(Photo by Chris Lohoff-Gaida)
by Dave Franklin | MCLA.us
ATHENS, Ga. – Andy Garrigan was once head coach at Texas and took the Longhorns to the MCLA national tournament. Garrigan has now taken over a program at Georgia, generally considered a top-tier SELC outfit, which is now competing in arguably the best conference in the country.
Three games into the year and with a 2-1 record with the only loss coming to defending national champion South Carolina, Garrigan sat down for a Q&A.
Dave Franklin: What are some of the similarities and differences between the programs at the Texas and Georgia?
Andy Garrigan: I would say that both teams have competitive players and want nothing but the best for the program that they are playing for. They have no quit. Both teams have shown that they support each other on and off of the field and both have strong alumni supporting them.
Differences is a tough question. The SELC is incredibly stronger than the Lone Star Alliance was when I was coaching at UT. I loved my coaches and my players when I was at Texas. We had a strong camaraderie and won the LSA title the two years I was there. However, this experience at UGA in the SELC pulls from a much more diverse pool of players.
My players at UGA have a special kind of commitment to the team and to lacrosse in general. We have been blessed with the amount of transfers from [NCAA] D-I programs and here at UGA we have an amazing backing from our parent base and community. Our community here in Athens, and in the metro Atlanta area, have been very supportive and you can see that at the games and in sponsorship of the team.
I also have had an amazing experience here at UGA. They welcomed my family and I with open arms and have been a great support system for us with our transition to Athens, Georgia.
DF: What's the biggest thing you've noticed in your lacrosse coaching career transitioning from high school to college and back again?
AG: Both high school and college lacrosse players that I have seen and worked with are dedicated. Parents and communities are dedicated to supporting the programs I have coached for, no doubt.
The speed of the game is different between high school and college, and my experience coaching college, and for the MCLA, has put me in a position where I have taken my coaching to a different level. Most importantly I want to make sure my current players, like my past high school players, know that I have their backs on and off the field.
DF: What was it like preparing for and competing against the defending national champions early in the season and with that, so early in your return to coaching at the collegiate level?
AG: With a young team, it was a challenge going into this game, especially as it was an away game. We were still trying to figure out which lines we wanted to run and how we could come to this game prepared, knowing what was at stake, and that it was going to be a tough game.
I was so proud of my players and how they represented our team and UGA Lacrosse. There were some situations that we could not have prepared for. We may not have won according to the scoreboard, but we learned a lot in that game and are working harder for the next game because of it.
DF: What role will transfer students from NCAA programs play in your teams' success this year?
AG: Our NCAA transfer students do bring their experience from other programs and play hard but all of our players are playing for the same team and at the same level. We are one team, no matter what programs our transfer students have come from, and all have a common goal to play together.
I preach a lot about how our team is a family and that is what I am seeing with these guys.
DF: What did you see from your team in the second half in the 10-8 win over Florida?
AG: The first thing we got past going into the second half of the game was the weather. We had a snow-covered field and the fog was incredibly thick that night. We finally started to trust each other during the game and realized that we could get it done by changing up what we normally do on the field.
In the third quarter, a timeout was called by Florida and when we huddled up, the team talked about what we needed to do to win this game. I remember one of our leaders said, "Let's keep it simple and just play ball." And that was it.
We had to get better at ground balls and our passing game. And although we sometimes thought we were picking up ground balls and they were actually balls of snow, we got it done, our passing improved and we finished the game strong.
DF: What are your expectations for Connor Egan in his college lacrosse career?
AG: I am going to keep this simple. Connor is an amazing athlete and there is not a team in the country that wouldn't love to have him on their team. He is smart, he has a great IQ for the game, and he is an incredible team player. I know he is going to do amazing things in his lacrosse career.
DF: How much of a focus is Garret Brennan going into your next game against Clemson?
AG: We obviously respect him as a player and he has certainly deserved all the recognition he has gotten. As we prepare to meet him and the other players on the field, we just hope they have the dropsies out there! Other than that, we are doing our due diligence in preparing to meet Clemson for our game this weekend and we look forward to playing them again.