Team looks to regain playoff form

Two games ahead to decide if team can host home game

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western men's lacrosse

Western’s men’s lacrosse team has consistently been shut out of varsity status. However, head coach Jeremy Tallevi is more concerned about team inconsistency on the field.

The team currently sits at 3-4. They’ve clinched a playoff spot, but two important road games this weekend will determine if they get to start the playoffs at home, or if they will be forced to travel.

Home-field advantage is about more than fan support for players who have to pay out of pocket for everything from travel to practice time.

The Mustangs play Toronto and then Brock this weekend. Brock will also play Guelph .

“If Brock wins either game, we’re likely heading to Carleton or Bishop’s for a playoff game,” Dan Strickland, a team captain, said.

Strickland has been playing for Western for four years, since coming off knee surgery in his first year.

“We started off [the season] pretty well. We beat Brock for the first time in six years. They’ve won five straight league championships,” Strickland said.

“It was a big game for us,” Tallevi said of the game against Brock. “We showed in the first half that when we followed our game plan and stayed patient we could be a very good team.

“For us, we would like to be in a better position right now,” Tallevi explained. “But we’ve clinched a playoff spot and there is still a lot of time to put some work in and finish strong.”

Tallevi has been coaching the team since 2002. He is also an assistant coach with the Portland Lumberjacks of the National Lacrosse League.

This year has been a transition for the club, according to Tallevi.

“We lost the core of our defence and our two most valuable midfielders. There was a lot of turnover.”

Tallevi said the team has been fortunate to have several rookies come in and fill the gaps.

One of those rookies, attack Kevin Brownell, leads the Mustangs with 14 goals and 29 points. He is currently third in league scoring.

“It’s kind of unexpected,” Brownell said of his prolific scoring. “There is a lot of good guys on the team, so it’s an honour.”

Brownell and Tallevi have high praise for the team’s defence as well.

“I’d say our long poles are one of the top groups in the league,” Brownell said. “Just in practice alone, it’s tougher to go up against those guys than some of the guys you go up against in games.”

Lacrosse involves a lot of contact, and Tallevi adds to the challenge of student athletics by holding full-contact practices.

“Sometimes you come to class with a few bruises,” Nathan Dickson, a rookie mid-fielder, said. “You get bruised on Saturday, you’re blue on Sunday and you suck it up and go again on Monday.”

Dickson said because of the team’s depth, you have to put up with a few bruises or sit on the bench.

“If you don’t go 100 per cent in practice you’re not going to come out that way in a game,” Tallevi said.

Tallevi offered some explanations for why the team has its worst record in several seasons.

“For the league, it’s been a terrific season. There is more parity than ever before,” he said. “We are in the toughest division.”

Western plays in the West Division of the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association. According to Strickland, playing in CUFLA is part of the problem with varsity funding.

“[Western] has told us there is not going to be any change in the varsity status until [Ontario University Athletics] takes over as the official sanctioning body.”

Until that happens, the men’s lacrosse team will play without support.

“It’s really frustrating. We’re one of the top contenders every year and we get little recognition,” Brent Yost, third-year attack and co-captain, said. “We don’t even get a field to practice on.”

The team has to pay to practice and hold games at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

“Other teams in our league are recognized [as varsity] and they get a lot more support,” Tallevi said.

Brock and Guelph, Western’s two main divisional rivals, both receive funding.

“The girl’s lacrosse team is funded and it’s our national sport and yet as players we are still forking out,” Dickson said.

“It’s close to $500 for our team fees,” Brownell said. “I just want to play. I could have gone to other schools [where] you don’t have to pay to play. I just heard a lot of good things about the school, and [Tallevi] is a pro coach.”

“If we pay to play, we don’t mind doing it. We get to represent our school and that’s great,” Strickland said.

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