusetts, Murphy graduated from New Hampshire in 1996 where he was a three-year lacrosse letterman for the Wildcats.

Jan. 27, 2011

The blog is back...a new year begins.

Greetings from a very frozen substitution box, well spring practice has started and the 2011 season is in full swing.  We got started two weeks ago and man the weather has been nasty.  We have had the ability to go indoors a few times, but for the most part we have been "suiting" up for those cold days in Michie Stadium.

As with every opening week of spring practice, the new quote private and keeper of the lunch box are unveiled.  Our quote private is a plebe (freshman) whose job is to come up with and memorize a motivational quote of the day.  At the end of our dynamic stretch right before practice begins the quote private gives "attention to orders" and reads off that days quote.  It is a great tradition that dates back to Nick Bilotta in 1998.  Nick is a Captain in the Army who is back at West Point working in the Department of Military Instruction.  So we know Nick gets a kick out of watching the young quote private. 

The 2011 quote private is David Tarsa.  David is a hardworking plebe midfielder who will do a great job with his new "job."

The keeper of the lunch box is a tradition started by Coach Alberici in 2008.  The lunch box symbolizes hard work and toughness.  Think of a laborer heading to the mill with his cast iron lunch box.  The very first keeper of the lunch box was selected by the senior class and the honor was to be bestowed on a plebe who embodied hard work and toughness.  The lunch box travels with us everywhere we go, practice, games, you name it, and it's with us.

The lunch box is a way for the coaching staff to reward hard work and great performance during that weeks practice sessions.  On Monday before the team heads out to practice or before film Coach Alberici announces to the team who the practice player of the previous week was.  That player gets his number placed on the lunch box for all to see. 

Our first lunch box keeper was Bill Henderson, a pretty solid choice.  Tom Dalton followed in '09 and Brendan Buckley followed in '10.  Now as with the quote private, the lunch box keeper, is selected by the previous honorees and hold the job through the season and into next fall.  This years' lunch box keeper is John Burk, a plebe defenseman.  All four years the lunch box has been kept and guarded by a defenseman.

Yearling midfielder Andy Boyd won the first week's PPOW. After week 2 Firstie Jeremy Boltus took home the honor.  Week three is off to a good start.

The guys have looked good.  The first week was as you would expect full of energy and eager anticipation.  Week two, the nervous energy was replaced with focus, but the effort and enthusiasm never changed.  As we roll into week three and a different color jersey awaits, I am sure the energy will be high.

Our seniors have been doing a great job of pacing practice and have been some of the players who have been standing out.  It is great to see Bill Henderson and Jeremy Boltus come out of the gates on all cylinders after minor surgeries.  Bill's kept him out of the fall and Jeremy's kept him out after the fall tourney, but only for a short time.

I have been very pleased with the work our face-off unit has been putting in.  Derrick Sipperly, Matt Mezer and Nick Isnardi have been working their tails off during practice and are improving every day.  I have been very pleased with Derrick's progression from late last spring into this fall and early on this winter.  We will have some big tests when we face Stony Brook in a closed scrimmage and Fairfield in a game scrimmage over the course of the next few weeks.

The "Red Army" has made scoring difficult early in practice.  I have been very pleased with the work of our young goalies.  Evan Danahy and Bob Sincero have been really improving.  Veterans Zach Palmieri and Tom Palesky have been nothing but steady.  Tom returns as the starter, but Zach, Evan and Bobby are really forcing him to raise his level of play.  It's great for competition within the unit and is also forcing our offensive players to raise their level of shooting.

The offense has been paced by attackmen Jeremy Boltus and Garrett Thul, though the coaching staff has not let them play together much early on, they have both shown that they are poised for big things in 2011.   Connor Hayes has led the charge of five guys making a strong push for the third spot.

The midfield play has been steady.   The coaching staff played around with many line-up combinations the first two weeks and we were pleased with everyone's effort.  Devin Lynch, Rob McCallion and Jay Laing have really shown some great veteran leadership.  We are getting some nice performances from some of our younger players such as Pat Brennan, Andy Boyd and Alex Van Krevel. 

Defensively, Bill Henderson as I mentioned has come back after his surgery on a mission.  His ground ball skills have never been better and his command of what's going on scheme wise was really sharpened spending a fall watching and mentoring from the sidelines.

We are excited to see what the Seawolves of Stony Brook, bring out in us as we welcome them to West Point for a closed practice session.  It will be a format similar to what we did with Duke last year.  However, the sunshine of FLA will be replaced with 70 and climate control of the Foley Indoor Center.  As noted the practice is closed to the public.

Talk to you soon!

Coach Murph

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