As we enter the final few months of frigid Colorado winter, a sign that spring is on its way is the start of lacrosse season. For the Air Force lacrosse team, a new season means a new opportunity for a newly promoted head coach and a large incoming class to make some noise in the Southern Conference.
The Air Force Academy has an interesting relationship with its lacrosse team. There were disciplinary issues in the late 2000’s which resulted in several players being dismissed from the team, effectively forcing several years of rebuilding until the class of 2014 was able to lead the team to the NCAA tournament, setting precedent for the next few seasons.
The Air Force lacrosse team’s reputation was seemingly mended, but an investigation into hazing across all Air Force athletics in early 2018, led to the wrongful probation, and in some cases, dismissal of several players from the team.
Since then, the long time head coach Eric Serement mutually agreed to part ways with the Academy and he headed east to Rutgers to take over the offensive coordinator duties for the Scarlet Knights.
The former defensive coach Bill Wilson has been promoted to head coach for the Falcons and lacrosse legend, John Grant Jr., has also been added to the coaching staff.
Although the standout attackman and midfielder Nick Hruby has graduated after he racked up 34 points in 2018, the Falcons are returning Matthew Schwartz and Trey Lervick, who should have no problem stepping up and putting goals in the net.
Goaltending was a big issue last season for the Falcons. Braden Knost saw a majority of the playing time, but he and Noah Schwab are returning as sophomores and a local product, Ian Mullins will be likely competing for the starting spot as a freshman.
In terms of opponents for this season, Air Force’s toughest games will come against Denver, Yale, and Richmond, but they’ll also be taking on Utah in their inaugural season. Although new lacrosse programs don’t tend to do extremely well, Utah has some decent transfers from other college lacrosse programs, and considering that it will be the only NCAA Division I program in the state, I suspect they will have a pretty solid class coming straight out of high school as well.
The Southern Conference is not particularly strong compared to almost every other conference in the NCAA, and Air Force certainly has a chance to win the conference championship, but this season also has a potential of being a rebuilding year for the Falcons if Coach Wilson has a tough time in his new role as head coach.
The first game of the season kicks off on February 9th, 1:30 Mountain time at Peter Barton Stadium in Denver, Colorado.