Mearns brings experience, optimism to jumpstart Bonnies lax program

By: Jeff Uveino 

“I hadn’t been on this campus in probably 26 years.”

Randy Mearns sat back in his chair, recalling his NCAA playing days with Canisius College.

Mearns, an All-American lacrosse player at Canisius from 1990-92 and the school’s all-time leading scorer, painted the gameday picture of a rainy afternoon at St. Bonaventure.

“When I was playing at Canisius, St. Bonaventure actually had a men’s NCAA lacrosse team,” Mearns remarked. “The last thing I remember was coming here to play, we lost at the back fields, and I ate bologna sandwiches.”

Little did he know that decades later, he would be put in charge of bringing lacrosse back to a school that hasn’t seen a Division I men’s program since 1993.

Mearns, a native of St. Catherines, Ontario, has spent his life around the game of lacrosse. He played in the National Lacrosse League from 1993-2002 for the Rochester Knighthawks and Buffalo Bandits. He was captain of the Knighthawks for six seasons, and captain of team Canada during the 1998 World Championship.

Mearns has served as a coach of team Canada since 2006, leading his home nation to a World Championship in 2014. He also served as head coach of his alma mater for 19 years, leading Canisius to NCAA tournament appearances in 2008 and 2012. However, after the 2017 season, the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame member saw a new opportunity arise.

“My family ended up getting a house in Ellicottville,” Mearns said. “But, when they announced that they were starting a D1 program here, I didn’t really think anything of it.”

It wasn’t until Matt Brown, associate head coach at the University of Denver and member of the Team Canada coaching staff, reached out to Mearns about the job that he started thinking about SBU.

“[Brown] told me, just so you know, Bill Tierney [head coach at Denver] put your name on a shortlist at St. Bonaventure,” said Mearns. “You’ve got to explore that.”

Mearns paused and sighed with a smile, recalling the revelation.

“I was in a situation at Canisius where I wasn’t going to be under contract,” he said. “Not that I was leaving, I just thought that I needed to explore what they were doing at SBU. I didn’t hide anything from my former institution, I just told them that I wanted to go explore this, and they said I had the opportunity to do that.”

After visiting SBU, Mearns was convinced that he could sell lacrosse in the hills of Allegany.

“When I met the staff here, it felt like a family,” Mearns said. “Everything is relationship based, and the academics are phenomenal.”

Mearns was named head coach of the St. Bonaventure men’s lacrosse team in June. His next task?

Recruit.

“What I knew during recruiting was because of the explosion of lacrosse, even though most Division 1 programs had their 2019 teams figured out, there were still 44,000 kids looking for a home,” said Mearns.

He remained confident throughout the recruiting process, recognizing that there are only 72 NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse teams, and there was a large amount of talent still available. Mearns’ experience in the game had also built connections that helped him find quality players.

“I spent 19 years at Canisius, so I already have great relationships with coaches from colleges, clubs and high schools,” Mearns said. “It’s just a matter of reaching out to these guys. You take advantage of the contacts that you have, and then do your own research on kids to make sure you’re bringing in ones that fit well.”

Mearns’ connections to team Canada were another recruiting help. Lacrosse has greatly expanded in the country in recent years, which is reflected by their recent World Championship victory under Mearns.

Of the 32 incoming freshmen men’s lacrosse players, nine are from Canada.

“I realized that we just needed to get the kids on campus,” said Mearns. “Once we get guys here, they understand the vision. They see the academic profile and the family-oriented culture, and it doesn’t become a hard sell.”

The Bonnies will go into the 2019 season as perhaps the youngest team in the NCAA, with a roster of 32 freshmen, one sophomore transfer and one junior transfer. They will open up competitive play on Saturday, Sept. 22, with a scrimmage against John Carroll University, a contest coach Mearns is excited about.

“We won’t know where we’re at until we play games,” he said. “But we’re going to be competitive. We have some really good lacrosse players.”

Mearns acknowledged that building up a new program is no easy task, but he has high expectations for St. Bonaventure men’s lacrosse in the near future. With the right resources, Mearns said, he wants to build the Bonnies program into a national power.

“My goal here is to evolve over the next four years,” Mearns said. “We could win a national championship. Some people might think that’s kind of crazy, but it doesn’t matter what anyone else believes.”

Mearns is bringing his decorated lacrosse background to SBU and is ready to put in the work to build this program up into what he thinks could be a perennial power.

“We haven’t earned anything,” Mearns said. “We have to be humble and work our tails off. Everybody has their own individual goals, and as a coaching staff it’s our job to provide all the resources and mentorship we can to help our guys start to realize those goals.”

Advertisements

Women’s Lacrosse Drop A-10 Opener, have High Expectations

[Photo by Kenny Nguyen]

By Allie Perl, staff writer, @aperl18

ST. BONAVENTURE (MARCH 31) – St. Bonaventure’s lacrosse team has let it be known that this is a new year and they have high expectations.

“I want to make it to A-10’s this year,” goalie Karly Kocis said. 

The Bonnies have not made the Atlantic 10 playoffs since 2007. 

However, with new coach Ryan Lynn, the Bonnies hope to achieve that goal this season.

The Bonnies played their first A-10 match-up yesterday against Temple, losing by a 12-4 score and now have 2-3 (0-1) record.

“We are slowly but surely starting to change the culture and get us back to where we want to be,” Lynn said.

Lynn arrived at St. Bonaventure after being the the defensive coach at Le Moyne College. He has brought that same style to St. Bonaventure.  

“We are just going to run a pressure defense, so what that means is that we are going to push out on the ball and then the two adjacents are always going to close the driving lanes,” Lynn said.

Junior defensive player Kellyn Savage noticed the difference right away

“It’s not just you and the person you’re guarding, we work as a whole together,” Savage said.

The team has already shown improvement from previous years.

Against No. 12 Ohio State, the Bonnies managed to keep the game close at the beginning, but did not have enough offense to upset the Buckeyes. 

“He’s determined to make us better,” sophomore midfielder Cara Callahan said.  “He comes everyday prepared with a list of things that we need to get done. And we won’t move on to the next thing until we’re done… we’re much more disciplined this year.” 

Callahan, who had 38 goals last year, scored three goals in the season opening win against Niagara. But she has since been sidelined due to an injury. 

Lynn understands that dedication is the only way to turn a program around. 

“If I am going to put expectations on them, I better make sure I maintain expectations on myself,” Lynn said. 

In their last four games, the Bonnies have outshot their opponents by an average of .823 along with saving more shots on goal than their opponents. 

It hasn’t just been Lynn’s changes to the program, but new faces have also impacted the Brown and White. 

Freshman Mackenzie Jordan, whose sister Stephanie, played for St. Bonaventure in 2004-2008, is excited to be part of the Bonaventure family. 

“I like (playing at St. Bonaventure) because we can relate to a lot of things”.

Jordan has five points so far in the season,” Jordan said.

Other freshmen who have contributed are Jenna Barber, who has one assist and Taylor Ventre who has three ground balls. 

But it’s the veterans who are leading the way.

Sophomore Erin Thompson and senior Danielle Drabin lead the team with 11 and 13 points respectively. 

In goal, the Bonnies have switched between Karly Kocis and Sara Schlagenhauf. Both have been effective, but Lynn has yet to choose his starter. 

While the Bonnies have shown improvement from last season, there’s still room to grow. 

For instance, a weakness has been turnovers where the Bonnies have committed 51, but have only caused 15.

“If we work as hard as we have been, I truly do think we have a shot at getting into the conference tournament,” Lynn said. “But right now we have to maintain the momentum we have and it is going to be a long road if we do get there.”

Rising from the ashes of past losing seasons is a St. Bonaventure team ready to play for a bid to the A-10 Championship.

perlae11@bonaventure.edu

Lynn-ear progression

SBU’s new lacrosse coach says he hopes to replicate his success in Division II for the Bonnies

By Joseph Phelan, staff writer, @jphelan13

Ryan Lynn grew up in Baldwinsville, N.Y., with a passion for the game of lacrosse. 

“I remember as a kid going to see lacrosse games with my dad,” said Lynn, St. Bonaventure University’s newly named head lacrosse coach. “I caught the fever.” 

That fever has been with him since then, and it is that same fever that has made him successful at the collegiate level. 

Lynn led Le Moyne, the No. 2-ranked Division II lacrosse team in 2011, advance to the NCAA Championship semifinals. As the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator, his team had the nation’s top scoring defense at 5.06 goals per game.

Though he was Le Moyne’s top assistant coach, Lynn said the family atmosphere made taking St. Bonaventure’s head coaching job an easy choice.

“From the administration to the girls on the team, I sensed a support system that made this job so attractive to me,” he said.  

As a former goalie, Lynn said he understands the importance of defense. The mastermind behind the Dolphins’ defensive attack, which ranked first among Division II teams in fewest goals allowed per game, said he will try to mimic similar results at the Division I level.

“When I look at offense, it all starts with a good defense,” he said. 

Lynn added everyone has a fresh start and is on the same level.

“It gives our players an opportunity to stand out,” he said.

Lynn said he is willing to make any and all necessary strides to make this team a more dynamic one. His goals are high, but they can be achieved.

“I will bring and teach everything I know,” said Lynn, a 2004 University of Buffalo and 2008 Buffalo State graduate. “To me, practice is the most important thing. Just being out there each day teaching is very rewarding.”

Lynn replaces Christy Malone, who accepted an administrative position in higher education at Division III Neumann University in Aston, Pa. Christine Hanley, a ’11 alumna and the university’s career goals scored leader, will help coach the offensive attack as Lynn’s graduate assistant. 

Lynn said he understands that it might take time, but is up for the challenge in turning around a team that went 6-9, 2-5 in Atlantic 10 Conference, a year ago.

“Getting to the A10 Championship, winning the championship, qualifying for the NCAAs, and be able to compete at the national level is where we aim to be,” Lynn said.

phelanjc11@bonaventure.edu

Captains’ magical touch

The only recruiting class by coach Christy Malone to stay all four years made the university’s lacrosse program a force

By Tony Lee, editor in chief, @sHecKii

ST. BONAVENTURE (March 10) — Christine Hanley, Catie Greene and Jill Remick entered the university as head lacrosse coach Christy Malone’s freshmen recruits.

Three years later, they leave as the catalyst that made St. Bonaventure University’s lacrosse program relevant again. 

“They are really the group that set the whole foundation down and really laid the tracks for (future) teams to follow,” Malone said. “I think they’re a huge part of my career and a huge part for the lacrosse program here at Bonaventure.”

Whether its Greene’s perfect 4.0 GPA or Hanley’s Atlantic 10 Conference awards, Malone said the senior captains have became the epitome of athletes teammates not only want to be around but model after.

Malone said Greene, Hanley and Remick, who was accepted into George Washington’s medical program, are the only athletes she has coached all four years. 

“I think they are the only (recruiting) class that really got me,” she said. “I do cherish that they saw the vision I had from freshman year and they still stuck with me until senior year.”

That vision included wins against well-known athletic programs like Connecticut — a game all the lacrosse players and coaching staff remembers vividly. 

“We had the mindset of if we didn’t know if we’re going to win or not because they are a really good team,” Hanley said of the 11-10 away victory on Feb. 29, 2010. “Throughout the game, coach kept saying stuff to motivate us.”  

During the four years, Greene, a Islip Terrace, N.Y. native, said on the team developed a special bond. 

“I don’t think we really mind coming to practice,” she said of the players and coaches. 

That is because practice is fun and filled with jokes, something Malone said that helps her job of coaching 29 women less taxing.

“They are totally immature, but I’m OK with that at certain times,” she said of the captains. “Times on my job it’s very stressful, and for them to make me crack a smile and put things into perspective, it is really needed.”

Greene gave an example.

“One time Coach was talking to Crissy about changing something,” she said, “and I walked passed (Hanley) and told her, ‘Coach thinks you are a (wussy).’”

Greene said Marcus Nelson, an assistant coach who started off as a team manager, also contributes to the comedic shenanigans that makes the overall experience fun.

“Our whole team is so close,” she said. “When we go out on weekends, we’re together. When we’re here, we’re together. I walk through the RC and someone’s doing something stupid, usually Marcus, and I get to laugh about it.”

Nelson, who attended some classes with lacrosse players, said he got to hang out with them. Because of that, especially for the captains, he said “it’s like watching your little sisters grow up and be something great.”

“Watching them playing on the field is one of the most satisfying things to do because you know where they came from,” Nelson said. “And where they are now … it’s just awesome.”

Hanley, a Syracuse, N.Y., said when the three captains became freshmen dorm mates at Shay Hall, none of them expected this type of satisfying experience.

“I can’t say I thought that we’d all be captains together, but I’m glad it turned out that way,” Hanley said. “I think we work really well together.”

When asked about what Greene and Hanley thought their legacy will be, Hanley said she hopes people just remembers them.

Greene said that won’t be a problem for Hanley.

“If you come to one of our games, you’re going to see this girl fly from one side of a field to another,” she said of Hanley. “Like, everyone remembers that when they come out to the field.”

After graduating, Greene, currently in St. Bonaventure’s master’s program on mental health, is waiting back on other graduate schools before making a final decision, and Hanley, a childhood psychology major, wants to be a graduate assistant at St. Bonaventure.

Remick, a Rensselaer, N.Y. native, will complete her St. Bonaventure-George Washington University School of Medicine Early Assurance Program and attend medical school after graduation. 

The three captains came into their freshmen year looking forward to joining a lacrosse team. 

They leave knowing they left the program in a better place. 

“(Malone) really took our program from kind of nothing to now we couldn’t be happier than how it looks,” Greene said. 

tony.lee@theintrepid.org

This is a preview clip of The Intrepid’s interview with St. Bonaventure Bonnies lacrosse captains Catie Greene and Christine Hanley, head coach Christy Malone and assistant coach Marcus Nelson. 

Follow The Intrepid on Twitter (@Intrepid_SBU) or come back to this website to see the feature story on March 7.