After picture day — during which sophomore team captain Mason DePaola illustrated how the team is working on getting the new guys acclimated to the team — the University of Arizona men’s lacrosse is now gearing up to start their season at home against the Dominican Penguins this Saturday at 1 p.m.
This will be the first time the two teams have met. Arizona’s current head coach Matt Blamey, formally the head coach of Dominican University's men's lacrosse team back in 2015, was able to offer insight into what the Wildcats will be facing on Saturday.
“They’re gritty and they're fast. They like to get up and down the field and their attack is their strength. They have a very good attack,” Blamey said. “I think that we’re getting better every day. I don’t know. We'll figure it out on Saturday.”
Blamey was followed by his team captains who each offered their own opinion on Dominican.
“I don’t know anything about them except for I heard they’re good, and we just got to play them like any other game," senior Akiah Cepielik said. "You never judge who’s on the field. You just play it by points."
Cepielik was backed up by his co-defensive captain and junior defensive midfielder Austin Nisonoff.
“I don’t know a whole lot about them," Nisonoff said. "I probably am going to start to watch a lot of film tonight and probably tomorrow. Definitely tomorrow before the game. You know catch up on who their main guys are, especially coming in offensive [midfielders]."
Team captain Exton Bassett said how important it will be for Arizona to play a complete game.
“I know they’re competitive," Bassett said. "Our coach used to coach for them. So we got to come out hard, come out ready, keep on our toes for 60 minutes.”
According to the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association preseason poll, Arizona is starting the season ranked as the No. 19 team. The Wildcats have not been in the top 25 in the MCLA’s preseason poll since spring of 2017.
Looking ahead to future games for Arizona lacrosse
The Wildcats will face their first big challenge of the season on Saturday, Feb. 29, when they play No. 5-ranked Georgia Tech (1-0) at Arizona State University - West Campus.
Later on this season the Wildcats will face their biggest test yet on Sunday, April 5, when they play No. 3-ranked Chapman University in Orange, California.
They will finish out the season with a home game against their in-state rivals No. 7 ranked Arizona State University, who are also playing Dominican this weekend on Sunday at 1 p.m.
After practice on Thursday, the Daily Wildcat talked about tomorrow’s game with team captains Akiah Cepielik, Austin Nisonoff and Exton Bassett.
Daily Wildcat: What have the conversations on the field with your teammates during practice been like so far?
Akiah Cepielik: That we’ve got to get up. That we’ve got big plans for this year. All the pieces are there. You just got to put them together, make the big plays.
Austin Nisonoff: The climate is great. Everybody is hyped up. We’re excited for the season to start. Been a long fall and cold winter, but everybody is hyped up. We’re ready to go.
Exton Bassett: They’ve been, you know, all business. We want to keep it fun, keep it light, but, you know, we want to take it seriously.
DW: What are your feelings on the younger/transfer players?
AC: I think it’s great. I love having them, the best time, and I always love seeing a new face with a good attitude.
AN: I think they’re great. I think they come in here with a great attitude. I think they are ready and open. They’re very coachable. They’re adapting to our systems. Overall, they’re just good team players.
EB: We really love having them because they bring a lot to the table and help out a lot.
DW: What are your individual goals for this season?
AC: I just want to be the best captain that I can to these guys. Lead, whether it is on or off the field. Hopefully, just do the part of mine to get to a national championship.
AN: To win a national championship. That’s it.
EB: Mostly just to win a national championship. That has been my goal since I’ve been here. You know, fourth year, last time. This is it.
Transfer finding his spot on the team
The Daily Wildcat talked to one of the transfer players, Isaiah Blomgren, on how he felt being on the team.
DW: How does it feel being on a new team at a new school?
Isaiah Blomgren: I would say one of the biggest things is the change in climate. Being able to branch out and meet new people. Being able to play the game at a level that I know is going to be bigger than high school. Let me be more of me and not be part of a business. Have a lot more fun.
DW: How do you feel about your teammates?
IB: It’s good, I’ve bonded with a few of them very fast. It’s a good change. A bunch of people from California now, so I’m not the outsider.
DW: When you say California, where do you mean? Where are you from?
IB: Northern California. Just above San Francisco.
DW: How do you feel about your coaches?
IB: Well, Blamey has coached me since I was in sixth or seventh grade, basically up until now. Then, he reached out to me and said, "Why don’t you come down to Arizona?"
DW: Can you describe your role on the team?
IB: Well, I am a face-off midfielder, so I’m basically just trying to prove myself. Any chance I have to contribute, I am going to put it forward.
Tune in to the Daily Wildcat today for in-game live reporting on the action against Dominican.
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