By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
The Brevard Tornados men’s lacrosse team had their new head coach announced this past August. Jim Fritz was selected to lead the team into the future.
He returned to the college game with this move after spending one season as the Christ the King High School boy’s lacrosse coach. Fritz was asked to start that program from the ground up, before accepting this Brevard College job.
“I think it means a lot,” Fritz said. “I was involved previously when they were starting the program and they asked me for a lot of advice. It was a great opportunity to come back here and help the program get back on track.”
Fritz is taking over the program after the team had its best record during the 2018 season. The team went 9-3, before head coach Eric McKinney left the program following the season.
He would like to build off of that success that McKinney had in 2018, while putting his own system in place with the players.
“Last year was the first time they ever had a winning record,” he said. “They also had a lot of coaching turnover, so I don’t really feel they had a strong culture. They also have some great senior leadership this year, as they were juniors last year. They haven’t really had an established culture, so what I’m trying to do is establish that culture.”
With so much turnover from head coaches, Fritz is leaning on his players to create their own culture.
“Even though they haven’t had a strong sense of culture, the players have taken a lot of leadership upon themselves,” Fritz said. “There wasn’t a lot that needed to be improved. What I have had to establish is what hard work I think is and our ability — and holding them to that standard. And they have done a good job of that.”
Much of the Tornados top scorers are returning except for Kyle Hunziker, who had 34 goals during the 2018 season. Jackson McKaig led the team in 2018 with 50 goals.
Brevard had 153 total goals on the 2018 season.
“I think we’re going to have new players step up this year,” Fritz said. “Sean Pratt has been moved to attack and we have some young players, who are doing really well. So, having those key guys back — and our seniors back — especially with the new rules. We really want to play fast, as we want to get up and down the field. We really want to have a lot of early offense. And having that experience will hopefully help us for sure.”
Last September 2018, the NCAA mandated an 80-second shot clock for the 2019 season. Teams had to adjust, as they’ll have around 60-seconds after the ball gets past midfield.
“You have a total of 80 seconds, but it’ll be about a minute after we get it cross the midfield mark,” he said. “I’ve always believed in playing fast. I want to push the ball in transition on offense. The one thing the shot clock does — they’ve been coached in the past and I’ve done this in the past, as well — we have thrown it around a few times before going. Now, with the new rules, we’re going to have to go quicker. We can’t settle with the ball, as much as we would like.”
Fritz admitted he is their fifth coach in the past four-years. He also admitted that one of the focus is depth of the roster.
“We only have 20 players, so they’re competing every day in practice, so we’re not super deep,” Fritz said. “But one of the reasons why the school brought me in is they see the new conference we’re in, they see the potential for winning that and making it to the playoffs. That’s their goal. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.
“This is something we have to deal with. In my coaching career, I’ve been in these situations before, where we haven’t had the numbers we would like. But we make the best of it. One of the things is getting them in very good shape. When you have the right guys — I had a team in the past with injuries — we finished the season with 15 players. We were still able to win the conference, playing Saturday and Sunday, so if you have the right guys, and they’re buying in, you are going to be alright.”
Presently, the Tornados have a 2-2 record. They were defeated 16-8 in their last game to Hood College Blazers on Feb. 23.
The team returns to action on Saturday, March 2nd, against Fritz’s former employer, Pfeiffer University, at home at 5 pm. He is also in the Pfeiffer Athletics Hall of Fame.
Fritz — who has started three lacrosse programs — has 210 career wins, including the two this season.
“Last year, they won nine games, so our goal this season is to win 10,” he said. “We want to get double-digit wins. Because we are still in probation from switching to Division II to Division III, we are not eligible to play in the conference tournament. But our goal is to win the tournament’s regular season. If we have that kind of year, we could qualify for the ECAC playoffs. So that’s our goals for this year.”