Building a sports program from the ground up — especially at the university level — can be gruelling, with hundreds of hours dedicated to handling logistics, securing funding and recruiting interested players.
For Evan Richtsfeld, founder and president of the UNB Buccaneers lacrosse team, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Buccaneers made their premiere in the Maritime University Field Lacrosse League this fall, where they battled against teams from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
While the team was winless in league action, they defied expectations with their grit and determination during their inaugural season.
Richtsfeld was particularly impressed by the skill level and heart demonstrated by the players who represented UNB on the field.
“We definitely surpassed my expectations of the team this year. I was expecting to get a lot of players who had never played the game of lacrosse before,” he said. “However, out of our entire team of 24 only one player had never played lacrosse before.
“We were a lot more competitive than I thought we would be and I believe that in no time we will be winning games in this league.
“I was really happy with how the season turned out for us. Obviously we didn’t have the success we wanted in terms of a winning record, but we showed that we could compete with the teams in our league,” he added.
“As I have told players this year, the success of our team was not going to be judged on wins and losses. We can’t expect to come into a well-established league with great teams as a first-year team and expect to win every game. But I feel that we showed our heart and resilience this year and that caught teams by surprise.”
Richtsfeld received many comments from other teams about the support the Buccaneers received from the community in their inaugural season.
“To me, that was the coolest part of all this year — getting to play in front of tons of supportive fans at our home games, and in a lot of cases having more fans at road games than the home teams.”
While Richtsfeld was impressed by the quality of play from the Buccaneers, there were also a number of challenges for the team to overcome when it came to adapting to the university level of play.
“I think our biggest struggle as a team this year was adapting to the field game. A lot of our players came from a box lacrosse background and the transition to the field game was a big struggle for us. I think as we continue to educate players on the field game, we will be better come 2015.”
Richtsfeld said that he, along with two other founding members, had to overcome cynicism from the wider community when it came to establishing a lacrosse team at UNB.
“When I came here two years ago many people told me that lacrosse would never return to UNB because there wasn’t enough interest in the game. To be able to form this team was a huge achievement for myself and all those involved along the way and I look forward to the future.”
The team’s regular season came to an end on Sunday, Nov. 2 when their scheduled game against Mount Allison was cancelled due to weather conditions.
“I think everyone on our team was disappointed in having to cancel our game against Mount Allison”, said Richtsfeld. “We’ve developed a rivalry between the two of us over the past couple of years playing annual exhibition games. We would’ve loved to have gotten our first win against them in front of our home crowd.
“Unfortunately, with the way the weather conditions were that day we couldn’t expect anyone to be able to travel and risk their safety.”
Several Buccaneers were recognized for their strong play throughout the season, including Matt McConnell, who was named the league’s top goalie and named to thefirst all-star team, where he was joined by defenceman Ben Sweet.
Meanwhile, Richtsfield was awarded the prestigious Commissioner’s Award for his dedication and perseverance in bringing the game of lacrosse to UNB.
“It was a great feeling to win an award of that importance. Putting together this team has been a dream of mine since I arrived here in the fall of 2012,” he said. “I finally got to live out that dream this year and it has been an amazing experience.
“To be recognized for my effort was a pretty cool feeling and I thank the MUFLL and commissioner Donna Goguen for choosing me.”
That being said, Richtsfeld was quick to acknowledge those who have supported him since the beginning — most notably, Matt Jay and Mackenzie McCoy.
“We’ve worked really hard to put this program together so although my name came up for that award, I couldn’t have done any of this without Matt and Mackenzie.”
Looking toward the future, the Buccaneers will be under new leadership as they strive to improve upon this year’s record.
“We are happy to announce that Ben Teasdale will be taking over as our head coach for the 2015 season,” said Richtsfeld. “Ben was a huge help this year, and having him take over the coaching duties for this program will be huge for our development.”
The Buccaneers intend to begin preparing for the 2015 season early, with practices and potentially exhibition games being held during the winter semester. The team hopes to see many new faces joining the team in January.
“Experience level does not matter,” stressed Richtsfeld. “We just want athletes that are interested in trying the sport.”
For those interested in joining the team, the Buccaneers can be contacted at email@example.com or via Twitter or Facebook.
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