After falling in the first round of the South Atlantic Conference Championships last spring in a season that included the defeat of the defending national champion, Limestone College, the Queens men’s lacrosse program has returned with several talented upperclassmen and a crop of 16 new freshmen.
“Last season was a roller coaster. It was a good year for growth and we didn’t graduate many people, which sets us up for a big year this year,” said midfielder captain Jesse Oliver (’19).
Coach Chris Panos has a wide range of players that he feels will make big impacts on the team this year, including freshman attacker Tyler Ewen, and veterans like face-off specialist Drew Flack (’19) and midfielder Kevin Barry (’21).
Barry, another one of the team’s captains, is one of the best embodiments of Coach Panos’ emphasis on scholarship. He maintained a 4.0 grade point average for the 2017-18 school year and was awarded a spot on the Dean’s List and Athletic Royal Society. The other five captains, Drew Flack, Griffin Stechmiller, Ryon Bellamy, Nick Rizierri and Oliver have also been named on the Dean’s List over their Queens careers.
“We’re looking to make sure that guys are doing alright in the classroom. It’s much more than lacrosse, it’s more being a great student, which is really the ultimate goal, getting that degree, moving on,” said Panos.
This season will be unique for the team in the amount of depth that it has. The 16 new freshmen will be asked to buy into last season’s philosophy of hard work and to focus on fundamentals. Panos is a firm believer in the importance of conditioning for his players as well.
One of those players who will be eager to embody his coach’s wishes is midfielder Christian Castillo (’22), who admits to growing rusty after missing his senior high school season at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Piedmont, South Carolina due to hip surgery. After missing so much time, Christian says that he needs to work on basics such as defensive positioning. Fortunately, he thinks Coach Panos will give him the healthy amount of encouragement to adapt back into the game.
“I really like a coach that expects a lot of you, my high school coach was kind of a pushover,” said Castillo. “I essentially ran the team as a freshman. [Panos] doesn’t let me relax. He expects a lot of us but he puts our health or our schoolwork first.”
Meanwhile, Oliver is entering his final season and has his own challenges after breaking his jaw through taking a ball to the face. Nevertheless, he is confident he will return in February. He has set a goal for the team to go further in April than they did last year.
“My expectations for the season are a SAC tournament birth and to go to the final of the tournament,” he said.