Bates Bobcast Episode 144: Facilities upgrades, NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships preview
On the latest Bobcast, we discuss some exciting facilities upgrades at Bates with Assistant A.D. for Facilities and Club Sports Scott Lehmann! Plus, we preview the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. All that and more...
Interviews this episode:
- 1:02 -- Ayden Eickhoff '19, Brendan Donahue '20 and John Rex '21, NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships preview.
- 17:40 -- Scott Lehmann, Assistant A.D. for Facilities and Club Sports.
- 27:51 -- Jon Martin, Head Coach, Baseball (NESCAC Coach of the Year).
- 36:00 -- Peter Lasagna, Head Coach, Men's Lacrosse.
Aaron: This is the Bates Bobcast. Our weekly podcast where we take a look at the week that was, in Bates athletics. My name is Aaron Morse and this week we’re previewing the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Plus, a look at facilities upgrades with Assistant A.D. for Facilities and Club Sports Scott Lehmann. All that and more, coming up, on the Bates Bobcast!
Aaron: The Bates track and field program is sending three Bobcats to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships this Thursday through Saturday in Geneva, Ohio. For the women, senior captain Ayden Eickhoff is seeded second in the 1,500-meter run. On the men’s side, long-time friends junior captain Brendan Donahue and sophomore John Rex will compete in the decathlon and the hammer throw respectively. All three Bobcats joined the Bobcast to preview the last track and field meet of the year.
Aaron: Well, John, we're going to start with you because, we had Brendan on last week, and he mentioned that, something I did not know, that you two scooped ice cream together when you were in high school in New Hampshire. And, he said, you just walked in one day, and they hired you to do it, and you became fast friends. How did it happen from your perspective?
John: I've been going up to Wolfeboro my whole life, and there's this ice cream shop that's always been in town, and I wanted to work at it. So, I knew of the boss through just living there my whole life, and we were also very frequent customers, so I just reached out to her, and then, she interviewed me, I got a job. When I walked in, the first person, and that was Brendan. I was thinking earlier to myself, I didn't even ... I met Brendan in my junior year of high school, or going into my junior year, and I didn't even think that I was going to do track in college at that point. So, it's crazy to now be going to nationals together, and then ... It would be crazy to go back into that time period, and saying, "Hey, did you know we're going to go to nationals together in three, four years."
Aaron: I understand Brendan really sold you on Bates a little bit there, 'cause he's a year older?
John: Yeah. Yeah, certainly, I had a lot more incentive going to Bates knowing one of my best friends is there. He definitely persuaded me a bit, and also I think I've mentioned this before, but my college counselor is also a Batesee, so I had a lot of push to Bates and I also really liked it.
Aaron: And then, Brendan, what did you tell coach Fresh about John, 'cause coach Fresh tells me that you sold him on him?
Brendan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Johnny is one of the most raw athletic people I've ever encountered. The kid can do back flips just willy nilly, and he also can tumble. He can even tumble better than some cheerleaders that I know, which is pretty impressive feat. And, I just thought that, a lot of times he hadn't given the opportunity he deserved in college, or particularly in high school, excuse me, in terms of athletics, and I think that he needed a coach who was going to encourage him, and then take the ability that he had to the next level. And he's a very dedicated, hard working kid, so it's just, Fresh is the perfect guy for him. And so I was like, "You should maybe reach out if this is something you're interested in."
Brendan: In terms of him coming here, that was on its own merits. I'd like to say that I played a part, but the reality is, I lucked out so I can go to college with one of my good friends.
Aaron: Great, great. And, also we got three folks who are going to nationals. Ayden, you've decided this year to run the 1500, instead of the 800, take us through that process of decision making.
Ayden: Yeah. I originally was going to do the 800. That was my plan about a couple of weeks ago. And, I have always wanted to break that 210 barrier, and thought this would be the year. And, essentially, I ran a pretty fast 1500 at opens, and the conversation really just changed going forward, where being highly ranked was an advantage. So, we decided that the 1500 has a little bit more rest, I have some some leg speed that a few of the others may not have for that final 100, especially if they're coming down from a 5K or longer distances, and I'm going up from more mid-distance. So, we just decided and went with it. But I do always think, "What if?" So, we'll see how this week goes.
Aaron: Well, some people might not understand track. We might be like, "Why not run both races? Why not run both races?
Ayden: It's possible, and I think there are at least two people I know who are doing the double. And, for me, I just wanted to take some time to really enjoy this trip, and not be stressed every day. Having four races, potentially four races, really takes a physical toll, but I think, for me, it more takes a mental toll where I'm thinking, "Oh, how am I going to get to this next race? I feel very tired." And then that stress, sort of, it has a feedback mechanism. So I really, I wanted to pick just one, and really focus on that.
Aaron: We got one event, the 1500, we got one event, the hammer throw, we got 10 events over here, the decathlon. Brendan, how are you going about this week? I know you're all leaving pretty early, tomorrow. We're recording this on Monday, or tomorrow at noon, it's Tuesday. So, what's your approach to this week here?
Brendan: I mean, it's an experience, and I'm lucky to be able to go down with these two. And I'm super excited to be able to compete at the national stage. Also looking forward to competing with another guy from USM. There's him and three of us from New England. So we're feeding off either those guys' energy will be fun, when the time comes around. At the end of the day, it's just relying on all the training that I've done throughout the year, and just having confidence in the fact that I'm in a good stage to be competing with these guys. So, I'm really looking forward to my first opportunity.
Aaron: And you told me, there are 10 events, is hammer one of them?
Brendan: Unfortunately, no.
Aaron: So no overlap.
Brendan: Although in the winter, I tried to convince Johnny to do a secret weight throw session with me, but he declined, and that was probably for the best.
Aaron: You two do work together or somewhat, because he does some throwing events, right?
Aaron: What's that like?
John: It's awesome. It's awesome when Brendan ... Brendan always starts with decathlon early, so I get to watch him, and give him some pointers as well in between his throws, because I usually get to watch a lot of his throws because, I compete after him. It's definitely awesome having ... And honestly, Brendan's a good thrower. He's not just a decathlete who throws. He could be a thrower at Bates, and he's made a lot of significant jumps, especially this year in the javelin, in the discus, and the shot put, he just keeps getting better. So, it's awesome to see that, and I love helping him through the throwing events in the deck. It's awesome.
Aaron: Great. And for you, personally, how's the hammer been progressing this year for you?
John: It's been good. It's one of those things that you think it's a lot of aggression and rage that goes in to the throw, but the hammer throw is different because it's more of a patience and relaxation. There's a lot of patience and relaxation in the event itself. And then, that's where it's different from the shot put and the discus. And, really, all three of the events are different, but, hammer has been going really well this year. And it's one of those events where, just with more reps, you get more comfortable in the throw. I've certainly gotten to the point where I'm not specifically trying to keep my footwork tight and smooth, but that's just becoming second nature. So, that's a really good feeling.
Aaron: Excellent. Well, we got sophomore, junior and senior here. Ayden, this will be your final meet at Bates. What are your thoughts on that, and obviously coming right back for graduation?
Ayden: Yes. I actually have my last track workout today, which I haven't fully worked through, but I am just so excited to be able to travel with people, but especially these people. They have been so, so supportive throughout my season and my career, but it's going to take me some time to transition, and there really will be finding how running is going to fit later into my life, but I'm really, really excited to be able to end my Bates career on this note.
Aaron: Brendan, Ayden mentioned that you two have been very supportive. What's it like seeing her, what she's been doing this year?
Brendan: Oh, I mean, it's awesome. You look for leaders on this team, and in this program, especially over the past three years for me. I was very intimidated by Ayden at first, not because of her personality, she's the most genuine, sweetest human being I know, but the reality is, she's very competitive, and she's a great athlete, and gives it her all in every race, and that's been a real testament to see as I try to embody that when I run. I'm not a great runner, but also just having those distance runners and mid distance runners to look up to and be like, "Hey, if Ayden can run a 4:30, I can try to break five. That's been awesome to watch as a leader on this team. Definitely, something I look at, is seeing her the way she's led this team the past few years.
Aaron: It's interesting, 'cause obviously, men's team, Al's the head coach, women's team, Jay's the head coach, but John, it seems like there is a lot of overlap in terms of working out together, especially, I imagine, among the throwers.
John: Yeah, definitely. I mean, the throwers are just one big family. All the guys and the girls all throw together. Katie and Genesis are some of my really good friends. And, I wish we had more girl throwers, but only two, and soon to ... No, actually, we'll have some more next year, I'm sure. But, it's awesome. I love the girl's team, Ayden's great, and like Brendan was saying, she's just someone who's so inspirational. And, out of the three of us, Ayden's going into nationals with the highest seed, and a very high seed, and that's only something ... And also to be a high seed in the 800s as well, was just a really incredible feat, and she's just always does the right thing, and has just been an incredible leader. And, it's amazing, because she tries to keep it low key, but I know that, deep inside, she really loves the sport.
John: And, she goes into a race, she knows who she's racing with, who she needs to beat. She knows all about her competitors going into the race. She been awesome this year, and in the years past, and I'm glad I got to get closer to her this year. And, I think for Brendan and I, we can only aspire to be as awesome as she is.
Aaron: Well, Ayden, John mentioned that you know about all your competitors. Who are some of the competitors you got to watch out for this weekend?
Ayden: Probably the top ranked person in the 1500 is Emily Bryson of Brandeis. And, she has just really, really led the New England sort of mile 1500 for this entire year. And, has run quite a few seconds faster than me, but just has this quiet, very powerful energy when she runs. So, she's definitely someone I'm basically trying to stick to for as long as possible. That's how I think of her. And the other that I've competed a lot with, as we've talked about, is Anna Passannante, I believe, is how it's pronounced. And she is so nice, but it's also someone we always end up point 0 something, either way, in every single one of our races. She is one of the athletes doing the double, so it'll be very interesting to see. But she did it in indoor, and she did a very well in indoor. So, it's a tough field, especially from the New England side.
Aaron: And John mentioned the high seed, you have been the two seed, right?
Ayden: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Aaron: So, top eight, get All-American, but at this point, you have to be thinking about more than just top eight, right?
Ayden: That is my strategy with the Brandeis athlete. I'm just ... We'll see. It's easy for me to think, "Oh, maybe I'll try to out kick somewhere at the end.", but she is just so strong that she doesn't need that kick necessarily. And runs really fast, 800, but she just has it the whole time. She has that pace. Where I might try to save a little bit for the end, she doesn't seem like she needs to as much. But, I am looking at potentially, a top three finish, and that's really exciting for me.
Aaron: Excellent. And Brendan, for you, for your goals, your first trip to nationals. These two have been before. This is your first trip. So, what's going through your mind in terms of what you would be satisfied with, I guess, this weekend?
Brendan: I mean, honestly, the nature of the decathlon in any multi event is to continue to PR in each event. So, cumulatively, I like to PR again, but in terms of just gaining experience, that's huge. But beyond that, there's a lot of mobility in terms of the guys from 17th all the way up to ninth. So, really just beat my seed as much as possible. That's the reality. Mobility is key, especially in this event.
Aaron: I've been told before it's hard to PR at nationals. I don't know if you guys agree with that assessment, or what your thoughts are. I know in throws, we've had some big PRs in the past, when, such as David Pless stands out when he was a sophomore.
John: I think it can be hard to PR at nationals. It can be hard to perform in general at nationals if you let the competition get to you, or if you completely ignore the competition. You have to find this perfect balance in between being nervous, but also channeling those nerves, and taking that energy, and putting it into your performance. And, I think that can either make or break you, as an athlete, on the big stage. And, at least, for me, I think indoors, I was a little too relaxed at nationals, just because I didn't put any pressure on myself, but now, I think as an athlete, I take the nerves, and that's when I do well when my channel it into my performance. And, I'm definitely looking to do that as I go, again, this the second trip, and I think, also, it'll just be a different experience. I'm a little bit of a higher seed this time. I can see top eight more in striking range, than I did indoors, and that's a really good feeling. And I definitely ...
John: It's tough because, I haven't had the greatest progression this season, I PR'd very early on, and haven't PR'd since, but I've been very consistent. And, I'm a firm believer in the fact that you need to get worse before you get better, and I've made a lot of adjustments, a lot of changes in my throw that, I think long term, will serve me better purpose. So hopefully, that all clicks, so we can get after it.
Aaron: Excellent. Well, any other thought for each of you on NCAA is coming up? We'll start with Ayden.
Ayden: Yeah, well, to speak to how hard it is to PR at nationals, especially in some of the running events. It really comes down to strategy, and it really depends on if you're running for your time, or you're running for your place, and sometimes you don't get to make that choice necessarily, for the 1500 prelim, the top four from each heat progress, and then the next four times total. So, ideally, if you get that fourth spot, do you do the least amount of work to make it to the final, and that is some people's entire strategy going into it, versus, "I really need to PR to get into the final." Which, it really just depends on where you're seeded, and how the race plays out. But, it certainly becomes a nerves thing, a strategy thing, and just being able to react to the environment.
Aaron: And Brendan, your final thoughts on the nationals coming up here.
Brendan: Yeah. I mean, a huge part of it for me is just composure, generally speaking. I understand that, you can get intimidated, I can feel like I'm laid back at the meet, but the reality comes, I'm going to be competitive. And, I'm just excited for another opportunity to compete. And, we'll see where it goes.
John: I'm really excited. Indoors, I was all alone. I was the only guy. I had Ayden, but, I didn't have Brendan. I'm super excited to be on nationals with Brendan and Ayden. It's just a really good squad, and I know whatever happens, we're all going to be there for each other. We're all going to be supportive, and it's going to be a really good time, really positive experience.
Aaron: With spring sports coming to a close at the end of the month, the Department of Athletics is hard at work to make the student-athlete experience even better next fall, with a variety of projects scheduled for completion over the summer. Assistant A.D. for Facilities and Club Sports Scott Lehmann discusses some of the changes we can expect to see.
Aaron: Scott, first of all, before we get into the facilities, tell me a little about your background. You were at Towson previously, but not working in athletics. What attracted you to come to Bates, and you were in athletics before, and then to reenter here almost a year ago?
Scott: Yeah, I've been at Bates for about a year, and I'm currently the assistant athletic director of facilities and recreation. So, I've got my hands in a lot of different areas across athletic operations, and all of the recreation, club sports, intramural side. And my background is a big mixture of both, in that, I started out in athletics at a division one school, worked at a division three, and a division two school, all in athletics. And then I went to Towson University where I was at for about four years, and was the assistant director of facilities in their campus recreation department, which was separated from athletics. But while I was there, we did open a 100,000 square foot expansion of our recreation facilities. So, I have a strong background in facility, projects, facility management.
Scott: And, then coming to Bates, it was getting to be back in athletics. I'm a competitive person. I enjoy the game day atmosphere. I enjoy working more with students and student athletes. And then, I get to do the best of both worlds of athletics and recreation. And then, it was just a different experience within Maine, within a small liberal arts school, which is unlike any other school I've been at. And then, the opportunity to come in and transform, and develop, and grow some of the operations, and some of the, definitely the facilities, and make some improvements.
Aaron: So, you've been at every level, division one, division two, division three. What are some similarities, differences you've noticed over those times?
Scott: It's very, very different. I'd say, a lot of the schools I've been at have been public versus the private small liberal arts schools. And so, your campus culture is definitely different, your amount of resources, but then also, the collaboration. At the bigger schools, division one level, your job is very singularly focused. You're there to do one thing, and one thing only, whereas at these division three schools, everybody has their hand in a lot of different things, which makes it more interesting. You get to have a wider impact. You get to collaborate more across campus, be involved in a lot more, interact with more people. And so, the day to day is a little bit more exciting and engaging, versus just doing a one task all the time.
Aaron: Sure. And obviously, you were spearheading these projects we have coming up, starting with the nitty gritty, sports medicine, Merrill Gym, needed a little bit more space to do their work. We have a great staff here. It's a expanded staff now, but you saw obviously a need for more space. How did that all develop?
Scott: Yeah, so that came around from the administration doing an external review of our sports medicine program, and realizing that the safety, and the experience of the student athletes within our sports medicine just wasn't being met, wasn't up to the standard. And, when I started and Nick Cooke, our assistant athletic director of athletic performance started, that was one of the first things that the administration talked to us about was, "How can we get some more space here?" And it's not just space to just do some taping, or just offices, it's space to truly provide care, and rehabilitation, and treatment, and physical therapy to student athletes and club sport athletes at a much higher level, much better quality. And rather than just doing this care after they get hurt, it's a lot more of the preventive care, taking initiative ahead of time to get people prepared for their seasons.
Scott: And so, we looked heavily at where could we possibly expand this, and, Nick Cooke was very firm in that, he wanted to have a home for athletic training, rather than being spread out across our three facilities. So we focused on Merrill, and how we could create that. More square footage, more treatment and rehab space for all the student athletes to come in and meet with the sports medicine staff.
Aaron: And that's getting creative, repurposing the recreational squash court, which obviously, is not necessarily needed, because the squash team has their courts. I know they've had it for a number of years now.
Scott: Yeah, it was a difficult decision to take away a recreational squash and racquetball court in Merrill that ... There are definitely some users on campus, but we are strapped for space all over the place, and so, we evaluated the usage, the impact, formulas based on amount of users per square foot, and we looked at all of that, and what our alternatives are, and realized that this was the best space in order to have it here in Merrill, give us the amount of space we needed without having to build something new, or completely repurpose something. So, overall, this was the best option.
Aaron: Well, speaking of getting creative. The new turf surface is coming to Underhill. When it's not hockey season, it's going to be turf, and that's going to really benefit everyone, isn't it?
Scott: Yeah. I can't remember if it was my idea, or if somebody inserted this into my brain, but Underhill is one of the most underutilized buildings on campus. It's used for months out of the year for an ice arena, and then it just sits there like a bunch of concrete. And we really looked at, "What can we do with this space to make it more multi purpose, get a lot more teams in there, a lot more use out of it?" And, I heard about some modular turf, which is, it comes in these turf tiles. You can put it down like a puzzle, and then whenever you want to take it up, you just take them up and store them away.
Scott: And this will allow us to have a year round use of that space. It's 18,000 square feet, it can be used for every everything we do, which is the varsity sports clubs, intramurals, fitness, just open recreation. We can bring in some outside groups, PE classes, whatever we need. We now have a 12 month facility to use for our operations.
Aaron: I'm sure the varsity teams are already looking forward to book space in there, aren't they?
Scott: Absolutely. Everybody's going to be scrapping at the bit, I'm sure. But, it's not only going to give us more opportunity to do stuff in there, but it's going to free up then, space in our other buildings, from the gray cage, to Merrill Gym, to some of the outdoor spaces. We now will be able to take on more teams, more groups, to be able to do more things, more opportunities for recreation. And so, it's just going to transform everything we do.
Aaron: And then, this fall, the soccer teams play on Russell Street Field. They're going to have a whole nice new surface, aren't they?
Scott: Absolutely. Yeah, sports fields specialties is going to be putting in some new natural grass for us. It's a Maine based, Maine grown grass surface, so they're going to strip it down, and put in some new sod throughout the summer. And this really was stemmed from, not only just having a competitive facility that plays well, but it's also a safety thing. The field was old, it had a lot of divots. I mean, it was tough to keep up with it. And, we're able to do this now, to give our soccer teams a truly competitive soccer field.
Aaron: Certainly. And then, back to indoors, actually, Davis Street Fitness Center, which is in Underhill. That's obviously a great spot for athletes to train everything, but it's going to get a little bit of a makeover as well, isn't it?
Scott: Yeah, we're going to do as much as we can in there with limited space and limited equipment, but we're going to be pulling out some of the cubbies, and putting in some different day use lockers in a different location, so we can open up the space more, have some more of a functional training aspect to do TRX, wall slams with med balls, box jumps. And then, we're also going to be putting in a small section of turf, about 700 square feet of a short turf, in order to do all this functional training, and just different things for athletic performance, and strength and conditioning, and just give us a different element within there.
Aaron: So Underhill will be practically unrecognizable, when he will come back in the fall, you got the main arena with turf, and you got upstairs, the Davis Strett Fitness Center, also, with some renovations. And last, and I think, actually, probably the most exciting at least, for me, 'cause Alumni Gym at the center of campus, basketball games, obviously, huge. They have volleyball as well. The lobby is going to be quite the place to celebrate Bates Athletics, isn't it?
Scott: Absolutely. The lobby of Alumni Gym was in desperate need of a makeover. And last summer, we were able to redo the floor, and revitalate the gymnasium itself, and now, we needed the lobby to match. And so, we were able to completely renovate that space, all new flooring and finishes, give it a modern look, but also maintain that history of the building that was built in 1926. And so, the space looks incredible. It just wrapped up now. We have a beautiful trophy case, a beautiful kind of displays in there. And I think it'll really be a really good welcoming space, and gathering space for our staff, faculty, students, student athletes, their families and recruits.
Aaron: You've been doing double duty as an archivist here also, looking through some of the old trophies and stuff, right?
Scott: Absolutely, yeah. You don't realize how many trophies you have until you start digging through some boxes. We actually found a Maine state tennis championship from 1899 today, that we will have on display.
Aaron: Wow. For the team, or an individual, or what was it?
Scott: It was for the team, actually. Incredible.
Aaron: Nice. Long history, obviously, of sports here at Bates, going back to the 19th century there. Well, Scott, obviously, alumni, they probably listen to this, are wondering, you're doing all this, what's next on your plate? What else are you looking for, for the near future, maybe in a few years out?
Scott: We're always looking to make some improvements here. And, we're working with people across campus to just figure out how we can better utilize our spaces, make some updates, create a better student experience. I don't have any specific examples that I can share at the moment, but I'll tell you, our list is full, and we're always just looking for how we can better serve the students, and the student athletes, create that holistic health and wellness lifestyle, and then certainly, how we can create more competitive teams for our varsity sports.
Aaron: All right, Scott Lehmann, thank you so much.
Scott: Thank you.
Aaron: The Bates baseball team received a number of honors from the NESCAC, with junior captain catcher Jack Arend named first team All-NESCAC for the second straight year. Arend was also named the conference’s co-defensive player of the year. Junior pitcher Nolan Collins and sophomore outfielder Christian Beal also earned spots on the All-NESCAC first team. Capping off the honors, head coach Jon Martin was named the conference’s coach of the year after the Bobcats finished NESCAC East play with a 9-3 record, the best in team history.
Aaron: Coach, first of all, congratulations on earning NESCAC coach of the year. What does that honor mean to you, and what does that say about what the team did this season there in the NESCAC?
Jon: Well, it means a lot. I mean, I think anytime you get recognized for what you do every day, day in and day out, it's a good feeling, but for me, I mean, I think it just shows the effort, the determination, the passion that my players have, 'cause they're easy to coach. And, when they're easy to coach, and you're getting results that you want, and you're winning games, and the guys seem to be enjoying themselves, and enjoy coming to work every day, that's what makes it all work. So, when you win an award like that, it's great. It's a good feeling, but, I mean, it's all because of the players I have, and without them, none of this would be possible anyway.
Aaron: Well, speaking of those players, junior captain Jack Arend got NESCAC co-defensive player of the year along with first team NESCAC catcher. Obviously, he's a real vocal leader out there. What else did he bring to the table? His batting average obviously, went way up and that on base remained high.
Jon: Yeah, Jack ... I mean, he's one of the best players in the NESCAC. There's no doubt about it, if not the best all around. And, true leader. Has total passion for the game, loves baseball, plays hard, practices hard. Does the little things. Prepares himself mentally and physically every week to get ready. I mean, he's catching in almost every game, four out of five games at least, on the season. I mean, just his attitude, his presence alone is a huge factor in our success. And Jack, he's a first class guy off the field, and just knows that he's at Bates for a reason. And one of the big reasons he chose to come here, obviously, was academically, but he wanted to play baseball, and he wanted to help lead this team to places it's never been, and he's doing that now. So, he's a great one.
Aaron: Certainly. Nine and three in the NESCAC East this year, Christian Beal, sophomore coming from Miami, Ohio, and junior Nolan Collins, also first team All-NESCAC. I mean, Nolan looked ... I mean, he was just lights out, seemed like all year, and then Christian provides that spark you need, doesn't he?
Jon: Yeah, I mean, part of my philosophy when we're putting a team together is to be strong up the middle, and that starts with catcher, pitching, middle infield, and centerfield. Those need to be your best athletes, and best all around players on the field as much as possible. And Nolan, I mean, another one that I think, he's as good as any pitcher in this conference, and one of the best pitchers in the region, to be honest with you. And then Christian, I mean, defensively, he's very solid. Offensively, I mean, I think he hit .370 this year, great year, offensively. And, he's a spark plug. I mean, he's got an attitude, he's got a little bit of swagger out on the field.
Jon: And, I knew when it was a possibility that he could come to Bates, that I knew that we were going to get a player that had that kind of attitude, and provided that spark, and which I think we needed, coming off of the last year. All three of them are very deserving of those awards. They're great players. They paced us all year long. They pushed each other, they pushed the rest of the team. We're proud of them, and glad what they accomplished this year.
Aaron: And they're all coming back next year, which has got to be nice.
Jon: Absolutely. That's a good thing. So, it's nice to know that we've got all three of them, at least for another year.
Aaron: Now, you do have some seniors who are obviously big time contributors, whether it be Brendan Smith, Justin Foley on the mound, Justin White at the top of the order. What mark did you see these guys leave on the program during their time?
Jon: What a great group of guys. I got really lucky coming here inheriting this team with some just great kids. I knew that they had great energy, they loved to play, and obviously some talent. And these five guys, they only played one year for the previous coach, and three for me. They adapted well to the change. They brought a good attitude every day, even when things maybe weren't going their way. They still pushed, and were there for the team, and had a team mentality. And this year alone, I mean, they knew that this was their last year to try to do it, and to try to get back in the championships, and try to get as much accomplished as we could. And, even if maybe, at some point of the season, they weren't a starter, or they weren't an everyday player, they showed up every day with a good attitude, and they were really just a big part of our team leadership, and providing a fatherly figure, if you want to say, to some of the freshmen, and some of the first years, and some of the younger guys, to help them adapt coming to Bates.
Jon: And I'm really proud of them, the way they handled this year, and we reached our goal to play postseason baseball, which was a big deal for me, and for them. And i think the world of these guys. They're a great group.
Aaron: The other two seniors I didn't mention, obviously the closer, Alex Simon, captain, and Dan Truly as well, who play a little bit different role this year, but did you see him mentor Gotti a little bit there at the corner?
Jon: Yeah. Dan's just ... I mean, he's a first class individual all the way around. Good player. I mean, he's had a good career. Obviously, his senior year didn't go as everyone had hoped, or he had hoped, but he still was a huge factor in our success, and got a good chunk, 'cause he had at bats this year, and just, was a great teammate. And, I mean, I think he handled everything terrifically. He's an awesome human being. He's going to be very successful, obviously, in whatever he chooses to do. And, Simon as well, bullpen pitcher for us. He came in in the pressure spots late in games. I'm sure he wanted to get some starter innings in bulk, or more of a bulk of an innings as he pitched this year, but he came in those pressure spots and did a great job for us.
Aaron: Certainly. Well, obviously, the season ended, a couple tough games there in the NESCAC tournament. Honestly, both those games the final score, very misleading, I thought. It was a neck and neck game for about seven out of the nine innings, right?
Jon: Yeah. I think ... I mean, one of these years, we're going to figure out how to do this thing. We just didn't get it done. I don't really know how else to say it. I don't really care what the score was with it. I mean, it can be just as devastating, you lose two to one in 15 innings as it can be to get blown out. So, it doesn't really matter. When you give a tournament play a loss is a loss, a win is a win. Doesn't matter how you do it, you just got to get the job done. So, we'll be back soon enough, I know, with a clean slate, and we'll go at it again.
Aaron: What do you say to your team after that Middlebury game there in Waterville?
Jon: You just tell them that we accomplished a lot this year, and the ending is not the body of work, it's everything that we did from the beginning of the year. So, I just thank all the seniors, and thank the guys and told them our expectations this year were what they were, and we reached those expectations. But, playing postseason baseball, for me and for this program, is every year. That's an expectation. That's how I'm going to measure our win and loss success on the field, is if, are we playing in the postseason, was a chance to win something significant or not. And we've been able to do it my first three years here. So, I think that that's the standard now, is that, we expect to get in the NESCAC tournament, and have a chance to win a championship.
Aaron: Jon Martin, thanks so much.
Jon: All right. Thank you.
Aaron: Bates men’s lacrosse captains Matt Chlastawa, Rocco Fantoni and Curtis Knapton earned All-NESCAC and All-New England in a year that saw the Bobcats finish with an overall record of 10-5. Bates has won 10 or more games in four of the last five years. Head coach Peter Lasagna recaps the season.
Aaron: Coach, the NESCAC, we always talk about how strong it is. It might have been the strongest it's ever been this season. I don't know what your thoughts are on that, 'cause we clearly saw some amazing elite teams this year.
Peter: I think, not just my bias, or our bias as people that know this league really well. I think the performances in the NCAA tournament bear it out, Aaron, and as I just observed to one of my players in a year end meeting, had they seeded the tournament differently, we might have seen three or four NESCAC teams in the final four. I think the league is remarkably strong, and I think, maybe this helps ... It won't be us, because we're going to make sure we know our fate before we walk into that room a year from now, but if God willing, there is a another NESCAC team on the bubble next year, that would be the fifth NESCAC team in, maybe they get in next year, because of what happened this year.
Aaron: Going in after the season ended, will you consider Bates being on the bubble, or are you pretty much ... I mean, do you guys watch the selection show and, or anything like that?
Peter: We did. We were clearly on the bubble. And, a lot of it had to do with our strength of schedule. We had one of the top strength of schedules in the country. We also had no bad losses. Did it help us to get pounded the way we did against Amherst? It did not. Especially because, that first game, we were both fighting for home field in the NESCAC, and so, for us, it was like, this was our day to make our stand, and they just were a lot better than us on that day. But, I mean, we were clearly on the bubble. We were right there, and we just, unfortunately, we surrendered our fate to other people by not beating Williams Tufts or Amherst.
Peter: Had we won any one of those games, I think, we're probably in a very different spot. But because we didn't, we then became dependent on other people to win, and we needed all the favorites to win. So, as soon as we saw, especially, the centennial league results, that gave me an idea that we might be in trouble.
Aaron: Now, the games you touched on, the teams you touched on, really, the only team where it wasn't really close was the Amherst games. What about Amherst this year particularly, made them such a tough matchup, you thought?
Peter: I am still trying to figure that out. I think they played extraordinarily well on the days that we played them. Just about everything that could go right for them did, and not many things went right for us. I also think, just because they play our game, or we play theirs, and they have really extraordinarily great athletes and coaches to do it with, that it may be, that in the future, while I don't feel this way, necessarily, about Tufts, 'cause we've experienced beating Tufts in a shootout. Since 2017, we have not experienced beating Amherst in a shootout. And so, it may be that we have to adjust our style a little bit. We're still going to play fast, but maybe we're going to be a little bit more aware of the shot clock. and quality shots against them, but we'll figure that. I just ...
Peter: Like I said, I think most of it is how they played, but I also think that, when you're Bates, and you take so much pride, and you invest so much energy in playing the style that's really been successful for us, when somebody else is beating you with that style, I do think it makes you play different, and I think it makes you a little bit tighter. And so, in the first quarter of the second game, we were right where we thought we're going to be, and we'd made some adjustments that helped us, I think, on both sides of the ball. And I thought we all stood there at the end of the first quarter going, "This is what we thought it was going to be against Amherst, and be a great 18-17, 2019 game." And then, they went on a run, as they do, and we didn't react great.
Aaron: You touched on meeting with the players after the season, and kind of go over some things. What are these meetings typically like?
Peter: They're really rewarding and really valuable. While my door is open, and my players all know that, to have a prescribed period of time, where we know that the only mission is to communicate openly and honestly for the minutes that they're in here, I always learn a lot. I learn a lot, including some things that I don't know that are going on with them, either academically or personally, or the fact that we have a bunch of really great guitar players on our team, it turns out. But it also allows me to listen, and allows us to develop action plans together, which is really, really helpful.
Aaron: Matt Chlastawa, obviously, your headliner this year for Bates. Obviously, teams were focused on him, so he racked up the assists, all time assist leader now. he's going to be a senior next year, but, what about his game really, you saw, take to the next level this year?
Peter: Well, you just started me in a great place. I think we all looked at Matt last year, and went, "Matt, you had a really phenomenal opening year, but you were also surrounded by a number of other All-Americans, and it turns out a bunch of the best players that we've had in the history of this program. Let's see what you do as a sophomore." And he proved to all of us that he could be pretty darn good with a little bit different surrounding cast. So, he did that again this year. And, I thought, stepped up his dodging game to really his best level, and just took on the mantle of responsibility. He was that much more responsible for our successful play, and I think that was all hugely positive, and I think the next place in any great attack men's evolution as a senior, but I think, especially Matt, with his teammates, and with our level of competition is, realizing that, "I don't have to do this myself."
Peter: And Matt would be the first one to admit that, we played our best lacrosse when that ball was just moving so fast, and nobody knew where it was going to end up. And I think, what happens if you're a great player, and I think it happened to Matt, I think it happened to Brett, I think it happened to Curtis, I think it happened to Jack Scribner, I think it happened to a lot of people. Probably Rocco on the defensive end, Eli facing off. I think, when we start to get really, really conscious of what I have to do to change this, I think we all start naturally playing differently. But I thought he had a sensational year, and part of my support for him as a potential All-American, and it's nice to see that his NESCAC peers and New England peers respect him so greatly is, his role on our team is different than Evan Wolf's on Amherst team, of an either Danny Murphy, or Ben Connelly on their team, than any of the attack men on Williams.
Peter: Matt's hugely responsible for how we go, and he understands that, we all understand that, but I was really, really proud of his year, and I look forward to having him be a senior.
Aaron: So obviously, on the defensive side, Rocco and Stephen, these guys have been stalwarts back there. They're seniors so they're graduating. Who are some guys who could possibly fill their shoes looking, going forward, perhaps?
Peter: Yeah, I don't know if we will ... I mean, those guys have such different games, but also such unique games. I think it's a little bit easier to try to think about who might replace Stephen, just 'cause Stephen, when you think Stephen, you just think incredibly solid, strong, physically strong, in great shape leader, communicator or leader. Rocco's got a really unique game, that fits really well with our style in terms of his ability to cause turnovers, ability to pick the ball up off the ground, and how important he is in our clearing game, and in our transition offensive game. So, I think that's a little bit hard to predict. But, I can also tell you then, in the last couple weeks of the season, and through short term here, seeing those young guys without the seniors at practice, so, "Start filling the holes, guys.", it's really exciting.
Peter: And to see some of the people obviously, I mean, Frankie Spitz out ... Frankie's a really important player for us. And having Frankie battle injury the way that he did, especially in the last quarter or third, or whatever that was, we really felt that. But, you saw Will Holland really step up.. I thought you saw some of the younger guys, it didn't necessarily translate into playing time, but I thought you saw Liam Orifici, and John Farrell, two first year guys, really, really, really step up. I think we've got great people competing. The other thing to remember is that, while Rocco and Stephen jump out at you, because they have been starting for a couple years, we also just graduate a lot of defensemen. And so, our tone, our manner, our personality was dominated at that in the field by those guys. And now we've got some young up and comers, quite honestly, Aaron, our biggest decisions are going to make, who's going to be our close defensemen, and who's going to be a pole?
Peter: We have a bunch of guys who can do both, and that's going to be really fun to watch. What I'm telling all of them, all the returners this summer is, play both. We'll figure it out when you get back.
Aaron: Sure.You look at where Bates is in the NESCAC right now, what are some areas of improvement you're really emphasizing for the team to get to that level of Tufts and Amherst like you were a few years ago?
Peter: Well, I think getting bigger and stronger has a whole lot to do with it. And, you look at those people ... Again, I know that I'm not the only person in those games that we played Amherst, where you just felt like, "Wow, there's another really fast guy running really fast." And so, we have to be faster, but we also, something that we really pointed to throughout the year, and that has been a huge point of emphasis for all of us since the season ended, is ground balls. And none of us, certainly not me, have ever been part of really successful lacrosse teams that were out round balled consistently. And we were out ground balled consistently. And, part of that goes to the face off game, where there are ... Somebody's winning and somebody's losing a ground ball every single time. But, it's way beyond that, and it's in your offensive end, and it's in your defensive end, and it's in the middle of the field.
Peter: And again, I believe being faster and stronger really impacts that number as well. And so, that's my quickest answer. Continue to get faster, continue to get stronger, take advantage of the fact that we have Mike Seltzer, who's a really extraordinary strength and conditioning guy, and we're going to continue to borrow from his genius. And we're also ... Quite honestly, the staff went and spent some time with the Yale staff preseason, and they're pretty famously doing some different things in strength and conditioning. So we are borrowing liberally from their plan.
Aaron: Well, did Yale have some faceoff guy who went all undefeated against Harvard or something crazy?
Peter: So, they have TD Ierlan, who has not just done that to Harvard, he's done that to a lot of people. And he transferred from Albany to Yale, and so, he was one of the most successful faceoff guys in the country for his first two years, and now, the defending national champion has TD Ierlan. So, TD was pretty damn good before he got to Yale, but he also has benefited from the Yale strength and conditioning program, I believe.
Aaron: Well, do you tell your faceoff guys to watch tape of D one guys, or it's not really applicable, perhaps?
Peter: We absolutely. We tell them to watch the best, whether they're in division three, or division two or division one, watch the people that are the most successful and learn from them.
Aaron: Great. Great. So, what are your thoughts on this past season, and do you see improvement from the previous year, and what are you most looking forward to, I guess, a little bit less than a year from now?
Peter: My most basic measure is, "Are we better than we were last year?" And we were better than we were last year. And, if you measure that in wins and losses, you check that box, to me, it was really important that we beat three NESCAC teams that we had not beaten here before. Because, to me, survival in this league is putting teams behind you one by one, and we did that in a really significant way, obviously, starting our NESCAC year by beating the defending national champion, and the team that was then ranked number one in the country, and the team, as you know, that had ended both our 2017 and 2018 seasons. That was something that I'm really proud of, and that really energized this program. And then playing ... Again, Middlebury has hurt us a couple times in the last few years as well. So being able to come out and play really, really strong lacrosse against both of those teams, I thought was huge.
Peter: And, again, winning seven games in the most competitive league in the country, maybe in the most competitive year of its existence, is really important, and really significant, and something to be really proud of. Having said that, we have really high standards in this program, as you know, and we want to get to the NCAA tournament every year, and we want to do damage in the NCAA tournament every year. So, not winning our way into the tournament was something that makes us all really motivated and really excited. And, I think, while the 2020 classes across the board, the NESCAC might demonstrate the most successful year that we all had in recruiting ever, but it's going to be a really exciting year. Amherst is going to hopefully win the national championship on Sunday, and we'll have another defending champ in this league, which would be really, really exciting for them and for this league.
Peter: But we know how good Amherst is going to be, we know how good Tufts is going to be, we know how good Williams is going to be. We believe we're going to be really good. And so, I'm really proud of the steps forward that we took this year, and I'm really excited about continuing to take steps forward next year, and get back to the NCAA tournament where we believe we will thrive.
Aaron: Peter Lasagna, thank you so much.
Peter: Thank you Aaron. I really appreciate it.
Aaron: Finally, an update on our women’s club Ultimate team, Cold Front. Cold Front traveled to College Station, Texas and encountered a heat wave, playing in temperatures that neared 100 degrees. But Bates still took second in the country for the second straight year, falling to Oberlin in the final.
Aaron: Next time on the Bates Bobcast, we’ll recap the NCAA Track and Field Championships. Plus a look back at the Bates tennis and women’s lacrosse seasons. And we’ll preview the NCAA Rowing Championships...the Bates women are going for their third straight title. Talk to you next week, on the Bates Bobcast!