The Occidental men’s lacrosse team concluded a disappointing season this past weekend with a 19-5 loss against Biola University, leaving the team with a 1-8 record overall.
“It wasn’t our best game, at all,” team treasurer Jonathan Howard (junior) said.
Team captains Howard, Farhad Ranji (junior) and Jeremy Lee (junior) attribute their less-than-stellar final standing to having lost several key seniors and a tradition of assigning leadership positions on the team to upperclassmen, leaving underclassmen at a disadvantage once they graduate.
“We lost a ton of leadership last year,” Howard said. “We had about six or seven seniors leave us, which was probably about 90 percent of our production, like goals and assists, so it was tough to lose them.”
Howard explained that the combination of skilled teammates graduating and many important junior players studying abroad left them with only three active returning players this season: Howard, Farhad, Hector Lopez (senior) and Lee, who suffered from a concussion early on and missed the rest of the season. This unfortunate circumstance required Howard and Farhad to fill the vacant positions of president and treasurer, which they felt inadequately prepared to take on without prior experience or knowledge.
“[The graduated seniors] were the treasurer and the president for as long as I’ve been there, so stepping into that role and becoming treasurer this year was a lot. As a person who was thrust into that role, I’ve never done treasurer, but I had to do it because I’m one of the only three guys who’s around this semester.”
As of last summer, it also left them concerned over whether the team would be able to exist at all.
“Just based on the amount of guys coming back. So this freshman class was pretty much a blessing,” Farhad said. “[They were] the only reason we were allowed to have a team pretty much.”
They recruited nine first years, some of whom had a few years of prior experience playing the sport in high school, some who had never picked up a stick in their lives.
“We accept all kinds of players because we can teach you how to play and stuff like that,” Howard said. “But yeah, they signed up. We originally had like 16 guys, we got like 10 freshmen, and a couple of them quit, but a lot stayed and they got a lot better, which is pretty amazing to see.”
Head coach Michael Delabar — aka Coach Mike — echoed Howard’s sentiments.
“Expectations going in were just trying to get better,” Delabar said. “It wasn’t really a loss thing. I think we played as expected for a bunch of new players. I think it was a productive season. From an individual standpoint, a successful season as far as learning and getting better.”
Coming off of a successful 2015 season culminating in a shot at the playoffs, the captains said a small team of mostly new players, leaving them without any subs only a few games in, took some getting used to. But despite their subpar final standing, team captains Howard, Ranji and Lee enjoyed the season and getting to know the news players, and have high hopes for the future of the team.
They point to Delabar’s high spirits and good humor as crucial to retaining a large number of players in the coming years.
“He keeps it interesting, he keeps it light, and I think that was the big thing this year,” Howard said. “We were focusing on retention, we were focusing on keeping those guys around. When we get our guys back next year we’ll have a full team.”
Ranji shared Howard’s confidence about the direction of the team.
“Yeah next year’s definitely going to be about winning again.”