New coach, new era starts strong on defense

It is a new era, a new regime and a new philosophy for the St. Luke's boys lacrosse program.

So with that transition, there are some kinks to be worked out. Most notably, the entire offense.

The Crusaders traveled to New Haven Monday afternoon to play Hopkins, a game they lost in the final minutes, 3-2.

It wasn't that they lost, just the way it happened, that alarmed new head coach Austin Freeman.

With the score tied at 2, St. Luke's had possession of the ball and called timeout with a little more than two minutes remaining. Coming out of the timeout, it lost possession, which led to Hopkins getting down the field, finding the right mismatch and firing a shot from more than 20 feet out that skipped past sophomore goalie Adam Connolly.

"We had the ball and we called a timeout to run a specific play," Freeman said. "Then we lost it, they were able to clear it all the way down the field. Our first line of middies was out there and they were a little bit tired. Hopkins got it to their best player, he was guarded by one of our long poles, and we got into a pick situation."

That situation ended up giving St. Luke's chasing, and its midfielders couldn't catch up in time for the shot.

The positive that came from the game, according to Freeman, was the impressive defensive outing.

"We had a good effort out of our goalie and our defense played solidly," he said. "We weren't outstanding, but solid. We had a lot of trouble controlling the ball, but so did they and I think we were the better team. We just beat ourselves."

St. Luke's got its goals from Brian Williams, who put it between the pipes with 3:05 left in third, and Peter Baritz, who scored with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Jack Henson had the two assists on each goal.

Hopkins got on the board first, scoring with 9:20 remaining in the first quarter. It put one past Connolly, who had 13 saves, with 44:3 left in second before going nearly two quarters without scoring. The new man at the helm for this program said his team played well in the middle -- it was the beginning and the end that lacked execution.

"We addressed opening up with effort," Freeman said. "Our gameplan was to strike first and come early at them, and that didn't happen. With our level of play it took us at least a quarter to get into the game. Ground balls definitely hurt us. We practice on turf, not that that's an excuse at all, but they play on a grass field and we just didn't come through with the ground balls."

St. Luke's had 17 ground balls; Hopkins had 39.

"That will be a big point of emphasis from here on out," Freeman said.

When asked about the biggest positives from his first big test on the road, Freeman praised his team defense up and down the field and the way Connolly played in goal. The three defenders -- co-captain Jessup Daniel, Blake Overlander and Daniel Chung -- were the anchor for St. Luke's and kept the team within striking distance all afternoon.

And while it's not likely to get here overnight, the 30-year-old Freeman believes the offense is on its way.

Prior to taking over for Kevin Anthony, Freeman coached at the JV level at St. Luke's last season and was an assistant at Wilton for three years. He played two years apiece at Hobart and Washington College (in Maryland).

"We're a young team," Freeman said. "We're starting just a couple of freshman out there and an eighth-grader. With a new coaching staff we're trying to put in new systems and the boys aren't used to running the types of offenses and defenses."