When a coach needs someone to come in clutch for the team late in the game it’s more often than not a senior or an upperclassmen: Someone who’s been there before.
However, Montana men’s lacrosse head coach Tucker Sargent has figured out a way to incorporate talented-freshmen into those monumental situations. Since 2016 alone at least two freshmen have played vital roles within the Grizzlies game plan. There was midfielder Nate Hanold and goalkeeper Drew Moesel back in 2016. Hanold tallied 15 goals and 11 assists for the Grizzlies. Moesel recorded 229 saves in 16 games.
In 2017 there were then-freshmen Luke Johnson and Trent Tubbs. Johnson has been a reliant face-off specialist for Montana. During his freshman campaign he handled 224 faceoffs and won 70 percent of them. He was third on the team for ground balls with 72. Tubbs showed he was capable of playing at the collegiate level as a freshman. He ended his freshman year with 17 points.
Last year it was attackmen Jimmy Pierce and Miguel Generoso that ran the offense for the Grizzlies, together they generated 110 points. Pierce led the team with 49 goals and Generoso led the team with 32 assists.
That trend will seem to continue as several freshmen are already making impacts this season. The Grizzlies will add two more soon-to-be freshmen to next year’s roster. The two talented high school seniors will bring an abundance of knowledge about the game with them to Montana.
Will Smyth and James Holak are from Duluth, a city located on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota about 120 miles from the Twin Cities. On Feb. 16 they traveled about three hours southwest to Collegeville, MN., where the Grizzlies faced St. Johns. Although Smyth and Holak just observed, their true lacrosse IQ really stood out after the game.
Smyth acknowledged that the team needed to work on clears (transition from defense to offense) and attempt to move the ball forward as much as possible. James added that the team seemed a little too impatient while on offense. Sargent had a similar conversation with the team about areas that needed to be worked on after the loss against St. John’s.
“They have a good game theory and understanding of the play and strategy of the game,” Sargent said. “It’s good to see when kids recognize that. Once you understand your mistake or where you’re flawed then you have that chance to improve.”
Holak led his high school team in assists with 24 last season. He added 13 goals on the year. Unfortunately Holak tore his ACL last October while participating in a lacrosse tournament. His main focus is to rehabilitate the knee so he can be back by the end of his high school career. Holak is considered a feeder, someone who likes to pass the ball and creates plays for others around him.
Smyth was named Grinder of the Year from his high school team his junior season. He picked up 48 ground balls and tallied 19 points. Smyth scored two goals in Duluth’s 8-6 loss in the section championship game (winner would advance to the state tournament). The two helped lead Duluth to a 14-2 overall record in 2018. The new additions will add to an already lethal offensive unit. Sargent said the game is meant for scoring and he wants people can who can help generate that.
“They both have high motors and they have the ability to play selflessly. They’re willing to get in the trenches and do the dirty work,” Sargent said. “Just good team players is the report on them.”
Lacrosse has been apart of their lives for some time. Smyth started playing in sixth grade and Holak began playing in fourth grade. The two not only grew a passion for the game, but also created a friendship that has lasted quite some time. Smyth had a little bit of influence in Holak’s decision to attend Montana, but him and his family have driven through Missoula many of times and knows how unique of a city it is.
“All my best friends play lacrosse and we’ve been playing together since day one,” Smyth said. “I do everything outside of lacrosse with James and all our other friends like skiing, skateboarding or just hanging out.”
Holak said he’s not to sure what he’d be doing without lacrosse. He’s just thankful the game gave him something to focus on.
Lucas Ailport— Media Relations