Just about every single problem a college lacrosse team could
have, the Rams experienced last year. Plagued by injuries,
suspensions and other losses, CSU defied all odds and captured the
2003 United States Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates National
Championship in May.
This season, they face a new obstacle; trying to become repeat
champions with a conglomerate of new players. To compensate for the
youth on the squad and the number of new players, head coach Flip
Naumburg is taking weekly practices more seriously.
“Don’t watch it, be a part of it,” Naumburg yells to a
defenseman during practice. His energy level and efficiency leaks
all over the field and players recognize it. They know they must
give 110 percent for Naumburg, who is attempting to win his fourth
USLIA title in only six seasons.
The number of new players, combined with only one senior on the
team, presents a hefty task for Naumburg. He must mold and form a
team identical to the skill level of last season’s team, a team
that surprised many throughout the season en route to the
championship game against UC Santa Barbara.
“The most difficult thing about coaching a young team like this
is learning the system,” Naumburg said. “A lot of these guys play a
lot of different styles.”
On Saturday, Naumburg got a chance to put his new players to the
test against the University of Denver’s club lacrosse team. In fine
fashion, the Rams played a revved-up match, frustrating DU players
and forcing them to take many unsportsmanlike penalties. CSU won
8-3 in a game of positives on and off the field.
The hunger is still there. Passion promotes success, and the
amount of trash-talking and physical play throughout the game
proved that the Rams were willing to give 110 percent for Naumburg,
even in an exhibition game.
So who will be making waves for the Rams this season?
The first place to look is in goal. Freshman Pete Jokisch has
come out of nowhere to replace Alex Smith, who was lost to
graduation and was CSU’s leading goaltender.
“Most definitely Pete has stepped in and filled our void in goal
nicely,” Naumburg said.
Jokish, who comes to CSU from Missouri, has silenced critics and
received praise from his coach and teammates.
“I think the player who has surprised me the most so far is
Pete,” senior Mark Plonkey said.
Plonkey, a long-stick middie, is now the only senior on the
lacrosse team. He is a first-team All-American and his position,
presence and passionate play on the field are a huge piece of the
puzzle for Naumburg and company. Plonkey returns as the emotional
leader of the team as well.
Ryan Price, a junior, is the core of the Rams’ defense and
should bring some experience to the younger long-sticks. The Rams
lost a major defender in All-American Jeff Schmid, who
“Our defense looks pretty solid, and I’m pretty confident we can
hold things together,” Jokisch said.
On offense, the Rams are stacked. A pair of juniors, Nick
Stanitz-Harper and Kelten Johnston, will lead them at the attack
position. Johnston returns as the Offensive Team MVP.
At midfield, CSU remains strong with Derek Koll, Thomas
Robinson, Tim Farquhar and Phil Eichhorn.
Even though coach Naumburg has a serious task ahead of him, he
already has found something to smile about.
“The biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s
team is that I think we will be very multi-dimensional,” Naumburg
The Rams have until next semester to prepare for their regular
season, which starts on the road Feb. 6 against the University of
Arizona and Arizona State University.
The team will participate in a lacrosse tournament at the end of
October in Las Vegas. The Rams have had success in the tournament
in the past, going undefeated last year.
On Oct. 18 CSU holds a weekend tournament that includes two
separate CSU teams and teams from Colorado College, Ft. Lewis,
CU-Boulder, DU and Galyan’s. The tournament takes place on