Almost a year after following a demoralizing fourth quarter collapse in the Lone Star Alliance conference championship game, the men’s lacrosse team will have its chance at revenge.
It was April 24, 2016 and the Bobcats were looking to claim their second straight LSA conference title. Texas State had the utmost confidence entering the championship bout as the defending champions, riding an eight-game win streak, undefeated in district play and coming off an emotional comeback win in the semifinal game.
“It was our game to lose,” senior goalkeeper A.J. Anderson said. “We were the defending champions, we were close to home so we had more fans – there was little-to-no doubt in my mind we would win that game, and I know a lot of my teammates believed it too.”
Southern Methodist University proved there is a ceiling to confidence in competition.
For SMU, the 2016 championship was a revenge game. In the semifinals of the LSA tournament in 2015, SMU lost to Texas State 8-7.
Ultimately, the Bobcats couldn’t overcome the Mustangs fourth quarter offensive onslaught. SMU won 11-6 and were crowned the champions of the LSA.
Today, there are many differences between the past and present Texas State men’s lacrosse program.
There is a new head coach, new offensive system implemented and new players. Again, the Mustangs of SMU stand between the Bobcats and the third LSA championship in school history.
Relative to years past, 2017 was a down year for the Bobcats. The men finished with a 6-3 overall record, down from a 10-2 record in the 2016 season.
In addition to losing two honorable mention All-American players, Bucky Desadier, midfielder, and Zane Zoda, defenseman, the team had to endeavor the tedious nuances that come with finding a new head coach.
After months of deliberation on who would lead the Bobcats in 2017, the captains decided on Stephen Torkington.
A native Californian, Torkington earned All-American accolades playing lacrosse at Wingate University in North Carolina.
Before Texas State, Torkington was an assistant coach at three universities: Pfiefer, Michigan and Mercer, where he led the Bears to a conference championship in 2014.
The decision on Torkington came down to his impressive resume as both a coach and a player said Anderson, one of five seniors and captain on the team.
“Texas State has been blessed by having two very high quality coaches in my time here and the result of going with coach Torkington to lead our program came down to his stellar track record both as a player and his pedigree of coaching experience,” Anderson said. “We pride ourselves on the level we’re capable of competing at and needed someone to set a high standard.”
Due to the time-consuming process attached to choosing a new coach, the Bobcats lost the opportunity to focus on other aspects involved in the off-season.
This lack of focus forced Texas State to kick off its season with a divisional matchup against Texas A&M.
“The LSA has slowly become a very competitive league,” Anderson said. “With as many moving pieces as we had at the beginning of the season, it would have been fortunate to not have a divisional matchup game one – but our team isn’t in the business of making complaints.”
The Bobcats responded to the season-opener loss with five straight wins, but ended the season on a sour note, losing two of their last three.
Nevertheless, this slide brought forth the matchup against SMU, and the shot at redemption.
Jacob Martin, sophomore attackman and leading scorer for the Bobcats, said this game revolves around execution.
“If we execute and can protect the ball on offense it will make the job for our defense easy,” Martin said. “We know what we need to do – now it’s about proving it come game day.”
For Anderson, this game has nothing to do with SMU and everything to do with Texas State.
“(SMU) has a great pedigree of playing quality lacrosse, but in my time on the team we’ve often been able to overpower their talent,” Anderson said. “While teams are different year in and year out, if we can value possession and control the tempo of the game, especially early on, I’m extremely confident that we’ll succeed.”
The sentiment these two players share is that this season’s SMU team is highly competitive.
SMU boasts a modest 8-5 record on the season and is the second seed of the LSA north. These numbers on the surface don’t appear daunting, but the strength of the Mustangs schedule is telling.
Three of SMU’s 13 opponents were ranked in the top 25 of the nation. SMU went 1-2 in these highly competitive games to prove the Mustangs can compete at a high level.
Texas State did not face a ranked opponent this season. Thus, the Mustangs lead the Bobcats in virtually every category statistically this season.
The focal point of SMU is tts offense. It has 153 goals scored, compared to 108 for the Bobcats.
One thing Texas State does have an advantage on, is history.
The Bobcats are 7-4 vs. SMU historically and have more tournament appearances, tournament wins, conference championships and national tournament bids.
“SMU is without a doubt a strong contender in the LSA and consistently show they’re capable of being very good against national competition,” Anderson said. “That being said, SMU has been good every year and we’ve demonstrated we’re capable of winning the game.
Faceoff between the two teams is set for 12 p.m. April 22 in Dallas, with the Mustangs having home advantage.