By Jim O'Hara
Young Harris, Ga.--Having cut their teeth on some very challenging tests against tough opponents early in the year, the youthful Shorter lacrosse team enters the final stages of the season riding a three-game win streak and poised to wrap up what would be an impressive inaugural season as an NCAA Division II program.
"We've been playing well, even in the losses. They've grown up a lot," Shorter first-year head coach Jason Childs said as the Hawks, now 5-7 overall, head into their final two games of the year visiting Young Harris on Saturday and capping the season on April 20 traveling to Montgomery, Ala., to face Huntingdon.
"We as young as you can be as an NCAA lacrosse team," the coach said. "The schedule we're playing is very strong and it will get tougher next year. But in this transition to Division II we don't want to have a losing record."
The Hawks certainly seemed determined to do just that, having shaken off some disappointing losses during the early part of their schedule that included showdowns against well-established teams.
Since a setback on March 17 to Lenoir-Rhyne, Shorter has reeled off three straight victories that have included wins over state foes Emmanuel and Reinhardt and last week a hard-fought 15-13 road win in Vienna, W.Va., over Ohio Valley.
"As a coaching staff, we focus on what we're doing," said Childs, adding that the Hawks are also having to learn to how to avoid looking past any foe. "They've been focused when they play our tougher opponents but we need them to maintain that focus in all of our games."
What the Hawks have concentrated on is putting together solid and balanced performances at both ends of the field.
Offensively, Shorter has spread the wealth with five Hawks leading the charge.
"(Kristiansen) is having the year we thought he'd have," Childs said of the attackman who led the team in scoring last year, adding that VandenBrink has also served notice in his first year. "(VandenBrink's) played incredibly well and as a freshman, his statistics are off the chart."
Just how young the Hawks are can be seen on the defensive side.
With freshman goalie J.R. Willers standing his ground in the crease where he has made 131 saves between the pipes, Shorter has formed a solid wall thanks to the play of sophomore Michael Myerson and freshmen Michael Williams, Michael Santry and Tyler Kristiansen, all who are in double digits in forced turnovers.
"They've done a good job anchoring the defense," Childs said about the Hawks who are assigned to keep foes at bay. "They're very athletic and becoming more cerebral about what they need to do."
With the team's final two games ahead of them, Childs want to make sure the Hawks continue moving forward by making the most of the last challenges the season has to offer.
"I'm big on making the most of every teachable moment," the coach said. "We want to play as best we can each day. We're excited about finishing strong, see where we are and move forward."