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 Long Beach State coach, James Otto.
One of the challenges of building a program is constantly challenging yourselves while also building momentum. How do you approach the building process at Long Beach? How have you been selling your program on campus and off?
James Otto: I approach building Long Beach as a challenge every day. Building a program like Long Beach is not easy. I love the challenge, but building this is not a one-man job. I credit the amazing student board on the team for selling this program, on and off campus.
The program at Long Beach has some amazing connections, but my guys really amplify those connections, especially on campus.
As far as off campus, I attend camps and different events to push the program. However, I really credit my offensive coordinator from last season who does an amazing job on social media. Paul Miller really makes some amazing content, which catches a lot of eyes in the lacrosse community.
Which players are going to lead your team in 2024? Who are some guys you expect to make the leap this spring?
JO: Honestly, I expect all of my players to be leaders. Our slogan is: "Ten men, one heartbeat." This means that we all play together as one. There are no individuals for our program. My guys know that each person has an assignment, and they will fight for each other. This group is a very cohesive group, and we treat it like family.
As far as players making the leap this spring, we have a few names across all aspects of the field. We have some amazing freshmen coming in, but my vets are ready to compete. I expect our faceoffs to be amazing as Gavin Bilhartz is really hungry to make a statement.
I expect the defense to be a wall with veterans Trevor Hughes, Connor Kittredge, Matthew Cuellar and goalie Griffin Snow. As always, I expect our midfield and attack to be flying as Martin Trejo, who made the SLC all-freshman team, will be ready to prove that more. It will be a very fun season, for sure.
What's the schedule look like? You stayed in California last year. Any out-of-state trips?
JO: Our schedule this year is very simple. The budget at Long Beach doesn't allow for a lot of out-of-state trips. However, we believe that team chemistry is very important, and can be achieved when everyone is together. This year we are very excited to go to Arizona. We will be playing Fort Lewis and Arizona Christian.
What made you want to coach an MCLA program? Where did your passion for the sport come from?
JO: What made me really want to coach an MCLA program is my love for a game. My passion for the sport started when I was at Saint Mary's. Getting to play a college sport at the NCAA level seemed unrealistic.
However, my competitive drive was still alive, and I loved watching ice hockey at the time. Saint Mary's didn't offer hockey, but they had lacrosse. Picking up a stick, and seeing how fast the game was really opened my eyes.
What really made me fall in love with the game was that it wasn't based on talent alone. Playing the game, and knowing that as long as I put in the effort, results will come was really amazing. This game also gave me some amazing memories, and my best friends.
Through my love for the game, I wanted to pay that forward, which led me to coaching an MCLA program.
You're in the same subdivision as UCSD and San Marcos, but you just missed the SLC tournament last year. What are the team expectations this spring?
JO: Just missing the playoffs last season definitely left a sour taste in our mouth. However, the team's expectation is to get to that next level, and make the playoffs. The guys are very hungry to move up and compete in a very difficult conference like the SLC. I know that Long Beach is very much up for the challenge.
[Want to participate in the "Fall Check In" series as a coach or player? Email [email protected] to request your five questions]