All-American midfielder Charlie Fay (23) and attackman Andrew Melvin (35) lead a 13-member senior class at Bates, the impetus for a perfect regular season and national No. 1 ranking.

How Bates Turned Disappointment of 2016 into Dream 2017

The Bates men’s lacrosse team, after a late-season loss to Middlebury last year, knew its NCAA tournament chances were up in the air, but it gathered nonetheless.

The 2016 selection show was set to unfold, and the college out of Lewiston, Maine, maintained faith that its name would roll across the screen. But it never did — their season, despite an 11-4 record, was over.

“It hurt a lot in the moment,” said Andrew Melvin, now a senior attackman. “We knew our situation, but we were still optimistic.”

“As you can imagine there was anger, perhaps some tears, some frustration,” added Peter Lasagna, the Bobcats coach who’s now in his 17th year at the helm. “We owned it.”

Fast-forward from that seminal moment, and the Bobcats have owned their fate and then some, compiling a 13-0 record, earning a No. 1 ranking and capturing the regular season NESCAC title. Everything is turning up garnet, black and white in 2017, sparked by a desire to leave their middling days in the past.

“The seniors have stayed the course and they stayed together, and now we all have this.” — Peter Lasagna, Bates men's lacrosse coach

Bates’ 13 seniors, who Lasagna hailed as the team’s heart and soul, have experienced a gamut of emotions across their careers. 

It started in 2014 with a 4-9 season, one that Charlie Fay, now a senior midfielder, called “pretty depressing.” Then in 2015 came an 11-4 record and the Bobcats’ first NCAA tournament appearance, followed by the disappointment of last year. 

The latter, Lasagna stressed, was most crucial because it set in motion a series of events unique to the NESCAC environment Bates calls home. 

Following 2016’s bitter ending, the Bobcats began their short term, an academic period at Bates that runs from late April to late May. Rather than enjoying an early offseason, Bates got back to work with skill sessions, creating the tone and culture that has defined its 2017 season.

“The only way to get better is by practicing and setting a bar,” said Fred Ulbrick, a senior defenseman. “You don’t want to be happy going 11-4 and not making the tournament. You want to make the tournament, make a run in the tournament. It’s instilling the culture of hard work and never being satisfied.”

That was only the start, though, as NESCAC rules prohibit programs from having the fall-ball season that other Division I, II and III programs rely upon. Rather, Lasagna can’t hold practice until Feb. 15. So when Bates arrived on campus for the fall semester, the foundation was solely in the captains’ hands – Fay, Weber and Ulbrick.

They’d travel to Portland, Maine, for a box lacrosse league every Wednesday night, and typically held practice three times a week. The trio would also report to Lasagna about who was performing well and general trends within the group. 

“A lot of what they’ve done is create a culture that says, ‘This involves all of us,’” Lasagna said. “It’s not a question of whether Charlie Fay or Kyle Weber or Freddie Ulbrick or Andrew Melvin are doing it. It’s each of them, it’s every man, and they’ve created that environment, one that will outlast them.”

In the here and now, however, Bates is basking in all it can squeeze out of the Class of 2017. It has knocked off top-20 teams in Amherst, Tufts and Wesleyan, the product of a run-and-gun system that lets key offensive players thrive.

Fay, a second-team All-American from a year ago, has 67 points, while Weber, a preseason first-team All-New England selection, has put up 57 points. Then there’s the 52 points from Matt Chlastawa, a freshman attackman, and another 46 from Melvin. 

“You can’t really scout one kid and think he’s the key to the offense, because then we’re going to have another kid come out and punish you,” Ulbrick said.



Still, the Bobcats’ success in 2017 hasn’t come without hiccups. They beat Bowdoin, Tufts and Wesleyan each by one goal, then had to will themselves to a two-goal win over Connecticut College, the product of what’s arguably Division III’s staunchest conference.

The general pulse, however, around Garcelon Field, Bates’ stomping grounds, is the 13-12 win at Bowdoin was pivotal. For one, Bowdoin is the Bobcats’ in-state rival, but they more importantly trailed 12-9 midway through the fourth quarter.

With its undefeated season on the line, Bates rattled off four straight goals and rose above the adversity.

“I didn’t feel like we were questioning it at all,” Fay said. “Our freshman year, we had the mentality in our head that we were probably going to end up losing that game, and this year, I’m still thinking to myself that it’s our game to have.”

That change of mentality, Fay added, embodies what Bates is all about now: A culture where anything less than making the NCAA tournament isn’t good enough.

Getting to that point, Melvin said, represents an entirely different challenge, one that gets underway on Saturday when Bates hosts Connecticut College in the NESCAC tournament’s first round. Lasagna said such a moment “has been a goal for a while,” and Bates, most importantly, knows its undefeated run means little if it can’t deliver in the postseason.




Bates coach Peter Lasagna is in his 17th season leading the Bobcats.

Thus, Bates’ focus is on living to fight another day, be it in the NESCAC tournament or the NCAA tournament. In those games, Lasagna said Bates will stick to its bread and butter: a senior class that’s been through thick and thin together.

“You want to find out what you’ve got in your program,” Lasagna said. “How does a class full of really talented, really motivated, really bright students react to something going very differently than what they expected when they arrived on campus? The seniors have stayed the course and they stayed together, and now we all have this.”

As for Weber, he conceded it’s a bit idealistic, but his aims are set even higher. 
“I hope us seniors have done our part and that mentality won’t change for a long time here, and we’ve established a tradition that’ll be very long lasting,” Weber said. “That’s what I’m most thankful for and one of the reasons why I’m so happy to be a part of this special run.”

A special run indeed, one that’s been a long time brewing at Bates.

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