Making Strides in 2nd Season for Christopher Newport, PDS Alum Auslander Enjoyed Run to D-III Lax Semis
REACHING NEW TERRITORY: Coby Auslander races upfield this spring for the Christopher Newport University men’s lacrosse team. Former Princeton Day School standout Auslander helped CNU reach the NCAA Division III Final 4 for the first time in program history. Midfielder Auslander scored 34 points on 16 goals and 18 assists in helping the Captains go 13-6. (Photo provided courtesy of Christopher Newport Athletic Communications)
By Bill Alden
Coby Auslander wasn’t sure if he was going to get the chance to take this field this spring for his sophomore season with the Christopher Newport University men’s lacrosse team.
After abbreviated fall ball practice sessions with players training in pods due to COVID-19 concerns, there was no certainty that CNU would able to have a regular season this spring.
But with the school putting together a COVID-19 testing protocol, the squad was cleared to go ahead with its 2021 campaign.
“It was a big relief because we have all had this urge to play because we haven’t played in a while,” said Auslander.
“We knew that we had the kids that could do something really cool this season. We were just hoping that it would happen so that we could show everyone that was have a very good team.”
Auslander and his teammates ended up doing some really cool things, advancing to the NCAA Division III Final 4 for the first time in program history as they went 13-6.
It was not a smooth ride for the Captains, who started 6-0 and then lost four of their next five games. Auslander, for his part, was sidelined due to a leg injury during that slump.
“I pulled my hamstring, I wasn’t able to play in those losses which was tough; I had to watch from the sideline,” said Auslander.
“We were off to a great start and there was a little hiccup in the middle of the season but luckily we were able to pick it back up again.”
Returning to action by scoring two goals and an assist in a 14-13 overtime win at Washington and Lee in late April, Auslander helped CNU catch fire down the stretch as it won its last three regular season games.
“I would put a lot of it on the senior leadership that we had,” said Auslander.
“During the tough stretch we had a reality check where we just stayed in the locker room for an hour or two hours and just talked everything out. We looked over our team culture and figured out what we could do best. We had to look in the mirror really quickly and figure what was going wrong and how we could turn it around. After that meeting, we started to really click again.”
Midfielder Auslander clicked in his second year with the program.
“I would say your freshman year, you feel a lot younger than the upperclassmen and they show you the ropes,” said Auslander, who ended up with 34 points on the season with 16 goals and 18 assists.
“I think this year we were able to grow. I was able to grow into a role where I could just communicate on the field more, create plays for the other guys and just allow them to score goals. That is more my role on the team, finding guys who can shoot.”
After topping Southern Virginia 14-11 in the Coast-to-Coast Conference tournament semifinals, the Captains grew in a 12-9 loss to Salisbury in the title game.
“It definitely was a confidence builder; that game was hit or miss for us,” said Auslander of the matchup which had seen CNU fall 25-12 and 17-5 in two regular season meetings between the rivals.
“If we didn’t give them a good run, we probably would not have made the tournament. We were playing to keep the season going. It was a definitely a confidence boost because in the two games before, they handled us pretty well. We were able to figure something out and showed us we could play with a team like that. It just gave us the confidence to keep going.”
Earning a spot in the NCAA Division III tourney, CNU showed it belonged by topping Stevenson 10-5 in a second round contest.
“We were ready to go having never experienced that, it is something I will never forget,” said Auslander.
“I just wanted to get out on that field. The whole time I had to keep in mind that there were seniors who had graduated last year. We discussed how they had their whole season taken away, it was so hard to see that happen. We all remembered that and we wanted to do everything we could for those alumni. We knew that we just had so much backup from the people in the stands, the alumni, and our sideline. It was just an incredible feeling to be in that game in general and then pull out the win it was pretty special.”
While Auslander didn’t score a goal in the win, he contributed four assists to help trigger the attack for the Captains.
“It was a tough shooting game, luckily I was able to make some plays for the team,” said Auslander.
“Guys got themselves in the right position. It was nice to contribute to that first game and get that monkey off my back because it is a lot of nerves going on.”
There were some nervous moments in the NCAA quarters as CNU edged another rival, Lynchburg, 12-11 in overtime to punch a ticket to Final 4.
“The whole time we had a feeling we would see them again if we got into the tournament,” said Auslander of the third meeting in 2021 between the foes which had seen CNU prevail 10-9 in overtime in the first contest and then fall 12-5 in a rematch.
“It was just fun that we got to see them in that position. I would say that is one of our biggest rivals. Being able to have that rubber match with them and come out on top was something that was really big for our program.”
Auslander had a big moment midway through the fourth quarter, scoring a goal to give CNU an 11-9 lead.
“It was one of those things where I wanted it to be the nail in the coffin,” said Auslander, who ended up with two goals and two assists in the victory.
“They had a great team too and they weren’t going to go away easily. It is our first Final 4. Our head coach [Mikey Thompson] has only been here for five years now. We are still a very young program.”
The Captains didn’t have a great ending to the season as they fell 18-8 to Salisbury in the NCAA semis, jumping out to a 5-4 lead after the first quarter only to be outscored 11-0 over the next two periods.
“Nobody is making any excuses, they were definitely a better team than us this year,” said Auslander, who had two assists in the loss.
“They had more skill, they were old. We were tired from the game before because we played back-to-back. In that first quarter, we had a bunch of energy. The fans were fantastic, everybody was so excited to be there and we ran out of gas at one point. It was truly just a cool experience, just to have the opportunity to play a team like Salisbury, a powerhouse who has been in Final 4s and has won the national championships.”
That defeat has left Auslander and his teammates hungry to go for the national crown next season.
“This summer, none of us have stopped working; you get that taste of the tournament, going that far and having a lot of people on your side, it is something we want to get back to,” said Auslander.
“We want to get further. We have no intention of being cool with going to the Final 4. Our team is really looking forward to next year and getting back to that position. We are keeping the whole team, pretty much all of our starters because they are taking their grad year.”
Auslander, for his part, is working this summer to pack on more muscle to fortify himself for a title run.
“This summer I have been focusing on getting bigger,” said the 5’7, 150-pound Auslander.
“If you look at those Salisbury defenders, they are all big kids. I will always be the same height, but if I can work on gaining some weight and muscle it will benefit me more in the long run. I have been trying to lift as much as possible. We have been having scrimmages over at PDS too.”