Jul 3, 2011

Styres wants a championship.jpg(Rochester, July 3)… Surrounded by his friends and family, Curt Styres watched his Hamilton Nationals mount a comeback against the Rochester Rattlers. While in the midst of the Major League Lacrosse season, one would think he would be immersed in outdoor lacrosse. Think again.

“Our goal is to win the championships. It’s still our goal,” said Styres about his other pro lacrosse team, the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League.

Styres has his plan already in place for the upcoming draft, and the November Open Tryouts and Training Camp. His planning and tactics are what earned him the NLL Executive of the Year and General Manager of the Year honors in the same season, which was a league first. That process will fuel the team’s drive to the 2012 NLL Playoffs.

“With the draft coming up we are looking at picking up a couple of good players,” said Styres. “We are positioned well to draft high. Of course, we are going to have tryouts or walk-ons. Last year we ended up signing Tyler Burton out of that so that was pretty successful.”

The Knighthawks have had success with drafting players under Styres and his lacrosse staff. The team has had the past two No. 1 picks, taking Sid Smith in the 2009 draft and Cody Jamieson last year. Joining Jamieson in the rookie class were fellow 2010 first-rounder Jarrett Davis and second-round selection Josh Ruys. Two free agents also made the team with the signing of Burton and Dylan Evans, and Cory Vitarelli joined the team mid-season. They all had an impact this season, collecting 94 points, 173 loose balls and 50 faceoff wins.

The Knighthawks will have the second overall pick in this summer’s NLL Entry Draft. Styres has a vast player pool to choose from with players from the college and box lacrosse ranks ready to make the jump to pro lacrosse.

“He is going to do very well for us,” said of the player he will select without naming him. “They are so many good lacrosse players coming out these days that you have 15 choices and there’s not one wrong one. It depends what your team needs at that point.”

The Knighthawks enter the 2012 campaign after reasserting itself as a top franchise in the National Lacrosse League. The team finished in a three-way tie for first at 10-6 and advanced to the NLL Playoffs. The club also won a league-record six individual awards. Styres made sweeping changes last season that included acquiring Matt Vinc for John Grant Jr. It was also a season that featured the retirement of veterans Pat O’Toole and Gary Gait, and the dealing of longtime defenseman Steve Toll. The youth movement was here in Rochester, and here to stay.

“You can see what youth has done for us last year. We got younger, faster and stronger. We are still going to go with that,” said Styres.

His young team showed resilience last season with a late season charge that turned a 5-5 team into a 10-6 playoff threat. Under Coach of the Year Mike Hasen and his staff, the Knighthawks routed the defending champion Washington Stealth and the rival Buffalo Bandits. Styres’ message all season remained the same, but seemed to bear itself out in those last six games.

“Every player needs to play the best they can every given night and play for the guy beside them,” he said.

Entering his fourth season with the Knighthawks and heading into the second half of the MLL season with a rejuvenated Nationals team, Styres beamed with pride as he talked about what motivates him every day and every hour of his life.

“That’s what our passion is: Lacrosse,” he said. “We go to bed and think lacrosse and wake up and think lacrosse. You can’t get any better that that.”

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