The Claremont Cougars, the 5C men’s lacrosse club, started off their season on the right foot this past Saturday, beating Pepperdine University 15-5 at home in their official season opener.
Going into the game, the Cougars—also known simply as the Cougs—knew they had to come out “crisp,” according to defenseman Peter Ferrin PO ’14, to get the big win they were looking for to start the season.
Fellow defenseman Kyle Roskamp PO ’14 agreed: The team’s goals were to “get a big lead early and keep it and prevent them from ever having an opportunity to come back,” he said.
Claremont would go on to do just that, scoring three goals within the first couple of minutes and gaining a 6-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Captain Viken Douzdijian CM ’13 scored first for the Cougs from short-range after a great pass from a teammate. Kyle Siegel HM ’14 and Connor Schlegel CM ’15 scored shortly thereafter in rapid succession, setting the tempo for the rest of the game. The Cougars continued to score almost at will against the much smaller and less technically sound Pepperdine side for the rest of the half, which finished with an 11-1 lead in the Cougs’ favor.
Ferrin thought this continuous scoring was imperative for the team.
“The early success was important, but continuing to score even after we were up was more important in my mind,” he said. “Last year we often stopped playing hard once we had a lead and allowed teams to get back into the game. We have a better mentality this year. I think a lot of the guys on the team have matured a great deal since last year. It is still early in the season, but so far it seems like we’ve learned how to finish games.”
The Coug defense also held up their end of the bargain, shutting down the Pepperdine offense for most of the game. Especially in the first half, Pepperdine struggled to keep the ball in their offensive third for any extended period of time and couldn’t compete with the physical play of the entire Claremont defense. At one point, Roskamp flung a Pepperdine forward to the ground to knock the ball free. The defenders were backed up by impressive play from their man in the sticks, Jon Steck CM ’13.
“Our goalie Little Jon Steck also stepped up and had a big game,” said Ferrin.
The defense even got into the scoring for the Cougs when Ferrin opened up the second half by rifling a shot into the back of the net after picking up the ball in the defensive third and sprinting through the Pepperdine defense. With a substantial lead, Claremont put in some younger players to give them vital game experience. Roskamp thinks that the value of getting younger players in the game cannot be overlooked, particularly at schools like the 5Cs where athletic recruiting is extremely difficult.
“Allowing them to get into the game and not be afraid of making mistakes provides for a great learning and developing environment that will make them better moving forward,” he said.
While Pepperdine was able to bring their score somewhat close to Claremont’s in the fourth quarter, the Cougs held on for the big 15-5 victory.
As a club team, the Cougars are not NCAA-sanctioned but still compete in a very structured and competitive league. Claremont competes in Division I of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) and is a member of the North Division of the Southwestern Lacrosse League. During league play, they will face off against much larger schools like University of California, Los Angeles; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of Southern California; and Loyola Marymount University. The Cougs will also have to compete with Chapman University and University of California, Santa Barbara, both of which are currently ranked in the top five in the nation in Division I.
Claremont’s goal this year is to make it into the league playoffs, which they fell one win short of last year, and ultimately compete for a shot at the MCLA national playoffs. To achieve that goal, the Cougs will rely on leaders such as Douzdijian, Ethan Gilbert CM ’13, Steck, Cav Walters CM ’13, and Schlegel.
The Cougars play again this weekend, facing off against two beatable Division II squads. Claremont plays tomorrow at Parents Field at Claremont McKenna College against Biola University at 3:30 p.m. They follow that up the next day with an away game versus Cal State Channel Islands.