The men’s lacrosse team’s season came to an abrupt end on Jackson field last Saturday. The Cardinals fell to 14th nationally ranked Bates in the NESCAC quarterfinals, stopping short their aspirations of a NESCAC title, something this year’s seniors had never seen. Bates overpowered Wesleyan, ending the careers of ten longtime servants of the men’s lacrosse program.
Senior Captains Mikhiel Tareen, Matt Prezioso, Kevin Campbell, and Nate Ryan were all forces to be reckoned with on this year’s squad. Tareen and Campbell anchored an otherwise young defense this year, while Ryan and Prezioso faced off with the opposition on the offensive end. Prezioso was honored for his play with a second team all-conference nomination. Wesleyan’s other recognition was awarded to Harry Stanton ’18, who was named NESCAC Rookie of the Year. The Argus sat down with Tareen, Prezioso, and Campbell to reflect on the season.
The Argus: How would any of you sum up this year?
Kevin Campbell: It was fun. It was the last season ever, and it was a great time. Everyone on the team is awesome, the coaches are awesome, so it was a great last year. Obviously it could have ended better, but we all had a blast.
A: As seniors, did this season feel particularly different or special?
Matt Prezioso: Definitely. It was a much bigger responsibility. We really took on a leadership role whereas in previous years we had taken backseat roles just as underclassmen. But this year it was basically our team, our group of guys, and we were responsible for getting the guys together for games and rallying the team. It was just a different feel. Overall it was an unreal experience.
KC: It felt different having a leadership role starting the season off, and showing the freshmen and the transfers the way. And then obviously to end the season, it was a little different. When it came toward the end and we needed to win games, and if we didn’t win it would ruin our seeding and ruin our chances of making a run, and it was different because I knew it was going to be my final run, so that was a little different, like the need to end the season on a good note.
A: Kevin or Mikhiel, what was it like to lead a defense laden with first and second years?
KC: It helped that Mikhiel and I had been playing together for a while, so we had a grasp of how to play together and we knew what the coaches wanted. We learned quickly how to react and sort of bring up the younger kids. And the younger kids were very responsive; they were really good, that’s why they played. It was fun just to have the two of us plus any combo of the younger guys. It’s going to be cool to see in a few years when those guys are older what kind of impact they have on the team.
A: Matt, you had an amazing year on the offensive end. You led the team with 31 goals and 17 assists for 51 points, totaling 50-plus for the second consecutive year. What’s more, you’ve finished your career 17th in career scoring at Wesleyan with 90 goals and 38 assists. Can you point to a key to that success?
MP: Every guy that’s on the first two middie lines and on our starting attack, plus David Murphy [’15] rotating in, is capable of scoring, so it’s not like the defense can really be worried about one guy. We always have six guys on the field who can make things happen and that just opens up stuff for guys like me and Harry Stanton, who had a great year, for his freshman year.
A: This was a season full of gritty battles, and I’m sure sometimes it felt like a grind. But there had to be a few standout moments. Can you point to any in particular?
Mikhiel Tareen: We had a lot of close games, and we lost some and won some, but it felt like we won more of those than we lost, and it’s a good feeling to know that your team is willing to battle. A lot of teams will fold at the end of games, and it was great that we weren’t one of those teams. All of those last-minute moments where we either kept the lead or got a lead were pretty awesome.
MP: For me, probably because I was on the scoring end of it, the Hamilton game was the highlight. It was the first game, it’s always against them, and they always play us tough. We knew it was going to come down to those last couple minutes like it always does, and it felt like we knew how it was going to end. We ended up getting the win in overtime, which was fitting, just to start the season with an overtime game against them.
KC: The Bowdoin game was awesome. Even though they weren’t good in the league, every NESCAC team is tough. And being up a few goals and then having them tie it up and then getting two stops in a row and finally scoring was really awesome, because you never want to lose in Maine because then you have a terrible drive back.
A: Looking back, how would you describe the impact of lacrosse on your time at Wesleyan?
MT: It’s been huge. It gives you structure; it gives you discipline. You’re working out every day, you have to go to practice every day, when it’s 15 degrees out and you’re running around, it gives you mental toughness. You get a community of guys, which is awesome. I’d say it’s definitely shaped my Wesleyan life but it hasn’t dominated it, either. Our coaches do a really amazing job maintaining a balance, and Wesleyan lacrosse has only augmented my time here.
MP: I’d say, like Mikhiel said, it’s been a huge part of my life here. Coming in freshman year is a huge adjustment, but you come in with 40 or 50 friends already, and you know that some of those guys are going to be your best friends here. It helped build a lot of great relationships that I’ll take with me. It also does provide structure, with having to go to practice every day as much as it sucked, but it can make you balance your time and focus more.
KC: To be cliché, the friends you make are the best part for me. It’s unbelievable. You spend four years training with the same people, and it never got boring. I contribute that to Coach Raba a lot because he makes the organization really fun, and it’s just been a blast playing for him. Also, lacrosse helps you grow as a person. Being on a team and going from not really knowing what you’re doing as a freshman to being a senior and having to lead a team is crazy. That transition has been amazing.
A: How do you see Wesleyan lacrosse progressing next year and into the future?
MT: They’re going to be really good. There are four to five freshmen who are contributing big time already, and that’s a pretty huge adjustment going from high school to college, so if they’re already pretty good, then they’re going to be sick in a few years. I think Wesleyan has a pretty bright future in the NESCAC.
KC: I’m curious to see how it’s going to be. I think we have a lot of great young talent, so it could be something special. But I always see Wesleyan lacrosse as a top program, and it will always be like that. I’m interested to see it from an alumni perspective. Alumni get together in New York and watch games on a live stream, so I’m excited to see it from that perspective and text kids ‘good luck’ and whatnot, which will be really cool.
MP: This rising freshmen class is special. There’s probably already like 10 or 11 kids in that class who are going to be huge contributors next year. And I think that this incoming freshman class is supposed to be another good one, so I see them being good for a while.