Friday I got up at 6:15am, had a protein bar along with some coffee, and listened to a Princeton podcast while working on my boards. At 7:30am I got a workout in and at 9:30am, Carc and I drove to practice.
Championship Weekend practices start in the stadium at 10:00am. The sun ended up breaking though the clouds, temperatures soared and I got toasted pink on my face.
Interesting to watch Cornell and Coach Buczek execute a rebound drill where the coach fires a ball off of a trashcan in the crease and then the player scoops and tries to score. No wonder why the Big Red score so many rebound and greasy goals. Defensive coordinator Jordan Stevens walked his crew through some typical Rutgers patterns and personal traits, at one time stressing position over matchups.
Stevens should be considered a strong head coaching candidate, a young coach I’d hire in a second. Cornell looks loose and very much in their normal personality, marching two-by-two out the stadium.
Mark Dixon and Dave Ryan were on site watching the teams practice as well as speaking with players and coaches for the Westwood One radio coverage of Championship Weekend.
Love the Rutgers goalie warmup station. Game-like shots from ten yards, from players using tennis balls while simulating real world passing patterns. Coach Brian Brecht spent some time with us as practice was ramping up. You can see and feel Rutgers maturity. Ross Scott with a centipede mustache, Colin Kirst, and Jaryd Jean-Felix gave us a few minutes after the session. Jean-Felix is super smart and a great athlete who was convinced to play lacrosse in middle school in Georgia by his football coach.
Maryland starts every practice with a ground ball drill. The emphasis on fundamentals is a constant. The Turtles looked extremely relaxed in their Championship Weekend practice session. Their practice was less intense. They’re not wasting energy or bouncing around in a “rah rah” fashion. This isn’t new.
The Terps are in our hotel. Carc and I bumped into Ajax Zappitello on Thursday night on our way to dinner. We ate at a small Italian place near Bushnell Park, walking distance from hotel. The Greek salad was exquisite, the meatballs with pasta was satisfying and it was fabulous to sit and talk with Paul after my difficult last ten days.
I draw strength from Paul who dealt with a similar loss a year ago. The support I’ve received from my lacrosse family, my football family, my ESPN family, my wrestling family, my neighbors and my friends has been overwhelming and heartwarming. I draw power from people like Larry Glenz, Chris Spielman, Matt Millen, Rod Gilmore, Carc , and Anish along with friends like Bob Shriver, Steve Dubin, and Jim Wilkerson who have or are powering through difficult situations. I’m very fortunate to be amongst people I love, calling the sport I love.
The Tigers were the last to practice. It’ll be interesting to see how the rain impacts Saturday’s action. Princeton’s defense looks the part in-person, long, rangy and athletic. Coach Matt Madalon, a former SF Dragon (MLL) and Roanoke goalie has done marvelous work recruiting. We spent time with goalie Erik Peters who detailed his time spent on a wolf reserve, which was the topic of his senior thesis. He wrote about the impact of the reintroduction of wolves into the wild in Wisconsin and Wyoming and its effect on the deer population.
Volunteer assistant coach Chris Aslanian of the PLL Whipsnakes peppered the goalies with pro level shots; which helps explain Peter’s outstanding season.
Cornell takes on Rutgers today at noon followed up by the Maryland against Princeton at 2:30pm. Both games can be found on ESPN2.