The McGill Redmen Lacrosse team, reigning CUFLA champions, is rebuilding; Last season’s championship winning team lost 14 players to graduation and consequently has added 15 new faces for the 2016-17 season. Coach Tim Murdoch and the rest of the coaching staff’s first challenge is to establish a good team culture.
“We are really taking things game by game,” Murdoch explained. “It would be presumptuous to make that statement [that we should win the title….] We would like to win the Eastern title and qualify for the playoffs. We certainly have the talent, it is a question of how quickly these young freshmen develop.”
There are a number of talented freshmen players new to the team, many coming from pedigreed high school programs. Players such as forward Liam MacDonald, and midfielders Jay Jiranek and Kieran McKay, are having immediate impacts. So far, the rookies have performed well, even beating the upperclassmen in one of the team scrimmages.
The CUFLA East is a tough division with Bishop’s, Queen’s, and Trent being McGill’s strongest competition. The Redmen will have to mesh quickly and perform consistently throughout the season in order to win the championship again.
“On any given day, if we are underperforming, we will lose to those teams,” Murdoch said.
Some of the 2015-16 season championship-winning standouts are returning: Spencer Bromley was McGill’s second highest scorer last year and William Waeshe was the CUFLA’s best goalie.
Backing them up is the Redmen’s dedicated coaching staff, which consists of four volunteers.
“I would like to think that we are setting the bar higher than any other team with regards to the time commitment we put into recruiting and scouting,” Murdoch said. “Sean Steinwald is continuing in his role as head of our scouting [….] We have four volunteer coaches [.…] We also have [a goalie coach].”
Redmen Lacrosse, like a number of McGill varsity programs, has been very successful. Last year, they stormed the league and won comfortably in the playoffs. This excellence, in addition to McGill’s academic reputation, is why a some students choose McGill over NCAA programs. Murdoch is proud to point out that last year, a third of the lacrosse athletes were honours students.
Funding, however, is an issue for the Redmen Lacrosse team; playing fees and travel costs often fall on the players. Murdoch finds this to be one of his greatest challenges as coach.
“We are really challenged financially at the varsity level, to such an extent that our players have to pay very high team fees just to be on the team,” Murdoch said. “This has become somewhat of a distraction and a burden to me as the head coach.”
For example, at last year’s CUFLA finals in Lennoxville, the Redmen players had to pay for their own hotel rooms.
“McGill was able to only provide the cost of bus transportation, they did not pay for our hotel rooms at the national championship,” Murdoch said. “That is just wrong. How can you send your team to a national championship and not pay for a hotel [….It’s] awkward.”
Nonetheless, the McGill Redmen should have a successful 2016-17 season. They are 2-0 so far, handily beating the Nipissing Lakers (0-2-0) twice to start the season. The passion driving the program is still evident and is at the heart of its success. Despite the challenges, if the rookies step up, McGill Lacrosse will maintain its success this season.