Entry 1 – Chris Blewitt (9/28/15)
Summer vacation has come to an end, and the Hawks are back on campus! After a few relaxing months to ourselves, the team and I could not be more excited to pick up where we left off. The past few weeks have been filled with energy and intensity as we begin a new year on Hawk Hill.
As always, the new year brings new faces. Coach Wray and his staff brought in a talented group of newcomers with 13 freshmen and two transfers. With the help of great leadership from the upperclassmen, they have quickly been immersed into the culture of the team, furthering the level of competition at daily training sessions.
The first two weeks of the fall focused on skill development. Throughout the week, we worked in smaller groups to ensure repetitions and interaction between coaches and players. During these sessions, the coaches reinforced fundamentals and introduced basic concepts.
From there, we moved into our fall ball season, where we currently practice as a team six days a week. In these practice sessions, we move into more holistic approaches to team concepts in preparation for our fall competitions. On October 3, we have our annual Crimson and Gray scrimmage, and, a week later, on October 10, we will be hosting a tri-scrimmage with Villanova and Lehigh. These two days of competition should provide ample opportunity to test ourselves as well as provide a benchmark for future development.
While we are in the heart of our offseason, we never forget our obligation to serve our community. On September 19, we participated in the Kinney Center Walk/Run 5K. The Kinney Center for Autism and Education here on campus works to help those affected by autism to live greater. We, as a team, joined them in their mission by participating in the run and raising well over one thousand dollars for the foundation.
Also, we will soon be hosting a free lacrosse clinic open to all youth players between Kindergarten and eighth grade. This event will occur prior to the Crimson and Gray scrimmage on October 3.
Regardless of the many events and changes going on around here, we certainly have not lost sight of our team goal. Many weeks have passed since the loss to Bryant in the NEC Championship game, but the emotions still linger. Our journey to make it to the NCAA Tournament resumed the second we stepped on campus. In every training session, we strive to build upon the foundation of skills, strength, and toughness necessary for success come spring time.
To the parents, alumni, and fans, we thank you for your continued support and dedication. We look forward to seeing you at our upcoming scrimmages!
THE HAWK WILL NEVER DIE!
Entry 2 – Charles Giunta (10/12/15)
The fall lacrosse season can be a grind sometimes, with hours spent working on our fundamentals, fitness, and lacrosse IQ without the prize of being able to compete against a team in a different color uniform at the end of the week. All of that hard work finally culminated though with some real competition these last two weeks with our Crimson and Gray Scrimmage along with the first ever Saint Joseph's University HEADstrong Fall Scrimmage.
Unlike most years, this fall we spent the majority of practice hours focusing on individual skills and fundamentals with less emphasis on running up and down and playing. On October 3, our team held our annual Community Youth Clinic, followed by an intersquad scrimmage. Coach Horowitz and Coach Capron drafted teams while Coach Wray and Coach Keating floated between each team's defense and offense, respectfully, for a fun-filled day of competition. The boys were fully energized and excited for the opportunity to finally play some real lacrosse. Though the game was well-contested, Coach H's team came out on top, thanks to a little more experience in the midfield. The Crimson and Gray Scrimmage gave the team and coaches a sneak peak of what was to come the following weekend playing in the HEADstrong event against Villanova and Lehigh.
October 10 gave the boys of Hawk Hill the opportunity to compete against someone in a different uniform. The team has always prided itself on playing with great energy, enthusiasm, and intensity, and the Hawks showcased just that at the HEADstrong event. Jumping out to an early lead against Villanova, the team came out on the winning side with an 11-6 (unofficial) score. There were standout performances all over the field, including some excellent goaltending from junior T.J. Jones, as well as several freshmen who seemed unfazed at stepping onto the field for their first taste of collegiate competition.
Following a scrimmage between Villanova and Lehigh, the HEADstrong Foundation, which seeks to improve the quality of life for those fighting cancer, and their families reminded us of the importance of giving back to our community. An inspiring presentation, it gave us the chance to reflect on the true importance of the day. Senior captain Pat Swanick was awarded the Nick Collelouri Award for his hard work and dedication on and off the field – an incredible honor of which he is more than deserving.
Immediately following the presentation, the team showed immense toughness and depth after falling behind to Lehigh to fall just short of victory with a 9-8 (unofficial) scoreline. Freshman faceoff specialist Daniel Lanham was key to sparking the comeback with his outstanding play at the “X.” Overall, the weekend was a great way to end the fall season with competition.
Once fall break is over, the team will go into the fall improvement season. During this time, we will put great emphasis on our fitness and skills with various lifts, conditioning sessions, and skill sessions throughout the week. Even though there is less full practice time with the entire team, the Saint Joseph's Hawks will never forget the mission we defined on Day One: to win the NEC Championship!
In two weeks, you'll hear from sophomore longstick midfielder and Maryland native, Austin Smith, who will give you an inside look into the beginning of the fall improvement season. Until then... THE HAWK WILL NEVER DIE!
To learn more about the HEADstrong foundation, please visit, http://headstrong.org/.
Entry 3 – Bryan Garrahan (11/10/15)
A little change of plans: Austin Smith will be taking care of the next blog post. I, senior midfielder Brian Garrahan, will be giving you an update on what has been going on with the Hawks’ men's lacrosse team the last few weeks.
With the fall improvement season in full swing, the team has begun to adjust to a more individualistic practice style. For four days a week, we practice for 30 minutes in two skill session groups focusing mainly on both offensive and defensive fundamentals, respectively. Even though there isn’t as much time spent competing against one another, the team knows it is a time where we can focus on areas of our game that need the most improvement. Additionally, the team has seen an increase in strength, speed, and agility training, which are areas in which all of the guys are very excited to improve. Since we completed our traditional fall ball season, it is amazing to see the extensive progress we have made in our stickwork and athleticism.
Another key focal point of the fall improvement season is giving back to the community. As a team, we have engaged in several community service projects to give back both on and off the field. I was lucky enough to participate in the Care for the Cure lacrosse tournament at Henderson High School in West Chester, Pa. It was extremely rewarding to give back to such an inspiring foundation. The Care for the Cure Foundation was founded to raise awareness and funds for blood cancer treatment while supporting like-minded organizations, inspired by Caroline Gallagher Cranston, who lost her fight with AML Leukemia after 21 months. Along with Coach Wray and fellow Hawks players Connor Kubikowski, T.J. Jones, Jared Wolf, Evan Wolf, Danny Manning, and Mike Lanham, we gave a one hour clinic with the initiative to not only help young players further develop their skills but also to enhance their knowledge of the game.
Some of us also volunteered to organize and run a Halloween party at the John C. Anderson Community Center for young children, located right around the corner from Hagan Arena. Here, many of the guys enjoyed decorating the center while others got the trick-or-treaters on the dance floor with some great music selections. Overall, it has been an extremely successful fall improvement season in terms of community service.
The guys are ecstatic for the upcoming season. However, we understand that we need to continue to work hard in the fall in order to earn success in the spring. As a senior, it is amazing how fast these years go by and I really couldn’t be more excited for the 2015-2016 season.
As I said earlier, sophomore long stick midfielder Austin Smith will be handling the blogging duties in a couple weeks. To learn more about Care for the Cure and how to help such a great cause, please visit www.icareforthecure.com. Until next time, The Hawk Will Never Die!
Entry 4 – Austin Smith (12/2/15)
Austin Smith, sophomore long stick midfielder here, hoping everyone had a great Thanksgiving and updating you on what the Hawks men's lacrosse team has been up to the last couple weeks. Since you last heard from us, we have been continuing our fall improvement season, constantly working on becoming better athletes and lacrosse players. One day a week, we get to compete with each other, offense vs. defense. Whether it's 3v3 or 6v6, it's always a heated battle and gives us an opportunity to show both our improvement as individuals and our chemistry as a unit, both offensively and defensively. Bragging rights are always on the line, and the competition is fierce.
All of that hard work leads up to a few special events to cap off the fall. The annual Turkey Bowl, an intra-squad scrimmage which is held the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, is first. Two teams were drafted by Coach Capron and Coach Horowitz to play not just for bragging rights but also for steaks at Coach Wray’s house during our annual holiday party right before Christmas break. It was a well-fought battle by both teams and displayed a lot of the skills we had been working on all fall improvement season. Both teams showed grit and determination as we battled for four twelve-minute quarters; for the second year in a row, the fourth quarter ended in a dead heat. It took a great individual effort in overtime by senior Rich Gabelman to break the deadlock. Richie and the rest of Coach Capron's team will be enjoying those steaks in a few weeks time.
Following the Turkey Bowl, the teams shook hands and parted ways to go home for a well-deserved break from the field and the books. The break gave us time to reflect on our many blessings in life and give thanks to all those important in our lives. With our families and friends by our side, we all had an energizing and enjoyable Thanksgiving break.
Following the break, we were back together on Hawk Hill on Monday and Tuesday for a few unique team activities to finish up the fall. Bright and early on Monday, we started with the annual run to Belmont Plateau. It's a workout that takes advantage of the beautiful landscape around our campus and the city of Philadelphia. As a team, we ran about 4 miles round-trip through the surrounding community to Belmont Plateau with a series of hill runs in-between. It is a tough workout but very scenic as we run through the streets of our community with the skyline of Philadelphia as the backdrop. The final workout was one last competition to finish out the semester. In segments of four quarters, we battled hard, with the focus on fitness, competition, communication, and teamwork to finish up the fall improvement season on a great note!
In conclusion, we have worked hard the entire fall improvement season, showing grit and determination during our workouts. This body of work has enabled us to better ourselves as individual players and come closer together as teammates. The skills we practiced and learned during this time will carry over to what we know to be an exciting spring season.
That'll do it for our fall blog series. Until the spring, The Hawk Will Never Die!
Entry 5 – Rich Gabelman (2/16/16)
It has been a long and exciting 4 weeks leading up to our season opener against VMI. This preseason has been longer than any others in the past, which I believe to be beneficial. It has given our team ample time to rectify the things we need to work on as well as build upon the foundation we set for ourselves in the fall.
During the first couple of days back, we learned a lot about leadership through team building exercises with a group called “The Program.” They are a group of Marines whose goal is to help build leaders through a variety of different exercises that are both mentally and physically taxing. We started on Sweeney Field, where Coach Mac and Coach Roy of "The Program" put us through a series of physical exercises, each with very specific instructions. Each activity put a new individual on our team in a leadership role and taught us that even when we think we have reached out physical limits, we are still not even close.
Day Two of "The Program" brought us into the pool for a series of exercises, including swimming and treading water in our sweatshirts while following explicit instructions. It taught us to think clearly under pressure. As Coach Mac said, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” As a senior, I feel this experience has given me a new perspective of what it means to be a leader and has really brought our team together for our upcoming season.
Once we got back onto the field, it was full-steam ahead. Looking back, our team knew we had only four weeks to prepare ourselves for VMI and within those four weeks, we had two scrimmages lined up at Army and on Sweeney Field against Binghamton. These scrimmages are a great way for us to evaluate where we are as a team, as well as give the coaches an opportunity to observe us in a “real game” scenario. With any preseason scrimmage, there will be positives and areas we need to improve upon, but as we always say, “We don’t want to be playing our best lacrosse in February.” Overall, the scrimmages went well, playing tight contests with both Army and Binghamton. Though perfection may be impossible to reach, we continue to strive for it.
After our final scrimmage, we had our Face-Off dinner, which is a great way to get all the parents, players, coaches, and alumni together to celebrate the start of the 2016 season. It is such a humbling experience to be in a room with some of the past players of SJU lacrosse and to hear stories from their glory days. Bill Oakes, the all-time leading scorer at SJU, spoke about how fast his experience on Hawk Hill went by and urged us all to not take a single moment for granted and leave nothing on the field. My fellow senior classmates and I definitely took this to heart, as it really is hard to believe we only have one more season to go.
Coming into this season, our team met and talked about our goals for the season. Our entire team has one goal in common, and that is to win the NEC Championship and enter the NCAA Tournament. With that in mind, we understand that the season is a long and grueling one, which is why it is important to take it one game at a time and to focus all our energy on the task at hand. This Saturday, we take on VMI at Sweeney Field and hope to start our season on the right foot. We hope to see everyone there to cheer on your Hawks!
Until next time, ALWAYS COMPETE and THE HAWK WILL NEVER DIE!