Saturday, March 5, the Tigers are set to take on the University of Wisconsin at Lindenwood University in St. Louis at 7 p.m. Wisconsin was one of only two teams able to score more than nine goals on the Tigers during the 2010 season — so the Tigers are looking for revenge after last year’s loss.
Here are some of Coach Euker’s thoughts on the upcoming game:
Question: Coach, this weekend you have a big game against the University of Wisconsin. They are a new team in the GRLC, last year being their first in the conference. What did you learn about them from your game last year against them?
Coach: First off, I’d say that Wisconsin poses a real scoring threat. They were one of only three teams last year to score double-digits on us. That’s something that our defense takes personally. We’ll have to be able to press out defensively while still being able to slide and recover on the back side. That’s not the easiest of tasks; but I think Eric (Chole), Bird (Clayton Cruthirds), and Ethan (Payer) will be able to handle it.
This will be the first big test for the Tigers this year, as Wisconsin is a very good team. What is your agenda for this week in preparation for the game?
I think the keys to this game will be face-offs and ground balls. I believe that James (Stannard; 60 percent win/loss) is one of the best face-off guys in the conference; and if our defense, defensive mids, and long-stick middies can control the ground game, I have confidence that our offense will take care of the ball. Last year we struggled offensively, particularly in the Wisconsin game. But with our new faces I know our guys feel they have something to prove, and I know they’ll show up for the game.
The game is set to be played at Lindenwood University in St. Louis. What are your thoughts on playing this game in St. Louis, and do you think you will have an edge with it being so close?
Well I scheduled four of our home games in St. Louis this year. With St. Louis being the Midwest capital for the sport, and the fact that there are so many Mizzou fans in St. Louis and surrounding areas, I figured we’d broaden our fan base by widening our footprint a bit. St. Louis was the first obvious step and Lindenwood has great facilities. Derek (Schaub, LU head coach) was more than happy to accommodate us, for which we are thankful. We want to bring high-quality college lacrosse to the entire state of Missouri. The fan base is there and we know this. Next year maybe we’ll play in Kansas City — who knows?
With the division split, Wisconsin does not count as a conference game anymore. From a coaching perspective, what do you hope to gain from this game?
Well I think this game is going to be our first real test to see where we stand, from an Xs and Os perspective. And I mean no disrespect to either of our last two opponents. But Wisconsin beat us pretty badly last year and it was a real wake-up call. So defensively we’re going to have to communicate and cover one another, and offensively we’re going to have to take care of the ball and be consistent in our motion. We haven’t been able to practice a lot due to the inclement weather, so if our fundamentals aren’t sound, we’ll struggle against a team like Wisconsin. But I know the attitude on this team and our guys won’t let something like that happen.
Lastly, the team has played two games so far this year. How are you feeling about where your team is, and what do you think the future holds for this year’s Tigers?
I think that once our offense gels, we’ll be a real scoring threat from all six positions. Right now we’ve got a few guys carrying the bulk of our points, in Zach (Nisson; 14 pts/2 games), Tim (Adams; 11 pts/2 games), and Gerry (Leonard 11 pts/2 games). Once we start to understand one another, we’ll see some other names up there. Though we’ve been playing since September, it’s different in a game situation because the stakes are higher and everything that you do as a player counts. Those intricacies of the game aren’t taken lightly and the speed of the college game is much faster. We have a lot of freshmen, particularly on our offense. It will take some time playing together to reach that gel point, and we’ve had to cancel a preseason scrimmage as well as our first home game. So, we’ll only get better with time.