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2013-08-19


Photo by Robert J. Galbraith

If you have ever had the pleasure of travelling through Quebec’s Eastern Township region you may have come across the quiet little hamlet of Lennoxville, Quebec.? The small university town, which was recently amalgamated into the larger metro-area of Sherbrooke, Quebec acts as a junction that inconspicuously connects ...

By Steve Beketa

If you have ever had the pleasure of travelling through Quebec’s Eastern Township region you may have come across the quiet little hamlet of Lennoxville, Quebec.? The small university town, which was recently amalgamated into the larger metro-area of Sherbrooke, Quebec acts as a junction that inconspicuously connects many Canadian travellers to the states of Maine and Vermont or provides scenic passage for those travelling east to the Maritimes.? It is also home to one of the most exuberant, and close-knit university communities Canada has to offer.

For the past 12 years the aforementioned Bishops University has come to establish itself as more than a reputable liberal arts college with a panache for great parties and raucous school spirit.??? Through the tireless efforts of coaches, volunteers and dedicated student athletes, Bishops University has also come to establish one of the strongest and most dominant lacrosse programs in the CUFLA. Since entering the CUFLA in 2002 the Gaiters have been a perennial force in the league’s Eastern Conference and have been contenders for the Baggattaway Cup for many years.? ?Recently, I connected with the Gaiters Defensive Coach and General Manager (Drew Pollock) and Head Coach (Rob Engelken) to discuss how preparations for the upcoming 2013 CUFLA season were progressing.

I wanted to know what fans could expect to see from the purple and silver clad Gaiters this fall?? What were their goals for the season and who could we expect to see making an impact on the field as the Gaiters made a run for their second CUFLA championship.?

Both Engelken and Pollock have been involved with Bishops University lacrosse from its onset in 2002.? Engelken, grew up playing lacrosse in the Syracuse, NY, area at the legendary LaFayette School, before attending Syracuse University. ?He has been coaching lacrosse at every level of the game in Vermont since 1992.? Pollock attended Bishops from 2002 – 2007 where he was named the CUFLA rookie of the year in 2002.? He has been the Gaiters defensive coordinator and General Manager since 2009.? Both take great pride in what the Bishops University Lacrosse program has become and are very optimistic of where they are heading in 2013.

Q: How has the BU Lax program evolved over time and what are your expectations for the upcoming season.

Coach Engelken - It has become an even more professionally run organization and the athletes have responded by being more committed and focused.? As usual we expect to win the championship. ?We've only been successful once so far, but every year we are dedicated to that intent and have been close many times. ?This year we'll have the talent to do it again.??
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Coach Pollock - I think we have gone from running a field lacrosse team with a box lacrosse mentality to running one of the best field lacrosse programs in the country. It has become much more structured across the board - player recruitment, off season work and expectations, player discipline, have all improved. There is also more structure on the field, we rely less on talented individuals and more on executing our team systems. ?I think we expect to have a strong team again this year. We have some talented players joining the team and a strong returning core. Every year we strive to compete for the Baggataway Cup and this year is no different.??
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Q: What must the Gaiters do to be successful this year??
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Coach Pollock - Execute our systems and play as a team.? As with most other teams and seasons the determinant of success will be keeping players healthy and improving throughout the season. Though we can't do much about the former, we have lined up a number of exhibition games against talented squads to augment our CUFLA schedule. This will give us a chance to try new plans and systems against skilled teams.
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Q:? What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses as a team leading into the 2013 season?
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Coach Engelken - Even though we lost a few very good players to graduation we have some great new recruits and transfers coming in so we should be a little deeper. ?Things to work on would include getting everyone up to speed with our systems since we will be running the most advanced systems we ever have this season. ?Regarding weaknesses I'll let you know in November, but we shouldn't have many.
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Q:? What players are you looking towards to demonstrate leadership on and off the field this year?
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Coach Engelken - From an offensive perspective certainly Alex Henderson (Capt. from Enniskillen, ON) will lead the way, along with Gareth Gibson (Toronto, ON.). ?Other veterans also stepping into important roles will be Alex Millin (Port Moody, BC), Mason Austen (very High River, AB), Andre Laleune (Halifax, NS) and Brett Conway (Cornwall, ON). ?These guys are our returning leaders, but our wild cards will be how last year’s talented rookies mature into our systems.? We also will look towards a few top notch recruits and transfers to lead as well.
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Coach Pollock - I will say that retuning goalie and captain David Bigley (New Westminster) will need to play an important role on our team if we are to be successful. He leads a talented returning group in Ross Wills (Regina, SK ), Nico Brands (Woodstock, VT), and ?Brad Haddon (Coquitlam, BC). They should comprise one of the strongest defensive groups in the CUFLA.?
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Q: What are your thoughts on the depth of competition in the Eastern Conference?
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Coach Pollock - The Eastern Conference has come a long way since I first became involved in the CUFLA. We can now count on competitive games with McGill, Trent, Carleton, and Queens. The division improves every year and no game is certain.?
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Q: What makes the Bishops University Lacrosse program unique?
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Coach Engelken - One thing is that since we are a "club" we must entirely run our organization as a business. ?Therefore a few years ago we started a Board of Directors made up of players and coaches. ?This has been hugely beneficial to our players taking ownership of the program, learning how to run a small business, and answering to themselves to get some things accomplished. ?I have seen many athletes step up and excel at leading this and helping govern the team. ?I think this actually gives us an advantage over many varsity or NCAA programs I've been familiar with.?
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Coach Pollock - A combination of things: we have one of the most knowledgeable and creative head coaches in the country in Rob Engelken, we have a talented group of players from all over Canada and parts of the USA, we have a passionate group of parents and fans that do whatever they can to ensure our success, and we have a school that wholeheartedly supports us on and off the field. Bishop's is a close knit community, a great place to go to school, and a great place to play lacrosse.?
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With a student population of less than 3000 showing their “esprit de corps” and residing in a small town in Quebec it would be ironic to note that any Bishops athletic team could be considered, even half-jokingly as “Canada’s Team”, but as Coach Engelken explains the Gaiter Lacrosse team has been bestowed with such a moniker.
?“Another interesting fact is how we have half jokingly become known as "Canada's Team"! Not to be arrogant, but because we have always had more players on roster from more provinces than other teams. We usually and often have players from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.? No other teams can boast that and more significantly these guys are hard workers who integrate very well into our lacrosse family and systems”.?

With an optimistic outlook for the upcoming 2013 CUFLA season the Bishops Gaiters plan to continue the hard work and dedication needed to get back to achieving their overall goal, which has never changed throughout the years: winning the Baggataway cup.? The Gaiters open the season by travelling to face Carleton at Raven’s Road Field on Sunday, September 8 @ 3:00pm.?
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