Building a program is tough. Starting one from scratch is a lot tougher. As Furman lacrosse gets ready to join Division 1 and begin their inaugural season in the spring, head coach Richie Meade has a long road ahead of him. Meade is one of the best coaches in the country, having been the head man at the Naval Academy from 1994-2011 where he registered a 142-97 (.589) career record. He also led the Midshipmen to four straight Patriot League titles and five titles in six years under his tenure.
At Furman, however, success will be built more in moral victories than in the win column. The team will feature 56 players on this year’s squad, all of which are freshman. As a coach of mine used to say, the only thing that is consistent about freshman is their inconsistency. While there may be some good moments this season, there will be plenty of growing pains as well.
Furman got its first look at its program as they faced the defending national champions, Duke University, for a fall scrimmage hosted at Furman. There was probably some good lacrosse being played by both squads, however, Duke undoubtedly showed Furman how long they have to go as a program.
Meade has not been shy about playing good competition either. The Paladins will face five teams that are nationally recognized programs, three of which were in the NCAA tournament last season. They will start out by playing Lehigh and North Carolina in the first two games of the season as well as Georgetown and Duke around the midway point of the season as well. Before getting into conference play, they will also take on Air Force and Meade’s old team, Navy, as well.
Furman will likely see more success come within the Atlantic Sun Conference as they face High Point, Jacksonville, VMI, Richmond and Mercer. Most of the division is in the same boat as Furman as all the programs are in their infancy. Richmond joins Furman as a first year program, while Mercer and High Point will be beginning their second seasons in Division 1 lacrosse.
Meade is a good coach who will get the most out of his players. He did so at Navy with restrictions on recruiting because of service duties. At Furman, Meade will have the allure of good weather and free reigns on the recruiting trail which could make Furman an attractive spot for future recruits.
With 56 freshman on the team, there will be a lot of room to grow and a ton of experience to gain. Meade will continue to bring in better talent as his team plays on the road and starts to garner a reputation for itself. A program like this should be competitive in the third and fourth year of competition with most of these freshman being able to gain experience and grow within the program. While the outlook may be gloomy in the short term, the long term is filled with hope.