Kevin Warne's presence at Georgetown's men's lacrosse practices is unmistakable. The coach's 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame is imposing, and his energy level can match even the most frenetic on his team. But it's his voice that sets him apart.
"Even if you're 5 miles away, you can probably hear him," quipped starting sophomore midfielder Ryan Hursey, a Finksburg resident and Westminster graduate. "It just kind of shows his passion. He wants every single one of us to play the best we possibly can."
"He's very intense defensively," added junior defenseman Michael Mayer, a Baltimore resident and St. Paul's graduate. "If we're going over something, you can sort of get that vibe that things are heating up and he's kind of getting ready to blow up, and when he does, it's definitely not fun. But it keeps you on your toes, and it keeps you focused on the goal."
Under Warne, the Hoyas have had a resurgence. Last spring, they compiled a 10-6 record and advanced to the Big East tournament final where they lost to eventual NCAA champion Denver. The team was left out of 20-team field for the NCAA postseason.
This season, there are high hopes that Georgetown (0-1) – ranked No. 17 in the latest Cascade/Maverik media poll – will challenge the Pioneers again in the Big East and make its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2007. The Hoyas face No. 14 Towson (2-0) at noon Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
CBS Sports Network analyst Evan Washburn, who as a freshman defenseman in 2004 played for Warne at Delaware, said the Hoyas have the pieces to be a national champion contender.
"Georgetown is set up for success," Washburn said. "To be honest with you – and I've told this to Kevin – the pressure is on because that team needs to be in the Final Four in short order. … Once you match the talent that he's now getting with all of the benefits that come from being a lacrosse team at Georgetown with the toughness and edge that he's created, I think they're a team ripe for a Final Four run. It might not happen this year, but my thinking is it will happen in the next couple years."
If that seems like a lot of pressure to Warne, he doesn't admit to it.
"I don't mind expectations," he said recently in his office in McDonough Arena on the university's campus in Northwest Washington, D.C. "Are there expectations? Sure. But there's not any expectations that are bigger than those in this room or the room next door with my assistants because we're competitive, too."
The Hoyas are no strangers to success. During former coach Dave Urick's 23-year tenure, the program racked up a 223-99 record, made 11 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament and advanced to six consecutive quarterfinals.
But after 2007, Georgetown went 39-29 and failed to qualify for the postseason. When Urick stepped down on July 13, 2012, Warne, a defensive assistant at Delaware, UMBC, Harvard and Maryland, was hired 30 days later.
Warne had helped the Terps reach the national title game in 2011 and 2012, but he doesn't store any keepsakes from that team or others in his office. There are several drawings from his daughter and one Orioles hat ("Even though I'm a Mets fan," he joked), but the rest of the space in a bookcase is filled with Hoyas helmets and gloves.
"There's no need for that," Warne said when asked about memorabilia from previous stops. "That's in the past. All that stuff is home anyway in my basement. This is Georgetown, and we focus on Georgetown and take care of Georgetown."
The Hoyas went 6-9 in 2013, Warne's first season, and then 4-10 the following year. Mayer, who was a freshman on that 2014 squad, said the players were more critical of themselves than any external source.
"Coming off the 4-10 season, we really looked at ourselves in the mirror and said, 'We don't want to do this every year. We all know we're talented players. We were all recruited here. We're here to compete,' " Mayer said. "We put it together and just went out there. We didn't take any games lightly because we were all fighting for something so that we didn't have a season like the last year."
One of Warne's hallmarks is his exuberance on the sidelines. Credited with starting Maryland's "Mosh Pit," where players went bonkers after significant plays, Warne has encouraged the Hoyas to get just as excited.
"It's OK to have fun," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing that gets lost sometimes. I don't want to be a statue on the sidelines. I want to make sure that our guys know that I have their backs because all week, they busted their tails doing the right things and trying to learn the game plan. And I get to have two hours of fun watching them run around hopefully doing what they're supposed to be doing and hopefully, they're having success."
Georgetown opened the season with a 12-7 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame on Saturday. That doused some of the season-opening enthusiasm, but Hursey said the players haven't shied away from their goal of playing in May.
"I think our goal is to definitely get to the NCAA tournament, but moreso to prove to ourselves that we can beat some of those Top 10 teams that we may not have been able to get over the hump with last year," he said. "I think we know where we need to be and now we just need to push a little more to get there."