By Matt Bradshaw —
It’s not easy being a college coach. You have to scout, recruit, train, condition, teach and a whole lot more to prepare your players for the rigors of tough competition.
Now imagine taking over a NCAA Division I Lacrosse Program, with little over a month to prepare. It’s a difficult task, and Scott Teeter carried it out with class for the Louisville Cardinals.
With a coaching vacancy at the end of 2017, U of L hired Teeter as its new lacrosse head coach. Teeter came from Canisius College in New York, where he led the Golden Griffins to six postseason championships and departed the winningest coach in MAAC history.
Teeter starting coaching the Cardinals full-time January of 2018. His first game hit one month later on Feb. 9.
“First year we hit the ground running. It was a quick turnaround taking the job and getting here full-time on Jan. 2,” Teeter said. “We managed to get six wins last year and I thought, all-in-all, it was a good year.”
Louisville finished the 2018 season with a 6-11 overall record, 0-8 in conference play. It marked the first stint since 2012 that Cardinals lacrosse finished with a losing record and broke a six-season streak of NCAA tournament appearances.
The end result does not say all, as U of L only lost its games by an average of 7.4 goals. The Cards lost one match, Virginia Tech, by one goal and find themselves in the toughest conference in the country.
“We battled. We were in every game,” Teeter said. “The ACC is definitely the marque conference and we can’t overlook one opponent to the other.”
Preseason polls rank seven of Louisville’s 2019 opponents in the top 20. This includes No. 1 Boston College and No. 3 North Carolina.
“Boston College was a great team last year, and we were beating them at halftime,” Teeter said. “We just have to string together 60 minutes, take one game at a time and use our non-conference schedule to prepare us for that level.”
It’s not surprising that the ACC is an avenue for top-notch lacrosse, as the conference features the best of the best across most sports. U of L has the talent to compete, and the best way to guide that talent to success is with leadership.
The Cardinals chose four veteran captains for 2019: Senior Tessa Chad, redshirt junior Brenna Shanahan, junior Lexie Ball and sophomore Caroline Blalock.
Both Chad and Shanahan, who would be a senior if not for injuries in 2018, have experience playing for Teeter at Canisius prior to Louisville.
“Leadership is definitely important. The seniors know my expectations,” Teeter said. “They understand our system so they help the younger players.”
Chad finished second in scoring on the 2018 team with 42 goals and eight hat tricks.
“Tessa has one of the best shots I’ve ever seen,” Blalock said. “She is a really good leader. Whenever someone comes up to me for a question, I always go to Tessa first. She’s really creative. Canadians are all really creative with their stick skill. I learned a lot from her.”
Shanahan started the first four games of 2018 before sitting out the remainder of the season with a knee injury. The veteran came to Louisville from Canisius, where she earned an All-MAAC First Team selection as a sophomore.
Goalie Ball started all games in 2018 and finished with 157 saves and a .401 save percentage.
Sophomore Blalock rounds out the captains. As a freshman, she led the Cardinals with 43 goals and 24 caused turnovers.
“Caroline is one of the most competitive players I’ve ever met,” Chad said. “She’s not satisfied when she achieves something. She always wants to do better than she did. She is always putting in extra work and trying to be the best lacrosse player she can be.”
A preseason All-American honorable mention, Blalock represents the importance of underclassmen leadership for a green team. The Cardinals feature nine freshmen and 11 sophomores on the 25-player roster.
“We got a really young team this year,” Teeter said. “Caroline had a fantastic freshman year and is building off that, setting a culture in practice that our freshmen have to raise the bar. With not many upperclassmen, we use our sophomores as upperclassmen.”
One of the biggest concerns with freshmen is making sure they are able to adjust to the rigors of an ACC schedule. Leaders like Chad are always there to help them out.
“It’s definitely a tougher environment here with the expectations of being an ACC athlete. Being at Canisius and playing Team Canada and higher levels helped me prepare for the ACC,” Chad said. “It’s tough because the freshmen are new to everything. They just need the extra guiding through new situations. Making mistakes is normal. It’s how you rebound from those mistakes that we’ll find success for the future.”
Beyond the field, freshmen have to get used to the unfamiliar arena of college and collegiate competition. This involves maintaining a schedule and adapting to factors like weather, where the erratic temperatures of late have made regular practices hard to find.
“They have to be able to adapt to different climates, different situations,” Teeter said. “It prepares us if something goes wrong in-season, like the bus gets a flat tire on the way and we show up late and the routine gets disoriented. They’ve been handling it pretty good.”
Louisville’s first game approaches this Friday, Feb. 8 at No. 7 Northwestern. The second season of the Teeter Era has its home opener two weeks later on Saturday, Feb. 23 against Mercer.
Suffice to say, Teeter had a lot more time to prepare for this season compared to the last one and fall ball played a big part in that.
“We had a really good fall, in terms of skill development,” Teeter said. “I really know the importance of fall ball. Not having fall ball last year was a disservice in that they had to learn my style of play as we were going through the adjustments. This year, we have a lot of stuff already in place.”
End goals for 2019 include not only winning ACC matchups, but also a simple philosophy that Teeter champions to grow every program he touches.
“One of [Teeter’s] biggest philosophies is getting better every day. Each practice and game is an opportunity to grow as a team,” Chad said. “A really big expectation our team has is getting our first ACC win under coach Teeter. Last year we were so close to getting there.”
If the Cardinals can manage a successful conference slate, then they’ll mostly likely reach the NCAA tournament once again. With his group of young talent, selected veterans and time for preparation, it looks like a very attainable goal for Teeter’s Louisville.
“As a team, I want to get more wins and improve every day,” Blalock said. “I think our final goal is to make the NCAA tournament.”
You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.
File Photos / The Louisville Cardinal