Lacrosse Redmen eye return to championship

Lukas LaCava, a Management senior from Weston, Conn., was the CUFLA’s most outstanding attackman in 2008 and the Redmen's top sniper in the playoffs. / Photo: Andrew Dobrowoskyj

Veteran team one of McGill’s brightest hopes for national title

By Jim Hynes

The McGill Redmen lacrosse team is hoping that the third time’s a charm, and that the progress it made over the past two seasons will culminate in a national championship this year.

The Redmen, who had a losing record every year from 2002-2006, were the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association’s (CUFLA) biggest surprise in 2007, posting a 7-2 record on their way to the second East Division title in team history. The team made it all the way to the championship Baggataway Cup before dropping a 10-6 semi-final decision to the Guelph Gryphons. In 2008, coach Tim Murdoch’s squad finished with another 7-2 record, placing second in the East to Trent (10-0). The Redmen’s 13-9 defeat of the perennial champion Brock Badgers put them in the Baggataway Cup gold medal game, which ended with a disappointing loss to Guelph.

“Anything less than a national championship this year would be a huge disappointment for us,” said Murdoch, who played varsity lacrosse at Princeton University and later with the Harvard Business School, where he was voted co-captain and served as a player-coach in 1989 and 1990. “But we can take no team for granted. Our entire league is getting better, and the CUFLA West teams such as Guelph and Brock are very strong. It won’t be easy.”

With 26 returning players, including four All-Canadians, on their roster, the Redmen, who are favoured to win their division, are a good bet to return to the Baggataway Cup, which will be held November 7-8 at Carleton University in Ottawa. The team lost only three 2008 starters to graduation: All-Canadian defender Jono Zimmerman, All-Canadian defensive midfield specialist David Pinckney, and midfielder Arthur Phillips.

The returnees are led by 2008 co-captains Lukas LaCava, Nick Moreau, Jake Safarik and Guy Fox. LaCava was named as the league’s most outstanding attackman last year and was the team’s top sniper in the playoffs. The team also features 16 newcomers, including eight U.S.-born players. The rookies include attackmen Ryan Besse and Alex Kruse from Ontario, midfielder Jishan Sharples, defenseman Kyle Robinson from British Columbia, and goalie Simon Hudson from Seattle.

“We have a better mix of experienced players and young guns, and more Canadian content than ever with an influx of talented box lacrosse players,” said Murdoch, who recently coached his 100th Redmen game, a pre-season win over the Wakefield Black Sheep. “We’ll be very strong on defense and feature a fast, explosive attack.”

The Redmen started the 2009 campaign in style, hammering Queen’s 15-5 to open the regular season in Kingston. They faced a stiffer challenge in their second game, a 13-10 overtime loss to the powerful Trent University Excalibur in Peterborough, Ont., on Sept. 19. The Redmen bounced back nicely the next day, trouncing the Varsity Blues 17-3 in Toronto. The two teams meet again at McGill’s Forbes Field this Saturday.