By Matt Green
Hawks (0-0) vs. Coker (0-0)
Friday, February 8; 5 pm; Historic Barron Stadium
ROME – A new era of Hawks’ Lacrosse is about to begin.
For Shorter University head men’s lacrosse coach Jason Childs, the culmination of a process that began with his hire in July is finally just around the corner.
Childs and his Lax Hawks will open the 2013 season Friday night at 5 pm when they play host to Coker College under the lights at Historic Barron Stadium. Friday’s opener will mark the beginning of Shorter’s third season of lacrosse and the first time that the Hawks have competed at Barron Stadium in an official game.
“What better way to start our new journey together than at a place that has so much history and a great Rome tradition,” Childs said. “I am so excited to play at Barron. It is a thrill and an honor.”
For Childs, who came to Shorter from Division I Mercer over the summer after helping build the Bears’ program from a club-level program to a competitive NCAA Division I product in just three seasons, his newest challenge has been both an exciting experience and one that has generated understandable feelings of anxiety.
Childs did not inherit a bare cupboard – the Hawks went 7-3 in their inaugural 2011 season and went on to win eight games last year. Four of Shorter’s top five point producers are back in the lineup this season, most notably sophomore attackman Matt Kristiansen, who ended up near the top of the Division II ranks with over 35 goals and nearly 70 total points in 2012.
6-foot-2, 235-pound junior attackman Kyle Van Kauweberg, who finished second on the team in both goals and points a year ago, returns to the fold for Childs, as does Benjamin Janes, a sophomore who tallied a solid 14 goals and 16 assists last season despite missing a handful of games with injury.
Junior midfielder Kyle Morris, one of just four players on the 30-man roster that is not a freshman or sophomore and one of a handful that have been with the program from the start, adds experience and leadership to the lineup in addition to his 20-plus points in each of his first two seasons.
“There is no doubt that our leadership and experience is on the offensive side of the field,” said Childs. “There are a lot of points returning as well as they play makers themselves. I think we need to utilize these four guys to make sure we get the production needed.
“And adding Pat Foy to the mix will certainly help a ton.”
Foy, who transferred to Shorter to complete his final year of lacrosse eligibility after graduating from Division I Presbyterian, adds valuable big game experience and good size (6-1, 210) at attack for the Hawks.
Defensively, Shorter is starting three freshmen in front of freshman goalie J.R. Willers, but will also welcome the addition of Ken Brinson, who combines Division I size (6-4, 200), speed and range, to the lineup in two weeks.
Childs also notes that while his coaching staff and student-athletes have been focused on improving on the field, the Hawks have also dialed in on a renewed focus of scholarship and citizenship off the field.
The coach that has jump started two Division I programs – Childs began his head coaching career by starting the men’s lacrosse program at Presbyterian in 2006 – understands that building a successful program takes an overall approach, one that develops an athlete’s character in addition to his physical talent.
“We have decided to be better every day at everything,” Childs pointed out. “That is such a simple thing to do. If you start in a lot of areas, you can make a big impact.
“Winning a National Championship is not going to happen overnight, but we can focus on getting better every day and the end result, you hope, is putting yourself in a position to win a National Championship with 40 Academic All-Americans.”
That new attitude will be on display Friday night, as Shorter welcomes in second-year program Coker, which went 2-14 in its inaugural season in 2012. Despite the Cobras’ short tenure and their tough first year as a program, Childs and the Hawks are sure to be well prepared for Coker, especially after Shorter was one of Coker’s two victims in 2012 courtesy of a 14-7 defeat at the hands of the Cobras in each team’s season opener.
“Coker is a new program, but their staff has done a tremendous job recruiting in rich areas,” Childs said. “I think from watching tape last year we did not utilize our athleticism and tried to beat them at their game. It was very early in the season and our ball handling was not crisp enough.
“We feel we are much improved in that area, but I know [Coker head coach] Tony Smith has them much improved as well,” the coach added. “It should be fun to compete against them and go forward from there.”
The Hawks demonstrated that improvement during their one and only exhibition last Saturday at Ben Brady Field. Playing in frigid temperatures and a light rain, Shorter dominated visiting Piedmont to get the season off to what Childs hopes is a good start – but only a start.
Childs is a firm believer in the saying, “If what you’ve done yesterday seems big, then you really haven’t done anything today.” It was the message he relayed to his team after Monday’s practice.
“Piedmont was a great day, but we are focused on the now,” Childs said.
Stay tuned to the Shorter Athletics website for ticket and other game day details.