Mark Hojnoski has a simple solution when asked about Mount St. Mary’s being mired in a nine-game losing streak since the start of the 2014 campaign.
“I don’t like to look at it as 0-9,” the junior attackman said. “We still have a chance to make the NCAA tournament if we win our conference. We’re 0-1 in the conference, and that’s our record right now.”
Shifting to that mental oasis would seem to be imperative for the Mountaineers, who have already logged a program worst in consecutive losses. Tuesday’s 15-8 setback to Robert Morris at Waldron Family Stadium in Emmitsburg puts Mount St. Mary’s in a little bit of a hole at 0-1 in the Northeast Conference.
What made Tuesday’s loss even more galling was that the Mountaineers had raced to a 3-0 advantage in the first eight minutes of the first quarter before the Colonials (4-4 overall and 1-2 in the league) scored six unanswered goals and never looked back.
“Obviously, it’s heartbreaking,” senior goalkeeper Chris Klaiber said. “It’s been heartbreaking all year. We haven’t been able to get a win yet and it has hurt all year, especially since we don’t deserve to be here like this. The kids in the locker room, we worked too hard and are too skilled to not have a win yet. It obviously hurts, but we’ve got to go out. We’ve got time left to fix it, we’ve got a couple games left, and we can fix it.”
That Mount St. Mary’s finds itself in this position should not be too much of a surprise. Last year’s squad graduated 22 players, and the returners scored just seven of the 155 goals produced in 2013.
Coach Tom Gravante had braced himself for this possibility, which might explain how he has been able to remain optimistic in the face of the burdening losing skid.
“It’s a young team and we’ve got to continue to keep these guys’ spirits in battle,” he said. “I anticipated this after graduating 22. I wasn’t sure how we would be, especially with a tough schedule to start. But I was hopeful that we gained some momentum, some confidence going in this conference and would find a way to win. We’re still very much in this.”
The Mountaineers just need to finish in the top four to earn a spot in the Northeast Conference tournament, and they have five more league contests on the schedule – beginning with Saturday’s home matchup with Hobart (2-6, 1-1).
That opening is what is keeping Mount St. Mary’s upbeat at this time.
“It’s very tough,” junior faceoff specialist Nick Haley acknowledged. “The best way to do it is to look at it as a new season. We’re starting 0-1 instead of 0-9. That’s the best way to look at it, and we’re just taking it week by week in the NEC. If we get to the tournament, we’ll settle it from there.”
*Prior to Tuesday, Hojnoski had scored four goals. In his career. He matched that output against Robert Morris and added an assist. It was an eye-opening performance for Hojnoski – who had returned after missing the previous four games because of a shoulder injury – but he did not make much of his display in light of the team’s loss. “I had been feeling good,” he said. “I had worked hard when I was injured to get back onto the field and get into shape. But it doesn’t matter when you lose a game. Might as well chalk it up to a zero.”
Gravante said he decided to start Hojnoski over freshman Spencer Smith after noticing that Hojnoski had been practicing well. “Ten or 12 [yards] out, Mark has the power to hit the cage, and he’s got pretty good dodging ability,” Gravante said. “He’s a big kid, he’s a strong kid, and he’s deceptively fast. Of our first three goals, he had two of them. Very pleased, but again, not surprised because he looked like that in practice.”
*A right wrist injury kept junior faceoff specialist Nick Haley out of the past two games, but the Archbishop Spalding native did not play like he was ailing. He was credited with 15-of-25 draws and collected a game-high 10 ground balls. Haley understands that rest and treatment would accelerate the healing rather than playing and risking further injury, but Haley said he wants to compete and help his teammates.
“I don’t really play worried about getting hurt,” he said. “I just wanted to do the best I could for my teammates. If it hurt, it hurt, and I was just going to play through it. The past two weeks, I was really upset that I couldn’t play. So it was good to be out there, and I was going to give it my all whether I had a hurt wrist or not.”
*Klaiber made a game-best 15 saves, including seven in the third quarter and six in the first. But after making zero stops and allowing three goals in the final period, Kaliber was pulled in favor of sophomore Frankie McCarthy, who made two saves and gave up two goals. Gravante said he and the coaching staff would re-assess which goalie would start on Saturday when the Statesmen visit.
Klaiber has started every contest this season and made 10 or more saves in six games, which would seem to give him an edge. But he said he knows that the decision is not his. “Whether I play or not is Coach’s decision,” he said. “I trust Coach. He knows more about lacrosse than anybody else I’ve ever met. He obviously does what’s best for us, and I listen to him.”