Published on April 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Ryne: [email protected] Comments Cameron Lao-Gosney and his Lehigh teammates looked around at one another after yet another disappointing season came to an end last spring.Despite experiencing their share of low points all year, they repeated what they had said the previous two seasons.Next year was finally going to be ‘the year.’‘We’ve been saying that for the past two or three years,’ Lao-Gosney said. ‘It’s just everybody’s older now. I don’t know exactly at what point we knew it, but I think coming in our mindset this year has just been a little different, you know, ‘This is it. There’s no doubt anymore.’‘That’s really what it was. We were just getting the doubt out.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe doubt is now gone as the Mountain Hawks (10-1, 3-0 Patriot League) are off to their best start in program history, rising to No. 7 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll.Lehigh has won 10 games for just the fifth time and the first time since 1997 when the team won 11 games.This year, though, the Mountain Hawks have three games remaining before the Patriot League playoffs begin April 27. Lao-Gosney and his teammates are trying to bring their school its first conference championship since 1999 to follow through on their promise to make this year special.After going 19-27 the last three seasons, the eight seniors came back determined to leave their mark on a mediocre program.Like his players, head coach Kevin Cassese knew the team had the talent to live up to its lofty goals, winning conference titles and playing in NCAA tournaments. But Cassese didn’t see the leadership in the locker room they saw.That changed this year.‘They’ve done a nice job of coming together, realizing we’ve come up short on a lot of our goals over the last couple years,’ Cassese said, ‘and that this year, they were going to make it different.’For Cassese, the turning point for the program came after Villanova trounced his team 17-7 in the team’s home opener and second game of the season.The doubt that had lingered over the Mountain Hawks was back, threatening another promising season. But it also served as a needed wake-up call that Lehigh still had one more hurdle to get over before it could achieve its goals.The leadership that had been lacking among the players was forced to develop. In previous seasons, Cassese said players didn’t want to step on each other’s toes and speak up to push each other at practice or during games.After the loss to the Wildcats, the players called a meeting and vented their frustrations. They didn’t want this year to become like every other year.‘In that meeting the players addressed a lot of topics, but really called each other out and asked each other to step up in a variety of ways,’ Cassese said. ‘And that ability to be honest with one another and to really confront the brutal facts of what we were doing and how we were going through the motions has been the difference in us being able to turn this thing around.’For Lao-Gosney, this year also serves as his last chance to erase the memories of the ‘dark days’ of the program.The senior midfielder arrived as a confident freshman, expecting to compete for conference and national championships.The Mountain Hawks went out and won only four games.Lao-Gosney remembers the pain that came with blowing a 7-1 lead to Bucknell and losing 12-11 last season. The embarrassment of getting run off the field by the Bison 13-5 in the team’s final game in the conference semifinals still creeps into his memories of the disappointing year.But Lao-Gosney said the team has made all the necessary plays this season. It starts with more focus and attention to detail at practice.‘In years past, we’ve let everything slip, but this year they’re really holding everything down,’ junior attack Dante Fantoni said. ‘They want to make sure everything goes right for their senior year.’And everything has gone right since the team’s loss to Villanova on Feb. 18. The Mountain Hawks have reeled off nine straight wins.It hasn’t been easy, as they’ve had to overcome multiple deficits. But this year’s experienced group is confident after playing the last three years together.So when the team fell behind 2-0 early in the season against Penn State in University Park, Pa., the doubt that once surrounded the program stayed away. And it didn’t return with the streak in jeopardy again last Friday when the Mountain Hawks trailed Navy 4-1 into the second period.Lehigh beat then-No. 17 Penn State 9-5. And it beat then-No. 19 Navy 9-4.As the streak continues and the Mountain Hawks rewrite the record books along the way, Lao-Gosney and his teammates have gotten over the hump and made good on their promise.‘It feels surreal. I would imagine it would be different for teams who are used to being in this position, you know, winning and being in the spotlight,’ Lao-Gosney said. ‘… I feel like the feeling is much, much different for teams who are used to being in the middle of the pack and suffering losing seasons, so I’m ecstatic. We’re all ecstatic, my senior class, we couldn’t be happier.‘I have a feeling like we’re meant for this, not meant for this, but we’ve worked so hard that like it’s about damn time, you know?’[email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+
As National Signing Day quickly approaches, USC’s football program continues to experience offseason changes.Freshman wide receiver Rahshead Johnson has elected to transfer from USC, a school official confirmed to the Orange County Register on Wednesday. USCFootball.com Senior Analyst and Recruiting Editor Gerard Martinez reported that Johnson will likely enroll at Santa Monica Community College.Johnson was a class of 2014 four-star recruit, recognized for his ability to play both cornerback and wide receiver. In his one season with USC, Johnson was a redshirt and, therefore, never played in a game.Though the Trojans have lost wide receivers Nelson Agholor and George Farmer to the NFL Draft, it is likely that Johnson would rarely see playing time in the upcoming seasons. JuJu Smith, who had an impressive freshman season even as the No. 2 receiver behind Agholor, will take over Agholor’s role as the go-to receiver. Smith will be accompanied by sophomore Darreus Rogers, redshirt freshman Steven Mitchell and freshman Ajene Harris.Coach Steve Sarkisian has added additional weapons to his arsenal of receivers. He currently has commitments from two four-star receivers in Tristan Payton and De’Quan Hampton.Speculation surrounding Johnson’s departure from USC highlights the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as a potential home for Johnson. USC has not released an official statement regarding the transfer.Though the Trojans will be without Johnson, former USC All-American defensive lineman Kenechi Udeze has rejoined the team as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.Udeze was a 2003 All-American for the Trojans after recording 26 tackles for losses, including 16.5 sacks.Udeze was selected 20th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, but had to retire from the NFL in 2009 after being diagnosed with leukemia. Udeze worked at the University of Washington for three seasons as an assistant strength coach and interned with the Seattle Seahawks.Udeze will not be the only new addition to the team next season, as Sarkisian has verbal commitments from 16 players in the class of 2015. USC can sign 19 players in total and is still in the running to sign top-ranked prospects cornerback Iman Marshall, defensive lineman Rasheem Green and linebackers Porter Gustin, Osa Masina and John Houston.Players are allowed to sign their letters of intent on Feb. 4.
Tick, tick, tick …General Manager Billy Eppler, however, insists that he does not view his job in such a Trout-centric way.While acknowledging that Trout is obviously a generational player who the Angels love to have, Eppler has said many times he’s looking out for the long-term health of the franchise. The way to have sustained success, he says, is by building a strong farm system.The quickest way, of course, to have a strong farm system, is to trade away a lot of veterans and lose a lot, accumulating high draft picks. The Angels, however, didn’t want to do that either.Instead, they’ve chosen to keep almost all of their established players, supplementing them with short-term potential solutions, to give them a chance to remain competitive while they wait for the farm system to blossom. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “Our approach with this organization is a direction over speed approach,” Eppler said in the days leading up to Tuesday’s deadline for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training. “Results are important, and getting things accomplished quicker is better, but not at the expense of us going in the wrong direction.”From about 2011 to 2015, the Angels searched for quick fixes. They relied heavily on free agents and neglected the farm system, and it set back the organization.Eppler is trying to avoid that.“We’ve taken every step we can to be able to build a core group within our farm system and challenged these guys to move aggressively,” he said. “We know we want to build that internally and have sustainability in the long haul. If you are pointed in the wrong direction, it doesn’t matter what speed you are traveling.”Eppler insists the Angels are headed in the right direction after winning 80 games and finishing fourth in 2018. Of the players who were on their active roster at the end of last season, the most significant ones who are now gone are relievers José Álvarez and Blake Parker. They also lost Garrett Richards, Martín Maldonado, Ian Kinsler and pitcher Shohei Ohtani, all of whom made significant contributions earlier in the season.Replacements have come in the form of as many as eight or nine new players who figure to be on the 2019 Opening Day roster.While some fans certainly hoped that the additions would include names such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado or Dallas Keuchel, Eppler believes the Angels have improved with a series of smaller moves.The Angels didn’t commit any long-term dollars and didn’t give up any promising young players in trades, while adding what they hope are the right pieces to make a run at the playoffs in 2019.They added starting pitchers Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill to a core of Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney. They’ve added veteran closer Cody Allen and power right-hander Luis Garcia to the bullpen.Offensively, they have Justin Bour to pick up some of the first base slack while Albert Pujols and Ohtani recover from their surgeries, and Jonathan Lucroy to plug the hole at catcher.They’ll all be managed by Brad Ausmus, who takes over after the end of Mike Scioscia’s 19-year tenure running the club.“If we can keep our top 30 guys as healthy as possible and put them in a position to perform optimally, and manage their workload and health, I think we can be in a really good spot to win a lot of games,” Eppler said.“We feel good about the progress. We can see progress around and I think the players on our 25-man roster can see progress, because they talk about it.”Which brings us back to the most important player of them all: Trout.As spring training begins, the most significant question the team faces surrounds Trout.WILL TROUT SIGN AN EXTENSION?Although Eppler refuses to comment on the organization’s plans with Trout, a club source said earlier in the winter that extension talks were expected to begin in earnest after Harper and Machado signed, setting a baseline for Trout’s next contract.Assuming those players sign soon, and assuming the Angels and Trout would prefer not to negotiate during the season, this spring training will represent the best window for the two sides to get to work.It is likely that the Angels will be willing to pay whatever it costs to keep Trout – whatever mind-boggling number that might be – so it’s going to come down to whether Trout wants to stay.Trout said at the end of last season that winning is a priority. The Angels have been to the playoffs for just one three-game cameo in Trout’s seven seasons. Once Trout arrives in camp, he will certainly be asked his thoughts on the organization’s direction and his desire to stay. The answers will be telling.If the Angels and Trout don’t come to an agreement this spring, the sides are likely to keep talking for at least another year. It would be a shock if the Angels even considered trading Trout before July 2020, and then only if the team is out of the race and he has made it clear he’s not signing an extension. Even if one of those scenarios exists, it wouldn’t be enough to trade him.HOW QUICKLY WILL OHTANI AND PUJOLS RECOVER?Ohtani had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, so he’s not going to pitch this season. He’s expected to be a key part of the Angels lineup as the designated hitter for most of the season, but when that starts is unclear.The Angels have only said Ohtani won’t be ready by Opening Day. As Ohtani goes through his rehab throughout spring training, each week will provide a better picture of how soon he’ll be in the lineup.Ohtani’s immediate absence provides a little more time for Pujols, who has no challengers to his time at designated hitter while Ohtani is out. Pujols is coming back from surgeries on his knee and elbow. He is expected to be ready to hit by Opening Day.When Ohtani comes back, though, the Angels would prefer that Pujols can play first base so Ohtani can DH. Playing 70 games in the field in 2018 was likely a contributing factor to Pujols getting hurt, so it’s certainly worth wondering how much a 39-year-old Pujols will be able to handle this year. Spring training will start to provide some answers.WHO EMERGES IN THE THREE-HEADED INFIELD RACE?Andrelton Simmons will be the Angels’ shortstop and Pujols or Bour will be at first base, but beyond that the infield is uncertain.Zack Cozart, who is coming back from surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, will play either second or third. The other spot will be occupied by one of a group of three young players.David Fletcher, Taylor Ward and Luis Rengifo all enter spring training with a chance to emerge as an everyday player. Ward could win a job at third, Rengifo at second and Fletcher at either spot.Fletcher probably enters the spring in the pole position, because he performed the best in the majors last year. However, Ward (power) and Rengifo (speed, on-base percentage) both have some attractive qualities.WHO WILL GET THE FINAL SPOTS ON THE PITCHING STAFF?After the top four starters – Skaggs, Heaney, Harvey and Cahill – the Angels have four pitchers in the running for the fifth spot. Jaime Barría, who performed well as a rookie, is likely at the top of the depth chart going in, but Nick Tropeano, Felix Peña and Dillon Peters also have a chance to win their way into the rotation.All four have options, so there could be a shuttle throughout the season with those pitchers moving between the majors and Triple-A Salt Lake. They also figure to use pitchers from this group to slot a sixth starter into the rotation occasionally, providing extra rest for the others.In the bullpen, Allen will be the closer and Ty Buttrey, Hansel Robles, Cam Bedrosian, Garcia and Justin Anderson are relatively safe bets to join him. Daniel Hudson, Noé Ramírez, John Curtiss, Taylor Cole and Williams Jerez are all in the mix for the final spot.HOW WILL THE PROSPECTS DO?The Angels’ farm system has gone from being the worst in the sport to somewhere in the upper third, and most of their most promising players will be in big league camp.Outfielders Jo Adell – ranked as high as No. 2 overall in baseball – and Brandon Marsh, infielder Jahmai Jones and pitchers Griffin Canning and José Suarez are the organization’s top five prospects, and all will be in camp. It will be the first big league camp for all but Jones.“I’m excited to watch those guys get acclimated and get an opportunity to learn from the guys they’ll be exposed to,” Eppler said. “I think they’ll embrace all the knowledge that’s imparted.”Canning and Suarez are both likely to start the season at Triple-A, so a good showing in Arizona could help their chances at a quick promotion to the majors. Although Adell is only 19, he finished at Double-A last year, so he could also be up sometime in 2019. TEMPE, Ariz. — The Angels have concluded another offseason with a ticking noise in the background.At least, that’s the narrative outside the organization.Just about every time the Angels have done anything over the past few years, it’s been accompanied by a discussion about whether it’s enough to make the team a winner in the remaining years of Mike Trout’s contract.It’s down to two.