The St. Bonaventure Men’s lacrosse program is only in its fifth year of infancy, so the team is no stranger to first time experiences, and this year will prove to be no different as the men join the newly formed men’s lacrosse Atlantic 10 Conference (A-10) ahead of their spring season.
“I am extremely excited to join the A-10 Conference” says Associate Head Coach, Gill Conners. “The conference is littered with incredible players and coaches who have established themselves as national contenders and we can’t wait to be a part of it” he adds.
After four years of competition in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), the Bonnies and five other men’s lacrosse programs will now be playing in the A-10.
“The talent level and competition within our [new] conference is going to be a jump from our time in the MAAC” Assistant Coach Nico Capron mentions. “We also know that this is going to elevate our out-of-conference schedule as well, given the pedigree of the A-10 teams.”
The Bonnies saw much success in the MAAC, finishing as regular season champions last spring and falling just shy of a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) bid to the division one tournament with a loss to MAAC foe, Manhattan College.
Head Coach Randy Mearns might have anticipated the conference change in the fall of 2021.
Mearns added the University of Richmond and St. Joseph’s University (St. Joe’s) to their 2022 schedule, the two teams that took the top two spots in the A-10 preseason poll, respectively.
“Having seen the talent level and competition of St. Joe’s and Richmond last year was a great slice of humble pie but also a great gauge of where we were as a program.” Coach Capron further noted that “it helped us to assess [flaws] within our program because we knew the jump in competition was going to be significant” come their transition to the A-10.
“These teams [A-10 teams] will make you pay for your mistakes every time. We need to have incredible attention to detail and be sharp in everything we do” said Zack Belter, a fifth year graduate student who has been a significant part of the program since its inception five years ago.
The program being a relatively new addition to athletics at St. Bonaventure means there is an inevitable feeling of being an outsider in your community. In addition to that, competing in an entirely separate conference can make a team feel outcasted. But, the Bonaventure community is known for being tight knit, inclusive, and undeniably supportive of anyone who wears ‘Bonnies’ across their chest.
“We know how supportive our administration and other programs here at St. Bonaventure have been in our first years” said Capron.
“We never felt ostracized because we were in a different conference,” added Capron. The rest of the St. Bonaventure University athletic teams have participated in the A-10 for the past handful of years and beyond. “Having the ability to compete against those teams [A-10 members] year in and year out gives a sense of pride toward the conference and in particular, St. Bonaventure” Coach Conners concurred.
While the future of the program’s inclusion within the Bonaventure athletics community seems to only help the camaraderie of the school and athletics department, the future success of the men’s program within the A-10 and the recruiting world still remains at bay.
“Competing in the A-10 is only going to elevate this program” Conners adds adamantly. “If we can prove ourselves against this [A-10] competition, then the next tier of teams will want to schedule us in non-conference play,” shares Belter, noting that “playing against the best teams more often will only elevate us” on field and in the recruiting world.
“The Bolder Bonaventure campaign going on right now is further affirmation that our University administration wants to elevate in all facets.” Capron brings to light the university’s attempt to heighten Bonaventure’s overall athletics department with better facilities, support systems, and access to better nutrition and strength and conditioning.
With the increased level of play in conjunction with the more attractive facilities and amenities, “We know that it is going to attract prospects who crave that high level of competition and want to strive for it” Capron says.
While it should not prove to be too difficult, Conners makes a great point; “We are going to get those players, but at the end of the day, it is our job as coaches to develop them into great lacrosse players, but more importantly, great people.”
- Interview with Gill Conners
- Interview with Nico Capron
- Interview with Zack Belter