St. Andrews lacrosse coach Christopher Sherman is pleasantly surprised at how this season is going, especially after being forced to rebuild almost his entire team over the offseason. SAU had to join the NAIA, an independent athletic association, for the 2012-13 school year after its merger with Webber University caused the NCAA to revoke its accreditation, a move that Sherman said “completely blindsided the whole campus.”
The loss of accreditation combined with the departure of former coach Mike Lawson hit the lacrosse team especially hard. Between accreditation, graduation and those players choosing to follow Lawson to Mount Olive College in Henderson, NC, only four players remained out of 37. This left Sherman with the daunting task of rebuilding nearly the entire squad. Athletic director Glenn Batten said the departure of so many players had more to do with Lawson’s leaving than the accreditation issue, but either way Sherman knew he had work to do. He hit the road and began recruiting, giving him an exceptionally young team. On a roster of 31, freshman account for 25 spots.
However, the team has come together well. SAU is now 6-1, riding a five-game winning streak and leading its division. Sherman said the hard work in practice is showing on game days.
Sherman, an alumnus of St. Andrews, was an assistant coach in 2007 before moving to Washington to coach high school lacrosse. But in the fall of 2010, Lawson told him of an open assistant position at SAU. Sherman decided to take it and move back to Laurinburg, eventually taking over as head coach after Lawson left. Sherman had no idea that he’d soon be playing in an entirely different athletic association. He says the biggest difference is the communication level. In the NCAA, Sherman said, film of other teams would be brought to him for him to study. Now, that doesn’t happen. If Sherman wants to scout SAU’s opponents, he has to physically go to the match. Attending in person helps, Sherman said, because sometimes the “film can lie.” However, it gives him less time for practice, which he would rather be doing.
Sherman said he tried to set an average schedule since so little was known about the opposition beforehand. It worked to their advantage, as several of the teams on the calender are getting national buzz. The highest target the Knights have taken down so far came on opening day: No. 9 Savannah College of Art and Design. SAU won that game 14-13 in overtime.
SAU’s only loss came two days later at the hands of Georgia Southern. The 7-8 defeat put the team on an emotional roller coaster, Sherman said.
“We had our highest high followed by our lowest low,” he said.
One of the freshman making the largest impact is attacker Jake Brown, who is leading the Knights on offense with 20 goals 4.5 points per game.
“He’s a textbook leftie. He finds lanes a lot, and has a fast catch and a fast shot,” Sherman said.
Brown is currently the only left-handed player on the roster, which lets him have a lot of scoring opportunities.
SAU is in Georgia today playing 8-1 Reinhardt, one of the better teams in the NAIA, as they currently sit just outside of the top 25. Sherman said the conference opponent will be a tough test for his side.
“They’ve got guys scoring and they run a disciplined system,” Sherman said. “They’re doing everything you fear as a coach.”