Benny Pugh on Team Defense and his 2017 Success

BennyPughLacrosseGoalie

Before getting into this interview with Benny Pugh, I was recently invited to a podcast – Winning Youth Coaching with Craig Haworth. Listen to my interview here – http://www.winningyouthcoaching.com/wyc-118/. It was a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy our conversation. 

Benny Pugh is the current goalie of the Richmond Spiders who sport a relatively new lacrosse team.

In fact the men’s program was added just 4 years ago meaning Senior Pugh will be a part of the team’s first graduating class this year. Congrats are in order!

That relative inexperience in the program didn’t stop Richmond from becoming one of the top defensive programs in the NCAA in 2017.

The Richmond Spiders defense gave up an average of only 5.8 goals per game this year. A full 1 goal less than the 2nd place team in that category.

Much of that had to do with the Southern Conference defenseman player of the year and subject of this post, senior goalie Benny Pugh.

Bits and pieces of this post are taken from all over including here, here, and here.

Interview with Richmond Spider’s goalie Benny Pugh

When did you first start playing lacrosse? 

3rd grade. The goalie position fits my skill set more than any other. I played attack and midfield over two seasons before first picking up a goalie’s stick as a fifth-grader.

Let’s start by talking defense. The old cliche is defense wins championships. You’ve got the lowest Goals Against Average (GAA) in all of D1. What has made the defense so good? 

Our defense has always been a staple of this program. It’s definitely a testament to the work ethic of those guys have done on that end of the field.

Having founded this program, being a part of the original senior class we have a chemistry that you can’t break up and a lot of plays are made without saying anything at all. It’s a pretty special thing to have.

I’m definitely fortunate to have the guys I do on my end of the field. They make my job easier at times. Yeah, it’s a testament to their work ethic and it’s been a lot of fun.

You’re a big hockey fan, hockey goalies have all that padding, not the case in men’s lacrosse? Why be a goalie in men’s lacrosse? 

I don’t know. I got into it when I was a little younger and just stuck with it. It’s still a rush every shot that comes at you. It’s been really good for me building out my personal confidence on things off the field as well. Being able to know that I can have confidence going into situation where I’m one on one with someone. It’s a lot of fun and I encourage younger players to give it a try. I’ve had a ball with it obviously.

I don’t ever remember being afraid to get hit by a hard shot. I’ve broken both thumbs three times. By high school, I’d been hit enough to feel like I’d seen the worst of it.

What drives you to be an All-Star goalie? 

I put a lot of pressure on myself. Just to represent myself well, represent my family, represent the program well. We’re a very family oriented team so it means a lot to represent the team.

With the lacrosse season winding down, that means graduation is right around the corner. Have you given that any thought? 

It’s crazy. We’re trying not take anything for granite and not let anything slip away. It’s pretty weird suiting up being able to count down the days until graduation. But we’re trying to take advantage of every day we have out here, for sure.

You’re having tremendous success in 2017, leading the NCAA D1 in Save percentage. What are you doing differently this year compared to previous years? 

I don’t think I’m doing anything different than I’ve done the last 4 years. Honestly, I think I’ve played well over the last 4 years. I’m putting in the same amount work. I’m learning how to put in work more efficiently in the offseason and better use my time during the season balancing lacrosse and school work.

The success that I’ve had is all a credit to my defense and the work they’ve put in. So save percentage to me is definitely a team statistic.

How do you describe your style goaltending? And what has helped you get better? 

The biggest part of my game has always been natural reflexes so I think a lot of what I do is raw. A lot of the movements I make is just raw reaction. So turning that into more concrete technique and making things more a little more consistent has definitely helped me over the last few years. Getting used to the speed and things like that at the college level. Muscle memory and putting in work in the offseason has been the key for me.

BennyPugh

You were originally committed to play lacrosse at St. John’s in Queens, New York. How did you end up at Richmond? 

The idea of attending Richmond originally wasn’t interesting since Coach Chemotti was charting a new program. I first visited St. John’s in the summer before my senior year, with no students around, and I liked it a lot. But after I went back for my official visit, something about the environment didn’t click with me.

Where I grew up, you were in the woods with a gun hunting deer in November and December, and you got your fishing pole out for a couple of months in the summer. I felt like I’d rushed my St. John’s decision. It was my first college offer and I jumped at it. But then I decided it just didn’t feel right at St. John’s. Queens was a big change from Powhatan.

After talking with Coach Miller (St. Johns) he released me from my commitment. Then Coach Greg Conklin, who was an assistant coach at Woodberry Forest sent my info to the Richmond coach. St. John’s would have been great, but now that I’m at Richmond, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

How have you liked your college experience at Richmond? 

It couldn’t have worked out any better for me. Being close to home, being able to see my family. Having the opportunity to get playing time as a freshman and all the way through, other than the appendectomy. It’s been surreal.

I’m really blessed to have the opportunity and to have the privilege to put on that jersey everyday and play with such an awesome group of guys. It’s been a ton of fun and it couldn’t have worked out any better.

As the Richmond Spiders get set for a potential NCAA tournament birth, what does that mean to you? 

This is our last go at it so everyone wants it, everyone’s hungry for it. I think that hunger has been there every year tho. The conference has definitely evolved, it’s gotten better. Air Force joined the conference and that made things interesting.

As I said before tho, the work hasn’t changed. The goal hasn’t changed. So we just have to keep showing up and putting in the work day in and day out I think we’ll be successful. Success is relative in this program. But it’s hard to convince our defense that there is a better unit out there. That’s not false confidence. We’ve established a standard

Here’s Benny Pugh in action in a game earlier this year against top seeded North Carolina:

You can checkout Benny’s stick setup and those of other goalies here – NCAA Goalie Stick Setups.

Conclusion

Interesting insights from one of the best goalies in the NCAA today.

I thought it was interesting that having started the Richmond Spiders lacrosse program Benny didn’t really have the older goalie mentors to help him. He had to be that leader immediately from day 1, as a freshman.

Also interesting to note that in many responses, Benny Pugh compliments his defense. Great leaders are always quick to give credit to their teammates and that’s the case here. His quote that save percentage is a team statistic is gold and something I’ve mentioned here before.

Finally – both thumbs, broken 3 times? I hope he misspoke and that’s 3 breaks total. Two thoughts: 1.) ouch 2.) we need better goalies gloves.

Hope you enjoyed that interview with Benny Pugh.

Until next time! Coach Damon

Any other lacrosse goalies you’d like to see an interview with? Leave me a comment down below and I’ll try to put one together. 

2 comments on “Benny Pugh on Team Defense and his 2017 Success”

  1. Ian Stack
    June 7, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Would love to hear from University of MD goalie Dan Morris coming off a National Championship and going into his senior year.

    Both my boys are lax goalies (2022, and 2024) and I share your articles with them frequently. Your insights are appreciated.

    Peace, Ian

    • June 12, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Good one Ian. I’ll see if I can get ahold of him.

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