It's rare for a team coming off a successful season to experience a head coaching change. However, on the heels of the Mount Greylock boys lacrosse team's first-ever Western Massachusetts playoff victory, former Mount Greylock coach Jeff Stripp stepped down to spend time with his family.
Enter Brandon Asplundh, Stripp's former offensive coordinator and Greylock's junior varsity coach. He's the new head man for Mount Greylock.
Asplundh knows that Stripp is an iconic figure around the Greylock lacrosse program. He said he wants to continue the progress that Stripp started.
"I don't look at [taking over for Stripp] as pressure," Asplundh said. "I look at it as he created a great thing. He has great momentum going, and I'm just trying to continue on and keep getting better."
While Asplundh coached under Stripp last season, he's putting his own stamp on the program with a tough, offensive-minded approach.
"[The transition's] been pretty easy," senior defender Niko Santore said. "He was our assistant coach last year, and we all really like him. He's a great coach."
"We are going to miss Coach Stripp," added Daivon Clement. "[Stripp's] been coaching me since eighth grade in lacrosse, but Coach A is going to do it for us this year."
Asplundh said one of his goals is to hold his players accountable on and off the field. A mistake under Asplundh may lead to more running than in the past, but he said it's important for his players to maintain the standard he set for them.
The players seem to be embracing the additional toughness, and are openly receiving his coaching. Even with Asplundh taking over the reins, he said Stripp is someone he can turn to for advice.
"I've talked to [Stripp] a lot," he said. "I look to him for guidance on things from defensive strategy to fundraisers and everything. I'm going to definitely keep on picking his brain all the time."
In addition to guidance from Stripp, team captains such as Clement and Santore have taken on more leadership-type roles to help ease Asplundh's transition.
"He's looking for us to have more leadership and help guide the younger kids," Clement said. "Some of the young guys don't always know where to go, so [Asplundh] pushes us to lead."
Stripp may still be involved with the program, but the Mountie players are ready to create a new chapter for Greylock lacrosse. The team's realignment to Division III could allow for a deeper playoff run, as a Western Mass. title is on the team's mind.
"We're definitely ready to go," Santore said. "To go to Western Mass. and hopefully win it. We'll see if we get there."
"It's not quite win Western Mass. or bust," Asplundh said. "But that's a goal that we think is realistic this year."