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College Crosse Chat Vol. I: Coach Taylor Wray, St. Joe's.

Introducing our newest series, College Crosse Chat! In our inuagral tête-à-tête, we talked Hawks Lacrosse with BOSS Taylor Wray of St. Joe's. We hope you enjoy it.

THE HAWK WILL NEVER DIE!!
THE HAWK WILL NEVER DIE!!
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Coach Taylor Wray is in his 5th year at the helm at St. Joe's. After a successful playing career at Duke ('03), which included being team captain in 2003, Wray has quickly become one of the best young coaches in the game.  Wray came to St. Joe's in August of 2011, after serving as an assistant at Lehigh for 4 years.

The Hawks won 11 games in 2015, took home the 2015 NEC regular season crown, and hosted the NEC Tournament last year, before ultimately bowing out to Bryant in the NEC title game.  St. Joe's should be in the hunt for the NEC AQ in 2016 and a potential trip to the #TheBigBBQ2016, which would be the program's first trip to the dance in its history. The Hawks begin their season at home on February 20th against VMI.

Coach Taylor kindly took some time out of his schedule for a Q&A with the Nation. Thanks Coach, we greatly appreciate it!

*CC questions are italicized and Coach Wray's responses are bolded.*

1. CC: Coach the Hawks had a successful 2015 and finished as the only team in the NEC with a record above .500.  Can you tell us what you will remember most from the 2015 team?

TW: What I'll remember most from the 2015 season is the senior class. They were with us from day #1 and I think that created a special bond. They really helped influence the progress we have made as a program and I'll alway be grateful to that group. In terms of on the field memories, we really had some exciting games.

The buzzer beater win at Bryant in the regular season was one of the most exciting finishes I have ever been a part of. The UVA game last season was also an incredibly exciting game, although we came out on the wrong side, it was certainly a game that stood out for me.  Chris Blewitt, as a freshman, scoring the game winner behind his back against Hobart in overtime to secure 1st place in the league was also pretty memorable.

2. CC: Junior Mike Rastivo had a great 2015 season, what about his game makes him such a handful for defenses?

TW: I think what makes Mike so dangerous is his versatility. He can beat you one on one, he can beat you with his vision, he can play with both hands. He makes the guys around him better.

3.  CC: The Hawks had the 5th best scoring defense & the best man down unit in the country last year.  Can you elaborate on what you stress on in practice to make your squad so cohesive on the defensive end?

TW: Defense for us is about being on the same page, communicating and reacting to one another. We play a team oriented system, but its not a rigid system, its very simple and relies on individual players doing their jobs and trusting their teammates to do their jobs. Man down is kind of the same, we keep it simple, and that helps the players to be able to play without thinking too much. It helps when guys knock down passes and your goalie makes save too.

4.  Your defensive unit was great last year, but your offense was quite effective as well, finishing 24th in the nation.  Aside from Mike Rastivo, what can the Nation expect from the Hawks' offensive end in 2016 to improve on 2015?

TW: Associate Head Coach Dan Keating runs our offense and he does a terrific job with that group. We are expecting big things from Chris Blewitt and Pat Swanick on attack. That duo, with Rastivo, has great chemistry. Kevin Forster had a terrific year for us in 2015 and we hope he can be even more assertive in 2016. Ray Vandegrift in the midfield has been a three year starter and is poised for a great season. Midfielders Kevin Reidinger along with seniors Rich Gableman and Bryan Garrahan will have a presence for us.

Our offense is at its best when they are dodging physically, moving the ball quickly and playing with great tempo. We really stress reading the defense, ball movement and passing - if we can do those things well, I think we'll be productive again this season.

5. Looking at your 2016 schedule, the trip to Virginia on March 8th definitely jumps out, as do the two #PhillyFour match-ups against Drexel and at Penn on March 5th and April 26th, respectively.  Can you give us some insight on what factors you take into consideration when you try to create your schedule?

TW: There are a ton of factors that go into scheduling, it not as if you can just pick the teams you want to play and thats it. In the end you've got find opponents who have the same dates available and are willing to play. You take into account travel and the type of stress you're going to put on your student athletes with missing class and that sort of thing.

We like to play regional opponents, we want to build rivalries in our area - Monmouth, St. Johns, Manhattan, Drexel, Penn, Delaware are fit into that category. We'd really like to get Villanova on the schedule. We like playing an ACC school or a Big 10 school if possible, being able to test yourself against a perennial power is very positive as you get ready for league play. My goal is to create and exciting non-league schedule that is going to put us in the best position possible to compete in the NEC.

6.  I love Philly so I'm biased but have you found Philadelphia to be an asset in the recruiting process?  Is there one or two things recruits love the most about the city?

TW: Philly is a great city to be in for college. SJU is just on the edge of the city and the suburbs so we sort of get the best of both worlds. You have the city at your disposal, but you also get a historic self-contained college campus to go along with it.

Our location helps in recruiting, its easy to get here, we're close to most of the major hotbeds for the sport, you've got a major airport 20 minutes away and you have the train system that is easily accessible as well. I think the thing I like most about Philly is the people. They are passionate, they are direct and they are real. There is no phoniness in Philly - people are what they are and you can take it or leave it.

7.  You've been far too gracious with your time, but before you go two quick ones.
  • What's your favorite show that's on right now?
    TW: Homeland 

  • Favorite spot to eat in the city?
    TW: With a 4 year old and 5 year old we don't get out much. I live in Havertown and I like a place near my house called the Brick and Brew.
We hope you enjoyed our first-ever College Crosse Chat. Thank you so much for participating, Coach Wray. Best of luck to you and the lads up at Hawk Hill!
#THWND