Dig Baton Rouge

Lacrosse in the Bayou

The LSU lacrosse team is poised for a big year after posting its first 10-win season in a decade last year.

Third year head coach Jeff Echols has turned the program around since his arrival and his team is ready to take things to the next level this season. Echols previously coached prep lacrosse in Denver, Houston and Baton Rouge before stepping in to coach the Tigers in 2014.

A good chunk of his 35-man roster is made up of underclassmen, but that won’t stop Echols from holding all of his players to a high standard. That was evident when LSU took on a men’s club from New Orleans in a scrimmage on this January. Although the Tigers were riding a comfortable lead heading into the final period, he didn’t like the overall effort of his team and he let them know — every last one of them.

“I have to do that sometimes, it happens,” Echols said. “It’s not about a screaming match but they needed to get jacked up because they looked a little complacent out there. It didn’t matter that we were playing a club team. There’s certain things we’re looking for even this early in the season.”

When the players are on the field however, Echols will rely on his four trusted team captains to relay his message. Senior attack Thomas Brown, sophomore defender Mitchell Webber, junior midfielder Patrick Messenger, and junior midfielder Austin Melson were all voted as captains by their teammates during the offseason to bring an added sense of leadership to the young squad.

Brown led the nation in assists last year with 50 to go along with 39 goals. He said this year’s schedule, which includes games at the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Georgia is a challenging one.

“We’ve got a real tough schedule this year,” Brown said. “It’s probably the hardest we’ve ever had. It’s definitely the hardest I’ve ever faced in my four years here. We got a lot of young kids with a lot of potential so I think if we just stay together as a team we can be very successful.”

Webber is one player who went from being a fresh face to a youthful leader this year. Echols coached against Webber during his prep career at Episcopal High School in Houston, Texas.

It’s no secret that football has been the sport of choice for many kids in the south, but the work of coaches like Echols could bring a change to the game in Louisiana. Last year LSU competed in the first televised collegiate lacrosse game in the state of Louisiana when they took on the University Louisiana at Lafayette at Olympia Stadium in Baton Rouge.

Melson who missed the game against ULL due to an ACL tear said he looks forward to the chance to play in a televised game this season.

If the Tigers can continue to grow the game of lacrosse, there’s no telling how far the sport can go.

“Coach Echols has done a great job in growing the game and getting kids who previously wouldn’t have been interested, into the game,” Brown said. “It’s grown a ton since my freshman year. A lot of kids who didn’t even know we had a team are starting for us this year.”

The Tigers will open the season against Clemson University on Friday, February 5, at Olympia Stadium.

Follow C.J. Rucker on Twitter @Ruckmatic.




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