Editor’s Note: We’re breaking down all the NCAA D1 teams one by one. Welcome to the Alphabetical 2013 NCAA D1 Previews! We move another spot down the list and Chris Rosenthall breaks down a first year program, the High Point Panthers, located in High Point, NC.
Back in September of 2010, High Point University announced that they were adding men’s lacrosse at the Division 1 level. Former Denver associate head coach Jon Torpey was named head coach just two months later, and the Panthers have been holding official practices since fall 2011.
Practicing by yourselves for an entire year can get tedious (and even worse, counterproductive), so the Panthers have made sure to run with the best. In addition to holding a practice with the U.S. National team, High Point has scrimmaged the Chesapeake Bayhawks, Charlotte Hounds, and several post-collegiate and MCLA programs, which Coach Torpey says served to acclimate his players to the speed of Division 1 competition (they’ve already played against 12 former D1 players of the year in their respective positions), and to teach them what made Division 1 athletes great both on and off the field.
High Point’s inaugural schedule includes matchups against some other young programs like Mercer, Michigan, and Marquette, but they’re also going toe-to-toe against perennial powers Duke and North Carolina. How’d they get those monsters on their schedule? Convenience and connections. High Point University’s only about 45 minutes away from those schools, and John Torpey has known their coaches for years; he was recruited to play at Hofstra for current Duke coach John Danowski, and played at Ohio State for current UNC coach Joe Breschi.
Without any seniors on their roster, Torpey expects relatively elder statesmen D Garrett Swaim and M Bucky Smith (who transferred from Jacksonville and Navy, respectively) to take on the role as team leaders. Other players to watch include Jeff Hale, Nick Bittner, and University of Scranton transfer Pat Farrell at defense, a midfield featuring Zack Price, Richard Byrd and Michael Messenger facing off, and an attack led by Ontario native Dan Lomas, who scored 10 goals in two games during the Nick Collelluri classic this fall.
So what’s the goal for this first-year program? Coach Torpey says it comes down to getting better every day at everything they do, from academics and community service, to individual skill development and smaller team concepts. Between now and the start of the season (High Point hosts Delaware February 2 to open all of D1 play), he says he’s stressing the absence of fear, accelerating through adversity, and taking baby steps, all one day at a time.
They’ve got a full year of practice under their belts and experience against talented competition, but it’s usually tough for young programs to compete right out the gate. Can High Point be an exception? One thing is certain: if the panthers face some early growing pains, it definitely won’t be for lack of preparation.
Click HERE to see Alphabetical 2013 NCAA D1 Preview posts for Air Force, Albany, Army, Bellarmine, Binghamton, Brown, Bryant, Bucknell, Canisius, Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Denver, Detroit, Drexel, Duke, Fairfield, Georgetown, Hartford, and Harvard!