Rarely have York’s lacrosse team been able to look forward to a new campaign with such relish. And they have every reason to; having joined the unheralded, but welcome, wave of ‘professionalisation’ sweeping the university’s sports clubs and acquiring the services of Jim Lenke, an experienced American coach, for their BUCS season, which starts in mid-October.
Lenke happens to be one of the best lacrosse coaches in the country, boasting a wealth of experience from the American college system and fresh from leading Yorkshire in the British National Championships last year. It is a great coup, as men’s team Captain Benedict Robinson acknowledges: “I have every confidence he will turn us into a very good lacrosse team. He likes an attacking style of lacrosse, so hopefully we will see a lot of goals this season.”
Like their last outing then, the memorable 28-0 annihilation of Lancaster which was just one of many jewels in York’s glorious Roses weekend back in May. That triumph mirrored a disappointing and inconsistent BUCS season, which saw York frustrated by postponements and feeling vastly inferior to a Sheffield University side which spent the season unbeaten and racked up 102 goals in only seven matches.
Robinson hopes the incoming coach can iron out these faults and believes the key is simplicity itself: good preparation. “The main aspect that Jim will bring to the club is a different, more intense level of training that will be the basis for the building of a solid team.”
But first things first, and Lenke’s immediate concern is to identify the genuine talent in the masses of freshers hoping to sample the game or continue their careers from school, and in double quick time. Like every one of York’s sports teams, lacrosse have not found themselves immune from the annual turnover of first-teamers caused by graduations and university switches.
“This year we have lost four good players,” said Robinson. “In defence we have lost two of last year’s starting defence. In midfield, we lost last year’s Captain Harry Collins. In attack, we have lost former Scotland international Jack Wakefield.”
However, hope springs eternal, and the skipper believes the remaining core of last year’s side, with freshers successfully integrated, can challenge for honours. Phil Walker remains to marshal that much-changed rearguard, while the midfield, the team’s strongest department, will still feature James Menon and Luke Shilling, creative powerhouses prepared to shift up another gear in their farewell years. Meanwhile, the partnership of Vice-Captain Rob Coslett and Krishna Balan will continue to provide the ammunition up front.
“In every department, we have a strong base that can really excel under the new coach. Of course we hope for experienced freshers to turn up, but with the current team I am confident we can do well,” added Robinson.
The regionalisation of the BUCS league structure means York must face all-too-familiar foes in division 1B during the forthcoming season. Leeds Met Carnegie, Durham, Leeds and, ominously, Sheffield remain in situ and the Captain is under no illusions as to the tests which lie ahead.
“Our BUCS League is shaping up to be very tough. With four of the established best teams in the country and Durham importing six Americans to bolster their squad, it looks like the team are going to have to be at their best,” he said.
Complimenting the bread and butter of BUCS action will be the Saturday NEMLA league, with York desperate to build upon their strong showing in their debut season in 2008-2009. Looks like generating a winning momentum to place alongside the evident winning mentality, to carry between the two competitions, can now be pencilled in on Lenke’s ‘To Do’ list.
BUCS LEAGUE FIXTURES
Wednesday 14th October – Hull University Firsts (H)
Wednesday 21st October – Durham University Firsts (A)
Wednesday 28th October – Sheffield Hallam Firsts (H)
Wednesday 11th November – Sheffield University Firsts (A)
Wednesday 18th November – Northumbria University Firsts (H)
Wednesday 25th November – Newcastle University Firsts (A)
Wednesday 2nd December – Leeds Met Carnegie Firsts (H)
Wednesday 9th December – Leeds University Firsts (A)
If your team would like a season preview, contact [email protected]