BY Corey Picard
The Sacred Heart University men’s lacrosse team kicked off its 2020 season on Sunday at home against the University of Hartford.
The team was recently ranked third in the Northeast Conference (NEC) East Division preseason poll. The players, however, are not focused on the ranking.
“Whether we were ranked first or last was never really our concern coming in,” said junior captain Logan Liljeberg. “The 45 guys on our team. What we believe in and who we believe in, that’s really the only thing that matters.”
This belief is echoed by head coach Jon Basti, as well, who tells his team it matters more where you finish rather than where you start.
Senior captain Austin Pavone thinks the team’s focus has been on making progress collaborating as a team.
“With the conversations we’ve had this year, I think we’re incredibly confident going into the season,” Pavone said.
Despite losing two All-New England players, Max Tuttle and Joe Saggese, to graduation, the team feels their hard work and depth will put them in a position to succeed.
“We have a lot of guys that have stepped forward and have improved so greatly over the last year. I think the fact that we have so much depth is a tremendous, tremendous asset to us,” said Basti.
Basti also made it clear that replacing players of their caliber is not the goal.
“A team is multiple people working together to be successful. That’s more than one guy, that’s more than two guys,” said Basti.
Along with Liljeberg and Pavone, Basti looks to fifth-year Simon Quan, senior Jake Lindahl, and senior Brooks Dutton, to lead the way.
“We’ve never had five captains before. I thought five guys deserved it. They were all chosen for specific reasons. They all bring a different leadership ability to the team,” said Basti.
He credits the emphasis on putting the team’s success before individual success, a category in which the captains excel.
“They are willing to be unselfish for the betterment of the team. When you have that in your leadership, it’s difficult for anybody else to not follow that,” said Basti.
While an honor, the title of captain did not change the mentality of these leaders.
“Even last year, when we weren’t captains, we still had a voice. Everybody has input on this team,” said Liljeberg.
The team’s culture is a major reason for its confidence. This culture has been passed down through past captains, like Tuttle and Saggese and beyond.
“They’ve done a really good job of learning from the people before them,” Basti said.
The team also lost its offensive coordinator, Mike Chanenchuk, after two years in the role. Coach Chris Doctor joined the SHU staff after many years at Lafayette College and Penn State University.
“We’re running a completely new offense than we did last year, which I think is going to be great for us,” Liljeberg said. “The more team-oriented offense emphasizes ball movement and getting all players involved. “We might not have two or three people putting up 60 points, but a lot of guys putting up 30 or 40 points.”
Going into their final seasons as Pioneers, Pavone and Dutton want to leave their mark on SHU’s men’s lacrosse team for years to come.
“Going into your senior year… you tend to push yourself a little harder. Looking back on my years here, I wish I had that same mindset my freshman year. That’s definitely something I want to instill in the younger guys coming in,” said Dutton.
The team continues their season on Feb. 15 against Bucknell.