Road Warrior RMU: 'You Tell Me the Date; We’re Willing to Travel.'


Throughout his 10 years at the helm and his 15 years overall at Robert Morris, Andrew McMinn has become better accustomed to the intricacies of lengthy road trips than most. Given the university’s location in the western suburbs of Pittsburgh in Moon Township, bolstering the Colonials’ strength of schedule has often required playing anyone, anywhere.

Usually, though, that means away from Joe Walton Stadium.

“Even driving across Pennsylvania to Philly is five hours,” McMinn said. “So, we’re typically four at a minimum and sometimes then some.”

The “road warrior” mentality for the program whose unique transition game and bevy of future NLL stars who often cause opponents fits has never been more important than this year. After Robert Morris (3-3) left the Northeast Conference last summer, McMinn was tasked with building a schedule as an independent. He cobbled together 12 games with the potential to add more. Only two are true home games.

“Our approach from the beginning was, let’s schedule as many games as we possibly can,” McMinn said. “Our administration has been extremely supportive. We want to give the guys the opportunity to get as much of a season as we can in place.”

The latest of those games last Saturday at Air Force was a preview of a future ASUN Conference matchup, which Air Force, Bellarmine, Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, Robert Morris and Utah will comprise starting July 1. During film review the past two days, McMinn and his staff have relied on their notes more than actual clips, due to the blizzard-like conditions in Colorado Springs that made it too difficult at times to distinguish who was who.

The game was initially supposed to take place inside the Academy’s Holaday Center, but the location shifted several times.

The Colonials built a 11-5 lead at halftime after an eight-goal second quarter, then they hung on to win 14-13. Seventh-year graduate student attackman Jimmy Perkins, who started his career at RMU and played the last two years at Utah, led the way with six points (four goals).

His diving, wrap around goal was the highlight of the contest.

The conditions that made Perkins’ goal, which McMinn called “Gait-esque,” all the more entertaining also put Robert Morris’ travel plans in doubt. By the time the team got to practice at Air Force on Friday, McMinn learned their flight scheduled for Saturday was canceled. Then the Denver Airport shut down.

McMinn called the team’s bus driver a “godsend” who drove them from Colorado Springs to the Comfort Suites Denver Airport and the administrator who booked the new hotel for the team. Since the 30-plus inches of snow in the city made many roads impassable, the team relied on food from the Mobil Gas Station and the Krispy Krunchy fried chicken stand next door Saturday night and all of Sunday. Check-in was at noon on Monday.

They arrived at the airport at 1:30 p.m., even though the runways were still closed at that time and their flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 6:50 p.m. After yet another delay, they departed from Denver around 8:40 p.m. They finally returned to Pittsburg at 3 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

“We were really impressed as a staff just with how positive the guys stayed,” McMinn said. “It was a tribute to their resiliency.”

The Colonials wear No. 43 LaxStraps on their helmets in honor Jack Toomb, a Class of 2019 long-stick midfielder and defender who was cornerstone of the Colonials’ NEC tournament championship teams in 2018 and 2019. Toomb died on March 16, 2020, after a sudden cardiac event while playing basketball. He was 23 years old. The program plans to retire Toomb’s number once conditions allow for a larger gathering.

“He always had that presence where, even if you met him once, you felt like you knew him for a long time,” McMinn said.

In some ways, the hurdles Robert Morris faced this past week — and how they responded to them — serve as a proxy for the entire 2021 lacrosse season. It’s not difficult to notice the differences in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team holds its meetings in the grand concourse of the university’s basketball arena, the UPMC Events Center, since it’s one of the few spots that allows players and coaches to remain at least six feet apart. Bus seating and roommate charts are all based upon who has had COVID and who has not. There’s no eating on the bus.

“You’re literally thinking at all times, what happens if somebody gets it?” said McMinn, making reference to contract tracing protocols.

While McMinn noted that assembling a schedule was more challenging than ever as an independent, he also viewed the lack of conference limitations as an opportunity. Talks with Canisius and Lehigh fell through, but he managed to organize games against ACC powers Duke, Notre Dame and Virginia, who the Colonials face tomorrow at Klöckner Stadium at 3 p.m. Eastern.

“You tell me the date; we’re willing to travel,” McMinn told every coach he called.

That flexibility also helped after RMU’s games against Bucknell and Bellarmine got postponed, after those programs temporarily paused activities. McMinn and his staff immediately looked at the future opponents of other games that were canceled. They made more calls.

“I’m not sure what’s happening, but if you guys have a cancellation, we’re ready to go with a bus,” McMinn told Colgate’s Matt Karweck. The schedule change to a Patriot League opponent required Robert Morris to test an extra time that week.

The Colonials ultimately walked, or rather drove, away from Hamilton (N.Y.) with their first win of the season. 

“The message now more than ever to the guys is it’s not just about getting out there and trying to beat teams,” McMinn said. “It’s really about taking every single day and valuing the time and the opportunity that we have to go out and do this when obviously a lot of other people throughout the world are suffering and going through a heck of a lot more adversity than we necessarily are.”

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