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.

March 1, 2011

Honor the game ...

I spent a good part of last week’s blog waxing poetic on my past and the trip to VMI. This week’s blog will take on a much different theme. As I closed last week’s literary masterpiece, I talked about how our guys needed to focus on getting better every day and letting the game vs. Syracuse take care of itself.

Well, for three quarters we did just that. We played Army Lacrosse the way we are supposed to – strong on defense and making simple plays on offense. The problem was we spent the first quarter digging a seven-goal hole.

In blog #5 after the UMass loss, I went on about how the week leading up to the UMass game was just sloppy. And that sloppiness and lack of attention to detail contributed to a tough loss.

Well, I don’t know where our lack luster effort in quarter #1 came from against the Orange. As a staff, we felt that we had a very good week of practice. The energy level was great, the focus was keen and the skills were sharp.

But when the whistle blew at 4:07 on Sunday in Syracuse, our focus went out the window. Our first 11 possessions were marred by 10 turnovers within thirty seconds of gaining possession.

That is not a very good recipe if you want to take down a highly ranked and highly motivated opponent. 

As the Black Knights limped into the half, our hero’s were starring squarely at a 9-3 deficit. Nothing was going right. The Orange were pounding us into mental, physical and emotional distress.

The coaches calmly told the guys that there was nothing we could do about the way the first half was played, but we could control the way this game finished up. From Coach Alberici to Coach Georgalas, we have probably close to a 100 years of coaching experience on our staff and we have all seen teams just wilt after a half like the one we just played – and especially against Syracuse. Most 9-3 halves turn into 20-5 embarrassments.

Coach A just told the guys to go out and win the quarter and we would see where that left us. And to their credit, the Black Knights did just that. We shut down the Orange offense for the quarter and we put one on the board. Our lone goal came on a great coast-to-coast play by Brandon Butler. We won the quarter by getting back to basics, being patient on offense and tough on defense. Derek Sipperly controlled the third quarter face-offs and Tom Palesky started to look like an All-American goalie. 

As Tommy finished up us warm-up before the start of the third quarter, I quietly walked up to him and told him that if we were going to win he was going to have to keep Syracuse off board. He would have to be perfect, even if his teammates were not. I looked him in the eye and said, “I know that sucks to hear, but that is what has to happen.” 

The fourth quarter saw us rattle off three-straight goals and turn a 9-4 hole into a manageable 9-7 deficit with 6:35 to play. After a SU goal pushed the lead to 10-7, our guys responded with two more goals to make the count 10-9 with 2:15 to play.

During the fourth quarter run. Jeremy Boltus, Garrett Thul and Rob McCallion really put on a show. Jeremy did a great job of locating cutters for goals. Garrett let loose some bombs that found the back of the net and Rob showed great patience and scored back-to-back goals for us.

As Derek won the draw at 2:15 we missed a scoop on the wing and allowed the Orange to control the ball and, for the most part, run out the clock and secure the victory.

All losses are tough to take, but this loss is really tough to take because we really let ourselves down as a team. To not play 60 complete minutes is a discredit to what this program was built on—PRIDE, DEDICATION and MENTAL TOUGHNESS.

Please don’t take that as me saying that the Syracuse Orange are not a proud program, heck their program is one of the standard bearers for our sport. They have had some of the greatest players in lacrosse wear the white and orange. All I am saying is that we did not give them our very best for four quarters. As a team we owe “the game” that. They force you to play the game at the highest level and we did not do that for much of the first half.

Many have professed how ball games are microcosms of life. It is hard to be successful without being fully committed to working hard and sacrificing for those you care about. Sunday showed our guys that you cannot compete for success half-heartedly or without a keen focus.

The coaching staff will spend a long time trying to figure out what caused the first quarter “funk,” but Coach A put it right when he told the team how proud he was of their effort in the second half.

As always, he chose his words and he told them, “guys you don’t have to know lacrosse, but if you know anything about the Army and being an American, you are proud of the effort that was on display out there in the second half.”  The quote may not be exact, but the point was made.

I hope as our players read this blog that they realize that they will never get that opportunity back. We will play another game this Saturday as we welcome the Cornell Big Red to Michie Stadium, but our seniors may never return to the Carrier Dome, and it would be sad to know that we did not give our very best performance if that is indeed the case.  To our seniors, how will you affect the rest of this season? To our underclassmen, how will you affect the seniors? And know that what you do for them will be reciprocated unto you when you are watching the sands of time run down during your final season.

Oh yeah, I think I mentioned it was Cornell for #2, at home! I hope you will make it to the game.

“If you want unusual results, you need unusual behavior.”

Coach Murph

Previous Entries
Oct. 14, 2010
Jan. 27, 2011
Feb. 4, 2011
Feb. 10, 2011
Feb. 14, 2011
Feb. 22, 2011

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