by Dave Franklin | MCLA.us
Zach Bosh is the coach of the defending MCLA Division II champions North Dakota State and he agreed to a Q&A session as the Bison ramp up to start the season and protect their crown.
Dave Franklin: Take me through your mindset from this time last year right before the season and now getting ready to defend your first national championship.
Zach Bosh: After we lost to Concordia in the 2017 semifinals, it was a familiar feeling and I had rising seniors tell me that the next season would be different.
It's a typical reaction that I get from returning players at the end of the tournament. I feel like it would be a natural reaction for most athletes and programs in our position.
We had lost one of our best offensive players who transferred to Wisconsin for academic purposes, but the mission from the seniors was still the same going into 2018.
Chad Hayda approached me and said, "It doesn't matter. We are better than one player and I'm going to do what I can to lead this team to a championship." I simply replied by saying, "OK, do it then."
It was evident as we started practices that the squad had a different dynamic: serious, focused, but not contentious. That group really got along well and liked each other. We revamped the offense to really spread out the scoring which made us a hard scout. We learned from mistakes instead of lamenting on them and that's how we got to the top.
Each team and season is different and we are never defined by our past, whether it be success or failure. People say we are the defending champs. I say we are just the team that won the national championship last year.
The destination for 2019 is the same, but we are going to take a much different path to get there.
DF: Last year was the first season that UMLC took its current shape, bringing in the best and most competitive programs from the former CCLA. What are your thoughts about your current conference?
ZB: It's funny because when we weren't in the same conference as Grand Valley State and Dayton, we would play them every season. Last year, they were in our league and we didn't see them at all. This year is much different. We play them both and if we had to play those guys last year, I don't think we would have had as strong a record.
Dayton and GVSU are incredible programs and are easily better than the weakest teams we played in 2018. As I said, our destination in 2019 is the same but the roadmap is more difficult.
DF: You are playing two MCLA Division I opponents this year in Minnesota and Davenport. These games technically don't affect any of the participants from making their respective national tournaments, so how do you view these contests?
ZB: From my experience, every team in these sorts of games are playing to win. When you look at the personnel the teams use and the intensity of the games, it's pretty clear that the contests are as serious as any other.
Minnesota has done a good job of scheduling D-II UMLC teams and playing a large Big Ten school on our state border is an easy one to get up for.
Davenport is interesting. When we first beat them in 2011, they were in Division II and ranked No. 1 in the country. We were just a team tagging along to meet them while they came to Minneapolis to face St. John's and St. Thomas.
That win really put us on the map, especially considering the Panthers would go on to win the D-II national title in Denver that May. We also beat them in 2012 when they came to meet us and St. Thomas in St. Louis as they were defending the title.
However, I don't expect any players to have any special sentiments for that game. Only myself and some coaches on my staff who were on the team that beat Davenport will have any recollection of our history with the opponent.
They are a much different program as well, now competing in D-I. Giving any attention to the results against these guys from seven, eight years ago doesn't do anything for us.
THE #NDSU HERD IS 2018 #MCLA DII NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!!! THE #BISON WIN IN DOUBLE OT 8-7 OVER UST!!! #SKIYUH pic.twitter.com/TodxYmLg1o
— North Dakota State Lacrosse (@NDSUMensClubLax) May 12, 2018
DF: Talk about the mistakes you made and learned from during the journey to last year’s championship.
ZB: Before beating St. Thomas in the championship, we lost to them twice because we went scoreless for two quarters in each game. You are never going to beat a team like St. Thomas if you take yourself off the score sheet for half the game.
In the championship we took care of the ball more and cut our turnovers in half. We didn't play particularly well in our first-round win against Central Connecticut which was good for us.
In the quarterfinals, we were down 2-0 against Montana State after the first, but we were composed and knew we just weren't really hitting the net. Nobody touched the panic button, which really showed our character in that victory. Then we saw Duluth in the semis and had to beat them for the third time in 2018 just to see another familiar UMLC opponent in the title game.
DF: It's no secret that hockey and lacrosse have a lot of influence over each other in your part of the country. Does your team do any sort of box lacrosse training?
ZB: We have an inter-squad box league after the fall season is done. It's a good way for the guys to compete, sharpen their skills and have fun at the same time.
DF: You've faced personally adversity over the last few years. When you were able to reflect at the end of last season, did everything you overcome make your celebration sweeter?
ZB: Of course, everyone faces adversity and I try to use tough times as learning moments that become tools for teaching. As hard as it might be, you try and find the positive through the negative.
My wife flew into Utah with our newborn son the night before the national championship. Winning the title in overtime made it hard to enjoy and stay present.
When we first won, I was more overcome with relief than glory because the week was so stressful. However, one of my assistant coaches grabbed my son out of the stands and he was in all the championship pictures with us.
This created incredible memories and moments of reflection as it relates to what I and this program has overcome, both on the field and off.
DF: You have an infant son and you also have an 18-year old son. What's going on with him?
ZB: Drew will play lacrosse for the Bison next year, he's a midfielder, he needs to get bigger.