Changes in coaching staff are never easy. Neither are losing seasons, changes in conference rivalries or regular-season schedules brimming with ranked opponents. But for senior attack and co-captain Reilly O’Connor and senior attack Bo Stafford of the No. 13 Georgetown men’s lacrosse team (8-5, 3-1 Big East), experiencing major changes and taking them in stride has been fundamental in shaping their senior year into their most successful season on the Hilltop.
O’Connor and Stafford began their Georgetown careers under the leadership of former Head Coach Dave Urick, a Georgetown coaching legend who posted winning records in all 23 seasons that he was at the helm of the program. Urick retired after the 2012 season, and current Head Coach Kevin Warne took over in August of 2012 with big shoes to fill.
By his third year as head coach, Warne has made incredible strides in restoring the team to its former glory — including leading the 2013 team to its first postseason appearance in the Big East championship since 2007 — but it took some time to turn things around. After two sub-.500 seasons, the Hoyas are finally rebuilding a winning tradition, currently carrying an 8-5 record.
After struggling through two challenging seasons and adjusting to the addition of an entirely new coaching staff, Stafford said that this year’s senior class is finally starting to see its efforts pay off.
“We always talk about how you have to fail in order to succeed, and that’s something that our senior class has really taken to heart,” Stafford said. “We’ve been able to learn from that and turn things around this year.”
A huge part of adjusting to such a fundamental change in the lacrosse program was completely “buying in” to Warne’s style of coaching. Every team looks to the leadership of its seniors, but O’Connor said that the commitment that this senior class has — and all the changes it has faced — truly makes it unique.
“I think what sets this team apart from every other team in my four years — which is not a shot against any of the other groups — is the whole senior class, the whole buy-in, the whole commitment — just how well they’ve performed and have been leaders all year has really set this team apart from other ones,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor has taken on a more traditional leadership role as team captain for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. This year, along with senior co-captains and midfielders Charlie McCormick and Joe Bucci, O’Connor has set a precedent for the rest of the team to follow.
“It definitely starts from the top down,” Stafford said. “Reilly, Joe and Charlie have done a great job, and this year’s senior class, specifically with the captains, has really set this team apart from other teams in the past.”
In particular, Warne says that the team’s senior leadership has been instrumental in incorporating the team’s talented group of freshmen into the fold.
“I think that the younger guys look up to them and see what they have done vocally and on the field, and they know that’s the right way to do it,” Warne said.
But O’Connor emphasizes that each and every senior on the team takes on a unique leadership role.
“I think we’re all captains — we’re all leaders,” O’Connor said. “Every single guy has their specific thing that they contribute, and I think that’s what makes this team so great with the leadership in various styles. …It’s what makes going to practice every day fun.”
On attack, O’Connor and Stafford have led Georgetown to some incredible victories this season, from upsetting then-No. 14 and perennial rival Loyola Maryland (7-8, 5-3 Patriot League) to toppling conference foes then-No. 9 Marquette (10-4, 3-1 Big East) and Villanova (6-6, 1-3 Big East).
Stafford currently leads the Hoyas with 26 goals and 46 points, and O’Connor follows closely with 20 goals and 41 points. Having played together for the past four seasons, O’Connor and Stafford have built chemistry on attack that has promoted Georgetown’s characteristically unselfish style of offense.
“I think Bo and I are having a strong year just because of that chemistry we’ve built. I think Bo’s done a great job of leading the offense, and we just feed off of him,” O’Connor said.
But O’Connor and Stafford are quick to attribute much of their success to their teammates.
“Everybody’s bought into our system,” Stafford said. “We all play unselfishly, and we all play together. And at the end of the day, no one really cares who gets the goal or who gets the assist as long as we can put up a good number in order to give us the best chance of winning.”
Warne says that this style of play has been a huge factor in Georgetown’s results so far this season.
“I don’t think there’s any egos down there, and I think that’s the strength of our team this year,” Warne said. “They don’t care if they have one point or they if have nine points — I think all they really care about is getting a W, and I think that’s the most important stat for those guys.”
On Saturday, Georgetown will host St. John’s (3-10, 1-3 Big East) in the last game on its regular season schedule before it heads to the postseason Big East tournament. The game also marks Senior Day, when the team will honor its seniors for their accomplishments during their time on the Hilltop.
For O’Connor and Stafford, and for the rest of Georgetown’s seniors, the fact that Senior Day is already approaching is surreal — but it is something they look forward to celebrating.
“I’m definitely excited to spend it with our class. We have a bunch of great guys and a bunch of people that I can call great friends, and we’ve been able to build some strong relationships, and to be on the field with all those guys and hopefully get a win will definitely be an unbelievable experience,” Stafford said.
Saturday’s game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at MultiSport Facility.
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