Union men’s lacrosse coach Paul Wehrum isn’t worried that his team will be intimidated by defending NCAA Division III champion Tufts when the teams meet in the second round of the NCAA tournament today at 1 p.m. at Tufts.
Wehrum wants his players to do the same thing they did during their pregame warmup Wednesday against Nazareth.
“I’ve been in enough of these games, and the kids have confidence in me,” Wehrum said Friday before the team left for Medford, Mass. “What we do is interesting. I tell the players — and I enforce it — that they’re not allowed to look at the other team in pregame warmups. It’s funny, one of the players told me the other day that they could feel Nazareth’s eyes burning into the back of their heads.
“It was fun to have the Nazareth kids watching us. We’ll do the same thing at Tufts. We’ll be ready to go when the whistle blows.”
The Dutchmen (13-4) beat Nazareth, 15-7, in their first-round game to set up the matchup with the Jumbos (15-2). Wehrum’s team is very relaxed heading into the game.
“We’re playing last year’s national champs, so I wouldn’t say that we’re overconfident,” Wehrum said. “We’re a good matchup. The kids couldn’t be more excited. I wouldn’t use the word confident. I’d say capable and up to the task.”
Tufts has won five one-goal games, including the semifinals and championship game of the NESCAC playoffs.
“Some of the comparative scores we’ve seen, like against Williams and Babson,” Wehrum said, “that gives us confidence that, even though they’re the defending national champs, we’re going to be in the hunt.”
Dutchmen junior goalkeeper Sean Aaron believes the team won’t be intimidated playing the national champs on their turf.
“We’ve seen some of the same common opponents,” Aaron said. “We know they have a good offense, and a good defense. They’re a good team, all around, or they wouldn’t be the national champs But if we play the way we know we can and we come out like we did against Nazareth, we should be OK.”
Tufts is led by attackmen D.J. Hessler and Sean Kirwin. Hessler has 34 goals and 46 assists. Kirwin has collected 57 points, 56 of them on goals.
“[Defenseman] Bobby Sullivan has to do a great job on Hessler,” Wehrum said. “Kirwin, we can’t let him see the ball a lot. He’s a pure crease man. We know he’s not going to be passing the ball much, but he’s a great one. We’ll know where he is at all times, even if he’s getting a drink of water on the sidelines.”
Dutchmen junior attackman Ted McKenna, who scored five goals against Nazareth, will see some familiar faces at Tufts.
Four former teammates from Phillips Exeter play for the Jumbos, including sophomore defensemen Matt Callahan and Sam Gardner.
“They’re all good friends of mine, and they’re all good players,” said McKenna, who has 29 goals and seven assists this season. “It’s definitely important for me to play well, and for our team to play well. You always want to have a good showing, no matter who you’re playing. But if you’re playing your friends, it’s a little bit more important [to play well].”
McKenna isn’t concerned that Callahan and Gardner are familiar with his style of play.
“I definitely changed a lot since high school,” McKenna said. “They probably saw the game tape. I definitely changed since the last time those guys covered me. They’re good defensemen, though. We’ll have to put together a good game.”
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