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 Cal State San Marcos coach, Wyatt Ehrhardt.
The last two seasons have established San Marcos as a national contender. What went into making the program that CSUSM has emerged as? What are the challenges that still lie ahead?
Wyatt Ehrhardt: The past two seasons at the helm of CSUSM lacrosse have been a blessing. We have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel and play incredible competition around the country. It seems that each year we have been able to make strides of improvement as a program.
A lot of the recent success of this program can be attributed to the buy-in and the high level of commitment from our players. In addition, the coaching staff between our defensive coordinator Tim Puls and offensive coordinator Alex Cunningham, go the extra mile for our players to ensure our guys are held to a high standard and accountable for being detail oriented. Our coaches also have a strong pulse in the southern California lacrosse community, which has been significant in pulling in high value recruits as well.
Even more so, a tremendous difference between our program and from what I see across the league is the installment of backend support. Hiring our team manager Charity Jones in 2022 has shown a significant improvement in overall team organization and structure. She ensures that every detail of travel, logistics and communication is accounted for. We also are backed by our incredible campus recreation staff lead by assistant director Ryan Groth.
My goal with this team was to take some of the administrative stress off the players to place more of an emphasis towards on-field performance. Ultimately, having a well-rounded staff, strong team leadership and a developed culture has contributed to much of the team’s deserved success the past few seasons.
There will be many challenges that still lie ahead that our team will have to overcome. One of the biggest hurdles will be having the financial resources to keep the program running smoothly. Our player-treasurer Austin Conteras does a great job in this role, however each year prices of flights and travel seem to increase causing more of a focus on budgeting and fundraising. Furthermore, dealing with financial constraints can directly impact who we can play during the regular season and travel to.
Kobe Brown was one of the best all-around players that Division II has ever seen. What did he mean to the Cougars and how difficult will his leadership and skill be to replace?
WE: I can sense a big sigh of relief from the rest of the league when I say that Kobe Brown will not be returning this season. Kobe commanded respect from his opponents and would always show up in clutch time moments.
We have been very fortunate to have a higher-caliber player to leave his imprint on this team. We will most likely miss his resilience and his never give up relentlessness that he provided in every game.
Moving forward, we have recently named three captains that will step up into a leadership role: Jason Thibeault, Coby Cernetic and Brandon Wamsley. Coby and Jason have been with the program since 2021 and Brandon is the current president of the team. With these men as captains along with our 16 other returners, provides high valued playing experience and leadership.
Who are some names that we should become familiar with on San Marcos heading into '24? What does the incoming class look like?
WE: This year we are bringing in 14 new players to add to our program. We have a few new faces that should have an impact on the field right away. From the state of Oregon we have a tall, shifty first year attackman named Ryan Simmons who can play both righty and lefty with an absolute cannon of a shot.
In addition, we strengthen our defense and midfield with LSM Jackson Riley and midfielder Colton Hough, who reminds me of Kobe Brown).
We also have a strong cast of returning All-Americans and all-conference players to watch out for. At the X we have James Ventura supported by strong wing play from Davis Hancock. Also, our transition athlete Shea Peters, who scored 34 points at LSM and our shifty midfielder Nick Pages.
Our all-conference close defense is also returning in full and led by our hoss in net, Andrew Vigil. Offensively, look out for our two stud attackmen Jake Hudson and Jason Thibeault, as well. We will be looking for a few younger guys to step up this season like Jake Hackett, Axel Gereda and Sean Lee.
What's the schedule look like this year? Any big non-conference matchups to look forward to?
WE: Our week one home opener should be interesting facing the University of Arizona. They are in our conference but just recently added a D2 program to balance out their roster size. We are excited to see them and compete. I am sure they will have a few strong players that are well coached.
Overall, this year we will have a robust schedule with strong out-of-conference teams like Utah State, Montana State, NDSU and Air Force. We are looking forward to our rematch with Air Force. They are a formidable opponent who shows class and respect for the game. They have also displayed that they can be at the top of the conversation for national contention.
When the final whistle blew in the national semifinal loss, what were your emotions? Disappointment was likely one, but there had to be a level of satisfaction in making it that far. How did the players respond?
WE: After the final whistle blew, we were obviously all feeling the emotions of defeat. The final game in Round Rock was gut wrenching because we all believed that we were going all the way without much doubt. Personally, when I reflect on that game, I try to imagine how it could have gone differently in terms of personnel changes and on the field adjustments in real time.
Being that it was our first biggest step in program history, the game definitely had a different feel to it and one that we have not experienced yet as a team. However, there was satisfaction getting to that point as a team and knowing that we have made immense strides as a program.
The players responded initially as upset. However, they also took a step back and viewed the loss with grace and an understanding for how far this program has ventured forward. It is easy to get down and point fingers when circumstances are not in your favor.
Thankfully, we have a resilient group who comprehends deeply what it means to handle adversity. The nature of this program and team culture is based on focusing on the process and day to day improvements rather than the actual goal itself. When you love the grind, the game of lacrosse and being part of something bigger than yourself, the rewards come later.
[Want to participate in the "Fall Check In" series as a coach or player? Email [email protected] to request your five questions]