Talk about daunting tasks. Travis Baskin’s new job is a challenge, to say the least. Baskin is Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School’s fourth boys lacrosse coach in as many years. The Monarchs have only one win to show for themselves over the last three years, during which double-digit losses have been all too common.
But that may all be the least of Baskin’s concerns at the present time.
McGann-Mercy took an 11-player roster into this season, and that would have been tough enough had not one of those players been injured. That left the Monarchs a man down, playing with 10 players for the entirety of their 14-1 season-opening loss to Port Jefferson on Wednesday at Harold T. Murray Memorial Field in Riverhead.
“It’s a learning experience,” Baskin said after his first game as a varsity coach. “It just gets better from here. It’s all got to start somewhere.”
A former Riverhead High School standout who went on to play middie for Mercy College, Baskin was an assistant coach under Walter Flaherty at McGann-Mercy last year. But when Flaherty left the team to coach the school’s girls lacrosse team, an opening was created and athletic director Melissa Edwards put in a call to Baskin to see if he was interested. Baskin was taken by surprise.
“I was kind of shocked,” he said. “That’s a big step, going from assistant to head coach, but I’m here. I’ll take the challenge.”
And so, at the young age of 24, Baskin finds himself coaching, at least temporarily, a 10-player team. That isn’t easy.
“It is what it is,” Baskin said. “I have to deal with what I have to deal with. The main thing at practice is getting these guys running. They got to get their endurance up. Everybody’s going to play. Nobody’s going to come out; there’s no subs, so that’s the most important thing … endurance. They run every day.”
His players can attest to that. The Monarchs may be the best conditioned group in Suffolk County Division III by the time the season is over.
Without the luxury of a breather, except for timeouts and breaks between quarters, the Monarchs worked hard against Port Jefferson. They surely couldn’t be faulted for lack of effort.
Asked how he would rate the team’s effort, senior goalie Eddie Knight said, “Effort-wise, seeing how many players we had on the field, which was all the players that we had, I’d say 10 out of 10.”
Baskin, who is assisted by another former Riverhead High School athlete, Edwin Perry, said: “They actually played very well today. They played very hard. There were a couple of mistakes that can be fixed, but just overall, I liked what I saw today.”
In an attempt to help give some of his players a little rest over the course of the game, Baskin flipped players back and forth from middie to attack.
Having the odds against them could affect the Monarch’ mindset. For one thing, players may be more prone to take risks.
“You just have to think what you can do,” said John Viola, an attackman who this season is handling faceoffs for the first time. “Take chances because … why not? You don’t always get those opportunities, so take a chance.”
Knight, who sat out last season in order to focus on his studies, said he didn’t put much thought into his team having to play shorthanded the entire game.
“Honestly, I just wanted to get out there and play the game,” he said. “I really didn’t care how stacked the numbers were against us. I was just really looking forward to playing today.”
One of the Monarchs, Chris Godsell, is out with severe tendinitis in his ankles. He is undergoing physical therapy and will be out for another four weeks, said Baskin.
Godsell’s return, along with the possible addition of another player would give the Monarchs — wait for it — an actual substitute on the bench.
Given the current roster size, it will not be easy for McGann-Mercy to pick up a win this year, but Viola is hopeful. “Anything’s possible,” he said.
Baskin could complain about the numbers (he didn’t), but he couldn’t complain about what he saw from the 10 healthy players he has.
“Overall I loved what I saw because they really showed me what they had inside them,” he said. “The pride is there. … These guys, they’re great guys. I can’t say anything bad about them because they always show me their good side.”
Photo caption: Port Jefferson’s Matt Murphy chases one of Bishop McGann-Mercy’s 10 healthy players, Liam Martin. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)