PREVIEW: Quakers entering uncharted waters

February 21, 2013

Wilmington College Men's Lacrosse enters uncharted waters this spring when it hosts its historic first game against DePauw on Saturday, February 23 at Williams Stadium.

Head Coach Domenic Marzano has been on the recruiting trail since his first day on campus more than a year ago and has put a significant effort toward scheduling, filling the coaching staff, conducting training sessions and completing all the intangibles necessary to build a program from the ground up. A dream satisfied and a position rarely realized with the responsibility and excitement that comes along with starting a program from a simple idea.

Marzano realizes the unique opportunity to put his own staple on the program to establish team traditions and paint new ideas on a fresh pallet at Wilmington. The team is committed and focused on assuring the program has the same comfort you'd find in a family atmosphere with activities and chemistry built upon the team's unification in participating in projects such as fundraising in November's Cancer Awareness Initiative of “No Shave November” where the entire team grew and maintained mustaches for the whole month of November.

With the advent of the spring season, Marzano has witnessed true progress over the last several weeks of training and acknowledges the positive signs of development from his players.

Marzano is challenged with finding leaders who are going to step up verbally and in their play on the field who will adapt to the collegiate game speed and elevate the team's tactical ability with the high energy level he demands and expects to land Wilmington in a favorable light among college lacrosse headlines.

Team captain Austin Johnston (Columbus, OH/Hilliard Bradley) will lead the defense with his tenacity and his ability to show up to compete from a mental and physical capacity day in and day out.

“There isn't a time where Austin does not come to compete and it shows from his leadership on the field with his play and his willingness to unite and energize his teammates since he is a leader by example,” said Marzano.

He added he believes Johnson will grow in to one of the cornerstones of program as he develops his leadership skills.

Starters whom will impact and add to the defensive unit are Garyck Todd (Pickerington, OH/Central), Alex Barton (Galloway, OH/Hilliard Bradley) and Zach Swensen (Milford, OH/Milford). Marzano is expecting these individuals to spearhead the defensive mentality of breaking down offensive attacks with their feet and hip positioning so opponents are forced to Wilmington's slide zones.

“Defense has been a pleasant surprise in early season training because of their ability to gel as a unit without much time dedicated to organizing although the coaching staff has briefly done some X and O work,” said Marzano. “The reality is the players are taking off with the defensive concepts on their own and that is a positive sign in team building.”

He is excited to add and build upon the level of communication players have shown with each other verbally on the field thus far which is always a challenge to get players to do when starting a season no matter what sport is the topic of discussion.

“We possess a lot of speed through the midfield where several players play great short stick defense with the ability to clear the ball and transition effectively with pace,” said Marzano.

The “work horses” that will carry the load for Marzano's midfield are Jalen Jackson (Hilliard, OH/Bradley), Corey Stevens (Franklin, OH/Springboro), Brian Whitten (Wilmington, OH/Wilmington), Brandon Ballentine (Pickerington, OH/Central) and Evan Osborne (Middletown, OH/Lebanon).

Wilmington seeks to build a reputation of a physically tough and fast midfield where tactically he expects midfielders to dodge and beat their defenders in one-on-one situations to either score or draw a slide in every possession.

“Outside of the offensive end we want to win every ground ball battle there is to be won, but ultimately the midfield's goal is clearing the ball and taking pride in pushing transition in to the offensive end,” said Marzano.

Kirby Dearth (Hilliard, OH/Darby) and Alex Gossard (Galloway, OH/Hilliard Bradley) will guide the attack where they are expected to be vocal leaders and to “quarterback” the offensive tempo as both players have been doing an excellent job of calling out sets and controlling possession play.

“We are looking for Alex to be our finisher inside with his quality stick skills, where Kirby has great field vision and is comfortable with both hands to distribute the ball and create scoring opportunities,” said Marzano.

Marzano added, “quick ball movement is what we are looking for in an offensive set since the ball movement will always outpace the defense's ability to track the quick ball movement. Although the offensive unit is still a work in progress, what will separate us from opponents is our attackmen “riding” to get the ball back before the defense can clear the defensive zone which equates to a high press in our offensive zone.”

The “riding” strategy is a commitment of the player's willing sacrifice to compete at a high energy and fitness level combined with the pure desire to just win the ball back, where we just have got to want it more than they do.

Wilmington is playing as an independent school in its first season and will compete in the Ohio Athletic Conference beginning in 2014. The Fightin’ Quakers will get a sense of where we stand in future OAC play when facing three other OAC schools also playing an Independent Conference schedule in Otterbein, Mount Union and Baldwin Wallace.

Otterbein is probably the most experienced as they've had their program in operation for the last several years and have the most experienced unit of players. Mount Union and Baldwin Wallace are also first year programs and it will be interesting to see where Wilmington measures up against similar programs, along with where and when rivalries are born.

Most of the schedule is match ups against other first year programs mixed in with some established squads in Thiel, Trine and Mount St. Joseph.

“We are expecting to be competitive this season and establish ourselves as a serious player for OAC play next season when John Carroll and Capital also enter OAC competition.”