By Kevin Carroll — SPORTS EDITOR
It’s been a bit of an up-and-down year for the Hofstra men’s lacrosse team, currently sitting at 7-4, with a 1-1 record in the CAA. After opening the season with two victories over ranked opponents in the University of North Carolina, Princeton and a beatdown of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the Pride has come back down to earth, playing .500 lacrosse over its last eight games. This past week, I sat down with head coach Seth Tierney to talk about the season.
Kevin Carroll: You opened up conference play with a tough loss to Fairfield, how are you bouncing back from that one?
Seth Tierney: Certainly, that loss hurt. We didn’t play as well as we could; we had a couple of guys that didn’t have the game they hoped they were going to have, and in return we came up one goal short. Hopefully, we’ve learned from that.
KC: You started out the season in possibly the best way you could have: knocking off North Carolina. Talk a little bit about the emotions going into that game and how you felt after that win.
ST: Yeah, it was a pretty wild trip. We went down there, the flight was great, and we had a great pregame practice. We had a good night at one of our team member’s house, who lived pretty close to North Carolina. Then we started to play, and one thing led to another, and things are rolling in your direction. To get a win like that, in your first game of the season, it certainly was an emotional high. Guys were playing with some confidence, and it led to two other wins the next couple of wins, we were 3-0. It’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster, with some really high highs and a couple of low lows. We’ve got to manage that emotion.
KC: In the losses against Georgetown and Providence, the losses that maybe we didn’t expect, what do you think was going wrong for the team out there?
ST: Just one thing led to another. In the first loss, against Georgetown, they were 0-3 and we were 3-0, and they played harder than we did. It’s hard as a coach to say that, but the truth is the truth. They were playing like a 0-3 team, and we were playing like a relaxed 3-0 team. The game got away from us, we ran out of time. In the Providence game, they jumped on us early. We go down 5-0, it becomes a difficult task.
KC: Even with some of those losses, it’s certainly been a very successful season, coming off last year, which wasn’t so successful. Heading into the offseason, what did you stress to your team, and what did you work on more to get ready for this season?
ST: I wanted to take the importance of last year, and bring it into this year, and then I wanted to cut everything else loose because this time, we needed to make our own story for this year. With that being said, we just needed to cut it loose and start again. To be honest with you, those guys did a great job of it. We had a decent fall, they came back and worked hard; it was great leadership. Like you said, it’s been a pretty successful season so far. We would like to have a couple of those games back but, after 10 games with some of the wins we have, we know we could be a very good team. We just have to go out and prove it.
KC: Sam Llinares, CAA Preseason Player of the Year. He has certainly lived up to that billing. He’s got 21 goals this year, having a heck of a season. What do you think of his performance this year?
ST: He’s playing well, I think he could even take it up a notch. He’s been battling some injuries and setbacks, and that’s hurt him a little bit. He’s a senior, he’s technically got four games left in his career, hopefully there’s more than that with the CAA playoffs if we could get into those. Hopefully, he could put those things aside. It’s hard, playing this kind of sport banged up. It’s not an easy thing.
KC: Sam was drafted earlier this year, did you give him any advice about how to spend his last couple games before heading off into the pros?
ST: Yeah, just pushing the pile. Be great, have fun, play fast and make sure that you don’t have any regrets. Don’t leave any plays on the table.
KC: Sam was maybe expected to be the top guy on offense, but there’s been a four-man attack on offense with Llinares, Josh Byrne, Brian von Bargen and Korey Hendrickson, last game especially. Was that something you expected or were you a little surprised by the production of these guys?
ST: I think we’ve always expected it, and for one reason or another, those guys have had things that they’ve gone through. We’re certainly thrilled that von Bargen, Hendrickson and Byrne have all come up and done their job and have had great years, along with Llinares. We need a little bit more from the other guys, the Trevor Kupeckys and the Dylan Aldermans and the Brendan Kavanaghs and the Zach Francos. If we could get a little more from those guys, then maybe we could make a run at this thing.
KC: The offense has been very strong, and so has been the play in net, with Jack Concannon back there in goal. Another guy we weren’t sure about coming into this season, getting his first starts in net for the Pride, and he has performed spectacularly this season. What do you think of his performance so far?
ST: Jack’s been playing really well. I think he’d like to have a couple goals back, maybe a game back. To his credit, first time playing just about every minute of every game, he has made the saves that he’s supposed to make, and he has stolen a couple. He’s done a god job with that. I’m proud of him.
KC: Josh Byrne transferred in from Nassau Community College and he’s been a bit of a human highlight reel this season, scoring goals that you can’t see coming. He even made SportsCenter one time. What do you think that excitement brings to the team? He’s certainly been a sparkplug.
ST: He’s an electric player. He’s got the ability; he’s got unbelievable hands. He could do things with a lacrosse stick that a lot of guys can’t. He’s been a bit disappointed; in three of our four losses Josh has been held scoreless. They’ve been focused on him. We need him to not be held scoreless in those scenarios and he knows it. He’s a playmaker, a guy that likes to score the lacrosse ball, and he likes to share it as well.
KC: You played a pretty tough nonconference schedule with teams like Ohio State, Stony Brook, North Carolina and Princeton. How does that tough nonconference slate of games help prepare you for the CAA schedule?
ST: There’s not that many people that get these at-large bids, outside of the teams from the ACC, so we load up. Some coaches, they want to get “this record” … I just want to be prepared for the CAA and that’s what we need to do. I have some regrets over the Fairfield game, maybe we get a chance to play them again, hopefully. We’ll see how it goes. Now, what we learned from that nonconference schedule, we could put it to good use.
KC: It’s a short conference schedule, only five total games, much shorter than other college sports. It makes every game that much more important. How do you stress that to your team?
ST: Yeah, they know how it works. In other sports in the CAA, they take every team, and every team plays in the playoffs. Here, they just don’t do that. It’s one of those scenarios where you know you have to be able to get three, four, five wins. You’ve got to take care of business. This is the time of the year where the better teams have got to take care of business.
KC: Going forward, what do you think the team has to work on in order to make it to the playoffs and win the CAA?
ST: Anger. They’ve got to be angry. They’ve got to remember a bit of the CAA last year. We were tied for fourth in the CAA last year, and we were the team that got left out due to a tiebreaker. We’ve got to remember that and remind our guys.
KC: Where do you see this team at the end of the season?
ST: I see them fighting for a CAA championship. You know, we get a little bit of confidence going at this part of the year. We learn from our losses, learn from our wins, and now it’s time to put it all together.