by Eric Oslund
The Rogers boys lacrosse team officially got the regular season underway on Saturday, April 15, with their first game of the season against Duluth – a team consisting of players from Duluth Denfeld and Duluth East High Schools.
The Royals knew that there were going to be some growing pains in this game, and likely for a number of games throughout the season, after they lost a core group of players from the 2016 roster. They have a number of young, inexperienced players stepping into some big roles this year, and it showed at times in this match up.
After battling back and forth for a majority of the first half, Duluth was able to take advantage of a few mistakes by Royals players and jump out to a 4-2 lead, which held going into halftime.
“I was a little frustrated. We let a lot of little mistakes get to us where it was just kind of mental errors, but it’s a pretty new team,” head coach Kyle Ficken said. “I think they’re a little anxious, a little jittery. That caused a lot of mental errors to where it was just a little bit more nervousness for them. I think they could have performed better, and I think they will, but I know that people stepping into new roles with more responsibility on their shoulders, just had to get over the first one and get that win. Then I think every game after I see us building, building and building, each game getting better this year.”
While there was some frustration with the mental lapses in the first half, such as not attacking ground balls as hard as they needed to, not clicking on their passing, and having too many turnovers – especially in the defensive end – the Royals coaching staff is trying to not be too hard on their players.
They understand that the beginning of this season will be a bit of a learning process them, so they are trying to teach the players to be more accountable for what they do on the field. They want them to understand what mistakes they made and what they need to do in order to correct it, instead of having to have the coaches tell them.
So, instead of getting mad at the team during their halftime meeting, while trailing 4-2 after some costly turnovers in their defensive zone, Ficken had a message for his players.
“I kind of said, the last thing, ‘Yes, we made mistakes, but I just want you conscious of this one thing, giving 110 percent effort and heart for the rest of the game,’” the head coach began. “I said, ‘I promise, that scoreboard will be in our favor at the end of the game if we can do that.’ They bought into that and went out. And the last thing I said too, before we broke it down, I said, ‘Hey, remember to have some fun out there too.’ I think that kind of relaxed them. Just having one thing to focus on and remember to have fun because that’s the reason we play lacrosse, for fun.”
Ficken’s message clearly resonated with the Royals, as they appeared to be a new team in the second half. They picked up their ground ball work and communication on defense, and made sure to clear the ball successfully time and time again.
Junior defenseman David Bauer really led the way, as the Royals were able to keep Duluth scoreless in the second half. His coach described him as an animal that somehow seemed to pickup every ball that hit the ground.
The Royals offense was also able to turn things around in the second half, tying the game 4-4. Then, senior forward Riley Lamberger was able to get loose on a fast break and beat the opposing goaltender with about a minute and a half remaining to give his team a 5-4 lead, a score which would hold for the remainder of the game.
“I was frustrated with our performance, but, at the end of the day, we did pick up a W,” Ficken said. “At the end, that’s what’s important. Also, it’s important to get the victory, but to also learn from our mistakes. Learn from our mental lapses.”