LEFT: CLAIRE SOISSON/THE HOYA MIDDLE: CLAIRE SOISSON/THE HOYA; RIGHT: HARVARD ATHLETICS

After an inconsistent 2014 campaign, the Georgetown men’s lacrosse team is looking to regain control of the Big East during a 2015 season that promises plenty of trials and new opportunities.

Georgetown’s regular season-schedule matches it up against several top 10 teams including No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 9 Virginia and defending national champion No. 3 Duke, but Head Coach Kevin Warne says that the team is excited for the challenges that the schedule offers.

“We want to make sure we play the best teams that will prepare us for the Big East tournament,” Warne said. “If you’re a college lacrosse player, you want to play against the best teams, and if you have an opportunity to play a team like Notre Dame or a team like Duke, you’re not going to turn those opportunities down.”

Perhaps the biggest threat Georgetown will face this season is Denver; the Pioneers’ No. 1 preseason ranking is daunting enough, but as a conference foe, they also stand in the way of Georgetown’s path to the Big East championship. Denver’s conference debut in 2014 ended in a Big East championship title and a close loss in the national championship game to Duke.

“Our goal is to win the Big East, and we have to beat the best team in the country to achieve that goal,” sophomore midfielder Peter Conley said. “But I think playing those tough teams is going to help us a lot.”

To prepare for its hefty schedule, Georgetown’s preseason training has been focused on regaining the consistency that the Hoyas lacked in 2014. Though the team faced its share of challenging opponents last season, self-inflicted wounds tended to hurt Georgetown the most. Long scoring droughts, turnovers and lapses in intensity sometimes overshadowed the strong individual talent that the team brought to the field.

According to Warne, a stable season of strong performances starts at the most fundamental levels.

“The best way to develop consistency starts in practice, it starts in drills, it starts in reps,” Warne said. “If you make a mistake, fix it and move on. If you do that over an extended period of time, you’ll see more consistency rather than the rollercoaster effect.”

With the return of many top players, including last year’s dominant freshman class, the Hoyas have the opportunity to build off of the raw talent they saw in 2014.

Conley, who led Georgetown during his freshman season with 24 goals and 37 total points, is looking forward to revamping the offense.

“We have a talented freshmen class coming in this season, as well as some veteran guys like [senior attack and co-captain] Reilly [O’Connor] and [senior attack] Bo [Stafford] and some of the older midfielders,” Conley said. “But we’ve got some good freshmen who I think will make an impact right away, and obviously the guys who didn’t play as much last year are stepping into bigger roles.”

Though Georgetown’s offense will see many veteran players return to the field in 2015, the loss of faceoff specialist Tyler Knarr is a significant blow. Knarr, who led the Big East and finished third in the country with a faceoff win percentage of .659 last year, generated crucial offensive opportunities for the Hoyas during his final season.

Graduate student and midfielder Gabriel Mendola, who formerly played for Harvard, and freshman midfielder Peter Tagliaferri will step up to fill Knarr’s role at the faceoff X. However, with the addition of new NCAA rules which forbid players to carry the ball on the back of their stick after winning a faceoff, the faceoff dynamic will expand beyond the limited scope of the two opposing players at the faceoff X to include players on the wings.

Warne believes the rule change will create more prolific offensive play by reducing the individual capabilities of the faceoff specialist.

“The rules now make the faceoff a three-on-three game, and it becomes a more athletic game with more ground ball play, so I think our chances to get the ball improve greatly outside of Pete and Gabe,” Warne said.

Aided by the strength of its schedule, Georgetown has the chance to recreate the moments of brilliance it saw last year. One of the team’s best performances of the 2014 season was an upset attempt against Loyola when it was ranked second in the country. Though the game ended in a heartbreaking 10-9 final-minute loss, O’Connor remembers the energy Georgetown brought to the game and knows it will bring the same energy to the games ahead.

“The more talented teams that you play bring out the most in you,” O’Connor said. “With our schedule this year, playing all these tough teams, it’s not going to be hard to get motivated. …We truly believe that we can beat anyone, and that’s very important.”

Georgetown will play exhibition matches against UMBC on Jan. 31 and No. 18 Drexel on Feb. 7 before starting the regular season against Notre Dame on Feb. 14.

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