Siedlecki continues to build culture for lacrosse
Sam Taper – Sports Writer
Building a program from the ground up can be a daunting task for any coach, and despite a brutal year-one schedule for second-year head coach Kevin Siedlecki, he and his team are poised to build off last year’s struggles.
Siedlecki’s first season as the Owls’ head lacrosse coach was far from smooth sailing, as his team finished 2-15 last year as well as 1-12 in the loaded NE10 Conference. They were also winless at home last year, going 0-9. Despite what the record says, Siedlecki said there is a lot from last season that this team can learn from going forward.
“This is a program that’s never been successful; the best season ever was four wins,” Siedlecki said. “We did not measure success by our record last year. I said to our team going in that last year was my favorite year of coaching ever, and I come from an experience where I won six conference championships as the head coach of a high school program. It’s a process and I knew that going in.”
Of the Owls’ 17-games last year, nine were against top 25 opponents, including conference rival and last year’s national champion, Adelphi. The NE10 year-after-year has been a very tough conference for women’s lacrosse. Despite losing those games, Siedlecki said the fact that they played them closely should not be overlooked. They lost to No. 16 Assumption by four goals and to Stonehill in the season finale by three, who was receiving votes for the top 25. This, in Siedlecki’s eyes, is progress.
“To look at and define the season by 2-15, no one on the team would do that, it would not be the first thing we said about the season,” said Siedlecki. “When we finished our game against Stonehill, we were sitting in the lobby outside the conference room [in Moore Field House]; nobody wanted to go in and take their jersey off, no one wanted the season to be over. That’s not 2-15, that’s not the way we felt, it felt like a really successful year. We got a lot better.”
Going into the 2020 season, the Owls are picked 11th in the NE10 Preseason Coaches Poll. Though this number may not jump off the paper, Siedlecki said that not being picked in the bottom three of the league is progress in and of itself, as other coaches around the league are taking note of what he is building here at Southern. They were picked to tie with American International for 11th and ahead of Saint Rose and Saint Michael’s. The Owls will be without their top two players from a year ago, as they lost defender Brianna Grande and attacker Samantha Cozzolino — their top scorer from a year ago — to graduation. However, this season they return a cast of 10 starters from last year’s roster, highlighted by attacker Karlie Rowe, a sophomore who was named to the NE10 All-Rookie Team with 35 goals, which is the most by an Owl freshman since 2015, as well as defenders Amanda Murray and Kendall Simmons, both seniors who were named captains this season and have put an emphasis on team bonding.
“Definitely having Kevin as our head coach made us open our eyes and see that lacrosse is so much more than the two hours you have on the field at practice,” Murray said. “Bonding with your team outside of lacrosse, having team dinners, doing book readings, looking to make your bed every day, which is something we’re really trying to focus on this year, achieving small tasks and small goals really make you a better, more well-rounded athlete.”
The goal this year for the team is to take that next step. That next step is not winning a conference championship this season. Rather, it is winning anywhere from five to eight games. With that goal in mind, the Owls look to keep their heads high and keep working hard despite what challenges this season may bring.
“Just being more confident in our play and our team and in each other is really important for us,” said Simmons. “Since we have been a growing program, it’s been hard to overcome the fact that we’ve lost a lot of games, so just being more confident and playing how we know we can play is kind of enough in itself.”
The Owls will open their season with a three game homestand at Jess Dow Field, beginning on Feb. 23 against Dominican College. Siedlecki expressed confidence in the goals set for 2020, as he had high praise for his experienced coaching staff and the team’s ability to be a tougher opponent in the NE10.
“The biggest thing is we are going to be more competitive,” Siedlecki said. “We want the whole league to take us seriously. We are here to be competitive and be respected in the league, and we have to start with that with being picked 11th instead of 14th. We’ve always been in the bottom two, and we’re 11th this year so that’s better.”