In 2010, a group of underdogs representing “the Small College of Big Dreams” made a run to the national semifinals before succumbing to eventual NCAA champion USC by a 10-7 count. In that march, this talented group from Brooklyn, NY maintained an unbeaten record against their Eastern competition. This season has been a different story as St. Francis College has taken early season lumps at tournaments such as the Navy Labor Day Open and NorCal Invitational. The Terriers recently submitted their finest performance of the season by defeating rival Brown in a key conference matchup. Head coach Igor Samardzija to discuss his team’s slow start, championship aspirations and his dangerous southpaw.
St. Francis got off to a slow start to the season as your Terriers suffered some unexpected losses at the Navy Open and NorCal Invitational. Your squad showed some progression in defeating Brown handily in a key conference matchup last week. Can you tell us the difference in your team from those two early season tournaments and now?
Samardzija: Every team has its own low and high points during the season. There are several reasons that can account for our slow start, but the most important thing now is that we are back on track to defend the CWPA Eastern title.
I hope that the game against our divisional rival, Brown, will prove to be the turning point for us this season but only time will tell.
What does St. Francis need to do to get back to the NCAA national semifinals?
Samardzija: The recipe is simple: we need to win every single game for the rest of the season. And not just win, but continue to improve our game. We first need to take care of our mental pitfalls and errors and second, we need to learn to respect the high level of talent that our opponents possess.
Early in the season, we saw that the competition for the championship will be stronger this year and that there is a group of five to six teams that are also worthy contenders for the title. We were lucky enough to find ourselves in the final game last year, and we definitely cannot afford to test our fortunes this time around.
Can you tell us a little about Marko Gencic and what makes him one of the top lefties in the country?
Samardzija: Marko is an agile and fast player. He also has a great shot, which makes him one of the best wingers in the country. His offensive play does not need much improvement and he is always present in our stats. What most people don’t see is that Marko is equally effective in defense and he usually leads the charts in steals. He came to us from the Serbian Junior National Team and as such, has a great reputation to defend and he has been serious about this since day one. Luckily for us, he is not the only one on our team with such a pedigree.