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Interview: Matt Darby, Preston Weaver and Stewart Moore

It’s going to take every bit of my will power to suppress my inner “LSU alumnus” for this article.

Woops. Didn’t work.

On a serious note, if there is one positive word I can use to describe Bama, it would be “loyalty.” Bama fans are not fair weather fans. Period. Pretty much everyone from Alabama bleeds Crimson or houndstooth, and end their prayers with “In Bear’s name we pray, Amen.” Even during bad years, they still fill their football stadium to watch the Tide Roll around the bowl and down the hole (I’m trying, I swear).

But let’s talk Bama lacrosse.  Alabama lacrosse in 2006 as opposed to Alabama lacrosse today. They’ve come a long way in a short time. Alabama is a state full of very talented athletes that (luckily for us southern laxers) are now picking up sticks instead of bats.

John Carroll Catholic High (from Alabama) in White. Playing in a tourney in New Orleans
More from John Carroll Catholic

I was yet again fortunate enough to hear back from a few people at the University of Alabama lacrosse club, and I was really blown away by these guys. Head Coach Matt Darby, LSM Preston Weaver, and Defensive Middie Stewart Moore took some time out of their busy schedule to answer some of my questions. It’s a lot of text, but I really think you’ll be impressed by some of their responses – these guys have their heads screwed on tight and want the best for their team. So let’s get to that after you feast your eyes on some pics from Bama vs. Memphis. (FYI, Bama won 21 – 7)

Action shots
Rippin a duck
Good shot of the new kits
Love this picture

The first part of this interview is with Coach Matt Darby.

LAS: Who are some of your players we should watch out for this year?
Matt Darby: Once again we are relying a lot on youth this year.  Freshman and sophomores litter our starting lineup.  We lost 1st Team All-SELC attackman William Franklin, but already have guys stepping up. Specifically, freshman attackman Andrew Wood, who had a breakout game against Memphis scoring 9 goals and 3 assist.

We are also looking to junior midfielder Mike Duffy and freshman midfielder Kent Groff to help out the stat line.  On the defensive end, our starting goalie, Blake Morris, is a sophomore and his backups are sophomores and freshmen.  Two-time All-SELC Defenseman and team captain Cam Avent is returning for his senior season and looks to anchor a solid group of defenders.  We’ll also be looking at All-SELC defensive midfielder and team captain Stewart Moore to help create turnovers and transition play.

What do you do to get ready for a big game?
Matt Darby:
Being a young coach I’ve done everything from pretending it’s just another game, to building it up to be the end all be all of our season.  I’ve learned it’s got to be something in the middle.  Personally, I try to treat it just like a normal game.

I’ve found that in the MCLA, the best approach to any game is to just focus on getting your team to play at its best and try to have a solid game plan and hope you don’t have to make too many adjustments.  I’ve also found that if the captains can portray the importance of the game the players are more likely to fall in line.

What team are you guys looking forward to playing the most this year? Why?
Matt Darby:
Our biggest rival lies across the state in Auburn University.  I doubt they think of us as their biggest rival since they’ve had a stranglehold on the title “best lacrosse team in AL” for as long as I’ve been at UA.  Hopefully we can compete in the same manner as we did last year and come out victorious this time.  That was our last game last season and really showcased how far our team had come over the past few years.  I know our players are excited to show that it wasn’t a fluke and we’re even better this year.  Once again we’ll be playing them in Birmingham on April 17.  We’re also looking forward to playing Ole Miss (the game was postponed from last weekend to April 18 in Oxford, MS) as that game came down to the wire with them squeaking out a victory, and Georgia State (in Tuscaloosa on April 10) who won a hard fought back and forth game last year.  We’re also very excited to welcome South Florida to town on March 6.

How are your turnouts to Home games? What can be done to get a larger turnout?
Matt Darby:
We usually have a decent crowd at our home games, though with an enrollment of 28,000 and a football team that draws 92,000+ to its spring game, a couple hundred people seems like nothing to us.  I think the key to getting more fans is to get more exposure through any form of media outlet.  We have a website, a facebook page, and a twitter account through which we make regular announcements.  But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.  We need more articles (such as this one) to generate interest in the team and hopefully put bodies in the stands.

For road games, how do you arrange travel and lodging? Who authorizes the spending?
Matt Darby:
This year to make travel easier on everybody (mostly me) we went exclusively with charter buses for travel.  We also block out hotel rooms for the whole team at local hotels.  The expenses are built into our budget at the beginning of the year and become part of each player’s dues.

What are practices like? How is the practice facility? Game facility? What do you do when the weather sucks?
Matt Darby:
A typical practice usually last about 2 hours during which we do everything from drills to focus on the little things, to full field scrimmaging to simulate in game situations.  The school has 3 full sized fields set aside for club sports, and so we end up sharing with all the other field sports (women’s lax, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s rugby, and ultimate frisbee).  Our games are played on the same field (though they are sometimes relocated due to field conditions).

Unfortunately, all the fields we have access to are natural grass and so when the weather turns against us we are forced to improvise.  This usually involves some sort of team workout in the Rec Center or maybe some wall ball in the racquetball courts.  The past two weeks we’ve only been able to get on the field a total of 4 times.  It hurts, but until a better alternative is found, we make the best of what we have.

How often do you practice?
Matt Darby:
We have 4 practices each week, each lasting about 2 hours.

What is your personal goal for 2010? What are the team goals for 2010?
Matt Darby:
Personally, I would like to have a winning record this year.  It’s my 3rd year as head coach and so far have a yet to experience winning more games than I’ve lost.  Of course, making the move up to Division 1 in the SELC will make this task that much harder.  At the end of the day I really just want all my players to walk off the field with their heads up knowing they gave their best effort.

As a team, I think we would like to prove to everybody that we belong in Division 1.  I believe it was the right time for our team to make the jump up and we have the support of the conference as a whole as well as most of the teams, but respect is something that will always have to be earned.  I think we have the potential to compete in every game we play this year and hopefully we can surprise some teams.

Bama played a full schedule last year, and finished with 6 wins, up significantly from years past. What has led to this turn around? What can be done to make it more successful?
Matt Darby:
We went 6-8 last season and a couple of those losses (Ole Miss, Georgia State, and Palm Beach Atlantic) could have gone either way at the end.  I think the biggest factor to our steady improvement over the past few years has really just been the talent level of the players that are coming out.  Last year we had a high school All-American and two varsity transfers join the team along with a lot of players who had been playing lacrosse all through high school.  No longer were we depending on guys who had never played before to contribute.

We still love spreading the game to new players and welcome anybody looking to try lacrosse for the first time, but when it comes down to competing on the field you cannot make up for experience.  There were also a lot of little things that helped to “legitimize” the team.  First and foremost, our website is a great tool for potential players to see what the team was all about.  Also, have a solid group of players I can count on to get all the behind the scenes stuff done.  And finally just the exposure of the game to more and more kids is finally starting to pay off.

Lacrosse in Alabama is on the brink of exploding. Now with 8 high schools in the state (up from 0 just 4 years ago) how is this growth helping Alabama? How is Bama helping contribute to the growth?
Matt Darby:
You’re absolutely right.  The growth of the game across the country as well as specifically in AL is helping our team out tremendously.  Coming from an area where lacrosse is “the sport” (Summit, NJ, 2009 NJ State Champions), it’s incredible to watch the game spread.

When I first took over coaching 3 years ago, there were only a handful of players on the team who had played organized lacrosse before they got to high school.  Our roster used to be an even spread of guys who had played before, guys who picked it up in HS and were still learning, and guys that had never picked up a stick before in their life.  Now we have kids who were all stars and team captains in high school fighting for playing time (and that’s the way it should be)!  Also, most of the kids on the roster have played lacrosse all through high school and thus I find they are more likely to want to continue to play at the college level.

We try to help the growth of the sport locally in any way we can.  We try to have skill clinics at the local schools and each year we try to play a game or two at high schools around the state.  This year we play Kentucky in Huntsville and Auburn in Birmingham; both will be a part of a “lacrosse day” in Alabama.

What is recruitment in Alabama like? Do you visit with any High Schoolers? What do you tell them?
Matt Darby:
Right now, because of my schedule and resources, my main focus is on getting the lacrosse players that are already at UA to come out.  There are a ton of talented players already enrolled here and it’s a shame when I hear that they “didn’t even know we had a team.”  It all goes back to getting exposure for the team, the more people that know we exist the easier it is to get kids to come out.

Our website has been a huge recruiting tool for us.  We have a recruiting questionnaire that potential players can fill out.  Since we don’t have any influence in admissions it’s hard to convince a kid to come to UA unless he already wants to.  That’s not saying we don’t look for potential players.  I try to contact as many of the coaches of the surrounding schools (TN, GA, FL) and make them aware of the team.  I also try to attend as many of the tournaments and camps that are in our area as possible. There are also plans for some type of recruitment weekend, where we can have interested players visit the campus and experience the team for a weekend.  I think the most important thing is to just talk to the kids and let them know what to expect and what we expect from them.  Anybody who contacts me through the website or my email ( will get a response from me, be added to the mailing list, and made aware of any upcoming events that could pertain to them.  At the club level, where kids are paying to play, they have to want to be on the team and know what to expect from day one.

Ten years from now, what will lacrosse in Alabama be like? 20 years?
Matt Darby:
In 10 years I would love to see lacrosse as a sanctioned HS sport being played everywhere from Mobile to Gasden and Montgomery to Muscle Shoals, with solid youth leagues feeding these schools.  At the college level, I would love to see Alabama (with or without me at the helm) competing in whatever league they’re playing in.  I won’t speak to whether or not there will be NCAA lacrosse at Alabama because that decision is out of my hands. All I can do is try to field the best team possible and compete day in and day out for as long as I’m here, the rest is up to the athletic department.  But is it such a far off dream to see Alabama playing Auburn in Bryant-Denny or Jordan-Hare before the spring football game?  It’s happening with FSU/UF this year.

What is your background with lacrosse? How does your background contrast to what lacrosse in Alabama is like?
Matt Darby:
I grew up in Summit, NJ, and was introduced to the game in 2nd grade gym class.  I didn’t start playing competitively until 8th grade.  I played all through high school at Summit and St. Peter’s Prep before continuing my career at Ithaca College.  I played one semester of varsity ball at IC before deciding that club ball was a better option (read I got cut after fall ball).  When I graduated, I moved to Ocean City, MD where I was able to get in on some pick-up games and keep up with my fundamentals.  I came to Alabama for graduate school in 2005 and joined the team, which could best be described as a recreation league with aspirations of being competitive.

After two years (and one total win) it was time to make a change and take the team in a new direction.  I became coach, and with the help of a few dedicated players we were able to build the program up to where it is now.  The biggest difference between lacrosse in Bama and what I was used to is something I have to remind myself of everyday.  Some of the players down here are still learning the fundamentals while at the same time trying to compete at a surprisingly high level.  I grew up having the fundaments ingrained into me at a young age (in school nonetheless) and once those were conquered I was able to learn how the game is played.  Also, at the club level you find an extremely wide range of talent levels (from none to AA) on the field at the same time, whereas I grew playing with the kids who were at the same skill level as me.

How much does it cost a player to play for Bama (all expenses considered)? How do you think this compares to other MCLA programs?
Matt Darby:
Our dues are $600 per player with first year players have to pay an extra $200 to get all the team gear.  We make it a focus to keep dues at a reasonable level with extensive fundraising especially in these hard economic times.  We never want money to be the reason a kid can’t play the game he loves.  If I had to guess (and knowing some of the dues around the SELC) I would say we are on the lower end of average.

Is there a place where we can get Bama lax merch?
Matt Darby:
Our website has a Team Store section where we have a bunch of merchandise for sale.  All the proceeds go directly to the team and are part of the fundraising that helps keep dues reasonable.

Now let’s hear from Preston Weaver, LSM for the Tide.

LAS: Pregame music and meal?
Preston Weaver: I listen to my Ipod during pregame drills, mostly rap or rock.  It doesn’t really matter, I have Travis Porter to Disturbed on my playlist now.

I try to eat something pasta based before games.  A 5 hour energy drink is also a must.

What made you choose Bama? Did you know anything about the lax team when you enrolled?
It was kind of a “just go with it” choice. I applied to other colleges and the little things Bama did with sending personal letters made a difference.

I didn’t know anything about the team before coming here.

When did you first pick up a stick? Where did you play HS ball?
PW: I started playing when I was in 7th grade. I played high school in Memphis, TN at Christian Brothers High School.

Compare your HS lacrosse experience to your collegiate lacrosse experience.
PW: The difference with high school to college level lacrosse even at the club level is there is can be a wide variety in skill level between teams because of practice or because of coaching ability.  The speed at this level is also a difference.

What are your goals for the year? How are you going to achieve them?
PW: My goal for any season is to a win a championship – be it the SELC championship, or MCLA championship, whichever.  We, as a team, have to keep up the motivation with practices and out of practice working out.

If you could make three changes to the Bama lacrosse team, what would they be?
PW: I would add a little black to our uniforms – I just like the way it would look.

I would make the practice times a little earlier, 7-9 for college students can be difficult.

I would try to get us sponsored by a big name lacrosse company.

What gear are you using now?
PW: I use a Brine Clutch x6, Warrior C405 shaft, Harrow HRW gloves (team issued), Brine LoPro Arm Pads.

Cheerleaders or Crimsonettes?
PW: Is this even a question? Come on, it’s got to be cheerleaders.


Finally to wrap things up let’s hear from the team President, Stewart Moore.

LAS: Pregame music and meal?
Stewart Moore: I have to have breakfast from Rama Jama’s if possible and a 32 ounce Gatorade rain, green. When riding to the game I listen to Beethoven; during the pre-game warm-up, I listen to a West coast rap playlist

What made you choose Bama? Did you know anything about the lax team when you enrolled?
SM: I actually wanted to play D-3 NCAA, but for medical reasons I had to wait to play. I received a really good scholarship from Alabama and decided that was the best for me. When I started to play for Alabama the older guys were more like brothers than teammates. I knew that Alabama wasn’t a top tier team, even in D-2 MCLA, I even saw them play in high school.

When did you first pick up a stick? Where did you play HS ball?
SM: I started playing in middle school when a promoter came to my private school to enlist students to play. I played for the Vestavia club team in Birmingham until my senior year when my high school, John Carroll Catholic, adopted a lacrosse program.

Compare your HS lacrosse experience to your collegiate lacrosse experience.
SM: My collegiate experience began just like my high school experience. It was a group of guys that still loved to play the game but just wanted to have fun. It was our coaches first year and we still had loose scrimmage style practices. My sophomore year and my present junior year are much more organized. We just moved to D-1 this year and practices have been intensified for that reason. College lacrosse now feels like a step up both in commitment and talent levels.

What are your goals for the year? How are you going to achieve them?
SM: We just moved to D-1 of the SELC and our competition has been amplified greatly. I would like to show that we belong in this division. We have modified our practices to accommodate for this change by having fast pace drills and keeping the players intensified.

If you could make three changes to the Bama lacrosse team, what would they be?

  1. Have morning conditioning/strength training.
  2. Have the University fully support the lacrosse team and be included in the Nike contract
  3. Have a turf field built

What gear are you using now?
SM: We are using Maverick for our gloves pads and optional apparel. Our required apparel and bags is fitted by Harrow.

Cheerleaders or Crimsonettes?
SM: None of the above. I choose Crimson Cabaret. . . I’m a sucker for dancers.

Watch out for Bama lacrosse. I’m calling it – this team is about to take off

About the author: Knox is a 24 year old High School Head Coach in a small area east of Baton Rouge. He played High School ball for four years, and college ball for about 1 week until he realized his collegiate priorities rested with more important things like partying and eventually trying to get his grades up. He enjoys things that most Louisiana people do – eating boiled crawfish and alligator, a cold Abita Amber, anything LSU, his dog, and his beautiful girlfriend, Audrey. Lacrosse is not listed because most Louisiana people have no idea what lacrosse is.

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