It's fall ball season. Hope springs eternal. Everyone is 0-0 and in the hunt for the natty.
As such, we're checking in with programs across the country and divisions to see what's happening. We're continuing with UNC-Charlotte coach, Nick Nedvesky.
The last two seasons you've pulled off tournament upsets as a double-digit seed. An improved strength of schedule would obviously get you a better seed. Is that something that you've addressed in the offseason? If so, how? What does the schedule look like this spring?
Nick Nedvesky: Strength of schedule is always a talking point when it comes to national seeding. The last few years coming off COVID impacted our budget at Charlotte nearly back to ground zero at the start of the 2022 season.
We were not in position to charge players extensive dues – we needed to build the culture back up, which we believe we successfully did. Now we are full steam ahead and looking to build on the two previous seasons with an increased SOS and travel.
We have two major in-season road trips, including a trip out to Missouri State to play them as well as Grand Valley State. We then have another road trip down to Atlanta to play back-to-back SELC champs Kennesaw State and another SELC team.
Mixed in with our ALC ranked foes Coastal Carolina and Wake Forest, along with some great additions including Virginia Tech D2, our 14-game spring schedule is loaded for another run at an MCLA Championship.
Your program attracts a lot of transfers from varsity programs. What is the attraction to playing at Charlotte? How do you sell the soap to both transfers and high school students?
NN: The campus, the culture, the community. These are three sticking points for every recruit or transfer we attract to Charlotte. Our coaching staff is truly dedicated to making the student-athletes experience a memorable one while also setting them up for success post-graduation.
We have a volunteer coaching staff, meaning over my time at Charlotte, no coach has made a dollar off the program because it is about so much more than lacrosse. We break down every practice, game and event with “Family” because we live that value every day.
When recruits come to practices and/or games and see 40 guys living and breathing that mentality, it’s an easy sell, especially when you pair that with the city of Charlotte and the university itself.
The past several years you've graduated really talented classes, but someone else seems to emerge as a star the following season. Who are the guys ready to make the leap for the 49ers in '24?
NN: Coming into this past year, we graduated or lost nearly all eight All-Americans from our historic team in 2022. That is not the same as we exit the 2023 season because we return every All-American from a year ago, including the attack trio of Blake Moxim, Tyler Nichols and Declan McHugh.
This allows us to build on the current roster instead of replacing the roster, which is a big win for us going into 2024.
One of the big names to watch out for in the MCLA this year will be Kolson Huff. Kolson is coming to us from NCAA D-II Lenoir-Rhyne, where they just won the NCAA national championship in May. Adding championship pedigree is something we haven’t had before and we could feel it from day one when he stepped on the field. He is different.
We are also adding graduate transfer Dezmon Patton, who won the MCLA National Championship with South Carolina, as a top two LSM for them in 2022.
Other key additions are defensive transfer Nathan Buck (NCAA D-II Wingate), midfielder Riley Martin (D-I VMI/D-III Roanoke), faceoff duo of Joe Pickens (D-II Lees-McRae) and Cole Donner (D-II Wingate) to pair with ALC Specialty Player of the Year Ryan Parody, SSDM Josh Kammerman (D-III Nazareth), Jamari Smith (D-III William Peace) along with close to five all-state freshmen.
This year's class is the best in Charlotte lacrosse history.
What are the biggest challenges coaching in the MCLA? What provides fulfillment?
NN: The biggest challenge for a lot of MCLA teams is consistency year after year. Who is returning and leaving? If leaving, did we recruit at that position in the offseason? Are we providing value-added coaching to the current and incoming players? Are we developing our bench for years to come?
These are the questions our coaching staff looks at to start each year as we access our approach to the season.
A great example of this is LSM Owen Shafer. Owen was an honorable mention All-American as a sophomore after spending his freshman year behind an all-conference senior. Our goal is to recreate this year after year with new players.
Our associate head coach Liam O’Halloran said it best: “What’s most fulfilling is when you get a player who has that ‘light bulb’ moment. That moment where what you’ve been telling them clicks and they’re able to implement theory into game play. Watching our players make memories that will last a lifetime at practice or on away game trips is truly fulfilling.”
How would you describe your coaching style? What are they key components of your coaching philosophy?
NN: The coaching tree that I grew up under was Mark Burnam, most famously a five-time World Team captain for the Iroquois nationals and an NCAA Champion at Syracuse. It is a brand of lacrosse that features a run-and-gun offense mixed with a physical and fundamental style of defense.
What this clash of styles has created for us is one of the most competitive practice settings in the country.
Coach O’Halloran gets those defensive guys ready to go while I control the offensive side of the ball. So even at the coaching level, we are competing with each other to win each practice.
To put it bluntly, we have a blast in practices because every drill or rep is a dog fight. Iron sharpens iron, and when you face some of the most talented players in the country six-plus hours a week it’s going to elevate everybody’s games on both sides of the ball.
[Want to participate in the "Fall Check In" series as a coach or player? Email [email protected] to request your five questions]