Coaches Corner: Jim Stagnitta

By Jim Stagnitta

When we first came together in May at IMG Academy we shared the same goal as every other PLL team; to win the first-ever league championship.

Like every other season I have experienced at every level I have coached (Division 3, Division 1 and Professional) we had our share of ups and downs and like most successful teams we had to fight back, regroup and learn from our failures. We needed to hit the reset button a few times this season and refocus on who we are and what makes us successful.

Starting the season at 4-0 with three overtime wins in a row was a bit of fools gold. We were 4-0 but also four goals away from being 0-4 and I understood how little the margin for error was in this extremely competitive league. Ending the first half of the season at 4-1 put us in the driver seat for a 1or 2 seed come playoff time.

That’s when we stumbled.

We didn’t handle the bye weeks well, started to deal with some injuries and simply got away from what made us successful. We are truly a team in all aspects of the word. There is certainly value in having a majority of your players come from the same college program but it also presents its challenges. You learn it is like a family, brothers who demand and expect a great deal from each other and do not hesitate to push each other and personally attempt to fix the problem. We strayed from what made us successful (assisted goals, making the simple play, winning the ground ball battle and executing on both ends as a team) as our players started to press to make plays and stop the slide.

During this next stretch we went 1-2 and found ourselves back with the pack fighting for a playoff spot much less a Top 2 seed. That’s when we took a good hard look at what made us successful and what we needed to do and be as a team to ultimately achieve our goals we set at camp. At that point it was to simply get to six wins, but more importantly it was to again embrace the fact that we were pretty good when each of us simply did our job and accepted our roles for the betterment of the team. That’s when we turned the corner and truly started our run.

We won game No. 6 that weekend to go 6-3 and lock up a Top 2 seed in the playoffs. We played good team lacrosse in the loss to the Archers in the final game of the season. Despite the fact that we had locked up a spot we competed hard and walked away from that loss feeling good about the effort and the direction we were tracking.

Going into the 1 vs. 2 game against Chaos we focused on ourselves and executing our game plan on both ends of the field, and we did that as well as we had at any point this season. The effort and commitment to team is what propels us to victory and has put us into the Championship game.  Regardless of the level, you only get so many chances to compete for a Championship of any kind. We are certainly excited to play in the first PLL Championship in Philadelphia and proud of what we have accomplished, but as we learned at midseason, to be successful we need to stay the course. We have talented players but more so we have a great team. Great teams evolve and we wanted to be playing our best lacrosse in the postseason. I believe both us and the Redwoods are playing our best lacrosse of the season which is great for the league and the fans. I know we will enjoy the moment and play Whipsnake lacrosse which has led us to the PLL Championship game.

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