Men’s Lacrosse Looks to Build on Opening Day Win vs Chatham

College fourth-year and men’s lacrosse player JT Starcke on Bailey Field cradling the ball up the field.

ourtesy of Oberlin Athletics

College fourth-year and men’s lacrosse player JT Starcke on Bailey Field cradling the ball up the field.

In its first game of the season, the Oberlin men’s lacrosse team defeated Chatham University 10–7 in Pittsburgh last Saturday. The Yeomen, who led the whole game and fought off numerous Chatham comeback attempts, gave Coach Ryan Polak a win to kick off his first full season as the team’s head coach. 

“Starting off with a win is always nice; we feel that it allows the team to see that we are doing the right things, and trending in a positive direction,” Polak said. “It also gives the team some confidence going into our next game.”

Polak feels that the older players, who had limited opportunities to compete in recent years due to canceled and shortened seasons, returned to competition smoothly. 

“With some of our experienced players having not played for two years, it was nice to see them take the field and be able to compete,” Polak said. “Being away from the game for so long, it’s important to get in-game experience to knock off some rust.”

Third-year Max Cha, who had not gotten a chance to play in a game since 2020, readjusted well, scoring two goals. 

“It felt pretty good to get back into the swing of things,” Cha said. “I feel like it has been a very long offseason to improve my game, and coming back to play after two years has been long awaited.”

Polak also feels the younger players who had not yet had a chance to compete at the collegiate level gained much needed experience that will help the team find success as the season progresses. 

Fourth-year Tom Decker, who had two goals and two assists in the game, was impressed with the team’s ability to make smart plays and hold off Chatham’s comeback attempts. He also believes the team’s ability to take advantage of its opponent’s defensive strategies helped it find success. 

“Chatham was quick to slide during our dodges, so when we were able to move the ball around the outside quickly and take advantage of poor approaches from their defense, we were able to capitalize,” Decker said. “We were also able to convert on important man-up situations.”

Decker felt the team’s early goals played an important role in setting the tone for victory. 

“Senior defenseman Kiernan Stone started things off with a huge goal less than 20 seconds into the game, and we were able to feed off of that giant energy boost,” he said. “Another long-pole goal by [fourth-year] Matthew Huang in the second quarter kept the energy level high and pumped up the crowd of Oberlin parents.” 

The rest of the Oberlin goals were scored by fourth-year Michael Muldoon, and first-years Sam Ryu and Niko Maheras, who each scored once. 

Both Decker and Cha emphasized the role of the defense in the victory. 

“Our defense played with more grit and heart than the opposition,” Cha said. “I would say that their toughness has led to our success on the offensive side.”

Decker also noted third-year goalie Eugene Kang’s efforts in the win, racking up 22 saves. 

Polak, who coached the Yeomen to a 2–1 record in a shortened season in 2021, is looking to continue finding success in a full slate of games this year. 

“I came to Oberlin to compete at a high level, and I expect the program to do so,” Polak said. “We like to have fun and joke around at practice, but we know when it’s time to be serious and get to work. Our coaching staff has put a strong emphasis on player accountability, and we expect our players to be doing the right things on and off the field. We understand that we won’t win every game but feel that winning can only increase our players’ overall experience.”

Decker, who is motivated to get the most out of his final season of college lacrosse, believes that Polak and the rest coaching staff can help make that happen. 

“Coach Polak, Coach O’Neill, and Coach Mumford all bring an experienced, intense, energetic coaching style to the team,” Decker said. “They know when to hype the team up and also when to give us a reality check and tell us what we are doing wrong. The offense that Coach Polak has implemented gives us a lot more freedom to dodge when we see a weakness in the defense while also providing the necessary structure to run successful plays to pick apart any opponent.”

The Yeomen, who play again Saturday at Albion College, are taking a number of measures to prepare for another victory. 

“We are looking for our team to be able to watch the film from last week’s game and work on correcting our mistakes during this week of practice,” Polak said. “This will allow us to be as prepared as possible to compete at a high level against Albion this Saturday.”

Cha believes the offense can play more collectively and Decker is confident this can happen through improved stickwork and taking care of the ball more often during attacking opportunities. 

Albion, which is 2–0 with decisive victories over Hanover College and Otterbein University, will also be ready to compete. 

“This Albion team probably still has a sour taste in their mouth from our victory last time we played them in the 2019–20 season, so I’m sure they will come out fighting,” Decker said.