On this week’s episode of New England Lacrosse Journal’s “Chasing The Goal” podcast, hosts Kyle Devitte and Jack Piatelli welcome Wesleyan head coach John Raba via Zoom to discuss his team and the NESCAC.
Raba has been a fixture at Wesleyan for decades. He is entering his 26th season as the head coach of the Cardinals and won an NCAA championship in 2018. Last season, despite having more than half of his team elect not to return to campus, Raba forged forward with a NESCAC campaign and still managed to have a winning season.
Wesleyan is primed for another strong year in the toughest conference in all of Division 3 with Raba at the helm.
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Jack Piatelli: Coach, you talk about having 17 freshmen come in this year; that’s got to be more than what you normally bring in from year to year. Typically, not a lot of freshmen will play at Wesleyan in their first year.
John Raba: There’s certainly a couple that we think can definitely break through. You know, we’re still fortunate — we feel like our upperclassmen are still the guys who were just physically more developed. They’ve been around the program a little bit more. They have the right of refusal. I’ll say they get the right opportunity to earn that spot. It doesn’t mean a freshman can’t go take the spot right? So, that’s going to play itself out in the first couple of weeks of our preseason.
But, you know, we certainly have identified a few freshmen on our team that are getting ready so that we can insert them pretty early into the year. And if they break through as a starter, that’s great. That means they’ve done some great things when we do put them in the game situations. But, talent-wise, yes, there’s definitely a couple of guys there that we anticipate will have an impact on our season as a freshman.
Kyle Devitte: The preseason talk in lacrosse is that D-1 starts first. So, everyone’s talking about the unpredictable nature of that and how no one knows what’s going on with the Ivy League teams. I would say that’s a perfect mirror for the NESCAC teams because we have three teams that didn’t play in Middlebury, Amherst and Bowdoin. There are also new coaches in that mix, and you have all of these schools either graduating a lot of seniors or bringing in a ton of freshmen, as you have. How important is scouting going to be going in 2022 for you guys?
John Raba: I haven’t seen Colby in years, haven’t seen Bates in a while — I haven’t seen some of these teams in a long time. So scouting is going to be huge. We’ve looked at some of the film that is online already. The nice thing is we have Hudl now, so we get all we all have access to pretty much every film or game. I don’t want to get caught up too much in looking at all the old stuff, though. There are new assistant coaches, new systems in place. Like you said, you have new head coaches, too. Their philosophies may be different. So, once you get into game week, it’s going to be important that we’re all focused on what are we seeing.
I think the one thing that we’ve been fortunate here at Wesleyan is we do have a big staff. I believe in that. I think when you’re dealing with 50 players, I believe that you need to have a bigger staff because you want I want a lot of communication with your guys. There’s nothing more frustrating for players in my mind. That is, they don’t know if they’re doing things right or wrong. They’re not really getting communicated to. So, where it also helps is when we’re talking about the film breakdown as well. I think the combination of some of our younger coaches and some of our veteran coaches help prepare us for anyone on the schedule.