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Coming Together

02/07/2012, 4:05pm CST
By Jessica Baltes

Double feature Q&A with F Ryan Benesch and D Joe Cinosky!

Forward Ryan Benesch, a 5’9” native of Kitchener, Ontario, played his first season with the Swarm in 2010 after he was acquired by Minnesota as the result of a trade. He entered the league after being selected as the first overall pick in the 2006 NLL Entry Draft by the San Jose Stealth.

Since coming to the Swarm, Benesch has found increasing success. In 2010, he ranked third on the team in goals, 28, and tallied a total of 83 points (28g, 55a). During the 2011 season, he earned the NLL scoring crown after collecting a league-high 95 points (46g, 49a).

So far this season, Benesch has notched 22 points (10g, 12a) in three games and looks to add to those numbers during the doubleheader weekend as the Swarm takes on the Edmonton Rush on Friday and the Rochester Knighthawks on Sunday.

Jessica Baltes from the Minnesota Swarm recently caught up with F Ryan Benesch.

Baltes: This year, you are living in Minnesota and you are getting to help out with more appearances. For instance, you got to help deliver tickets to some of the season ticket holders. How do you like getting to be more involved?

Benesch: It’s awesome. It’s always fun to go out, meet some of the fans, get to know them better and find out how they feel about the Swarm and what not.

Baltes: What kind of goals do you set for yourself coming into a new season?

Benesch: I just want to help this team win. That’s a goal that I have for myself. I don’t worry too much on how many points I score in a season. All I care about is if we win or we lose. I hate to lose, so I try my best to get the victories.

Baltes: Are there any lacrosse players who you idolized growing up or model your game after now?

Benesch: I had a bunch of guys from my hometown of Kitchener who I really looked up to. One of them happened to play on the team for the last couple of years with me –Aaron Wilson. I looked up to him a lot, because he’s not a big guy by any means, but he plays like he is. He has a great shot. Obviously, Kevin Doyle. He’s from Kitchener-Waterloo as well. They actually happened to coach me for a year in Junior “A” lacrosse, which was a good experience.

Baltes: You have a brother, Eric, who also plays lacrosse. Apparently lacrosse skills run in the family, as I heard that he was rather impressive at Swarm training camp. You two also play for the Kodiaks together in the summer. What’s it like playing with him? Do you give him lots of help and pointers?

Benesch: Yeah, I try to give him tips, but obviously he’s my younger brother. He doesn’t like to hear it all, all the time. He’s a great player. I like playing with him a lot. It’s obviously a great honor to play with your brother, and I really want him to do well. I would never tell him anything that would harm his game or that would do anything to hurt him. It’s fun playing with your family members and it was something that we kind of looked forward to growing up. We played one year together in Junior “A” and now in Senior lacrosse we get to play with each other again.

Baltes: In addition to playing lacrosse during the summer, I read that you coach with Andrew Watt. What’s your coaching style like?

Benesch: I’m kind of just a quiet coach. I give the tips. I don’t do the yelling. I’ve never been a yeller. I’m not super serious either. I kind of joke around with the guys and try to take the edge off and make sure that they are relaxed and ready to play.

Baltes: Would you say that your coaching experience helps you to be a better leader with the rookies on the Swarm team?

Benesch: Yeah, I would think so. Having said that, I was coaching 15- or 16-year-old boys. These guys are 22-year-old men. I can give them tips and pointers and what not, but in the end they are grown ups and they know what it takes to win. It’s just up to me to just kind of help them stay on the right path.

Baltes: In looking at your stats, it seems like you have taken your game to a whole new level since coming to Minnesota. To what do you attribute the incredible success you have had here?

Benesch: My teammates. I have been fortunate enough to play with some really great players on this team during the past two seasons. My teammates and my coaches obviously give me a lot of leeway. They let me play my kind of game and they do things to try and help my benefit. I think I can count maybe two times that I’ve been yelled at in the past three years, so having a little bit of freedom like that is always encouraging. It’s nice knowing that my coaches and my teammates trust me.

Baltes: You went to your first All-Star game last year and were selected as a starter. What was that experience like?

Benesch: It was incredible. Just meeting all of the other guys from around the league and getting to know John Grant Jr. and guys like that. It was phenomenal. You hear stories about how cool people are and how nice of guys they are, but then when you finally get to meet them it just kind of blows you away a little bit to know that these guys love lacrosse as much as you do and that this is what they do for a living as well. It was just an unbelievable experience. I can’t even begin to describe it.

Baltes: Last season, you recorded a league-high seven goals and 11 points in Week #2 at Washington. What is the feeling like coming off of a game like that?

Benesch: I felt good, but at the same time you can’t think about it for too long. It’s one game. You’ve got to remember that you have the whole rest of the season left. You have to forget about it quickly, but it’s obviously nice to have a game like that. It’s fun and everything like that. But again, that’s not me. That was a combination of luck and my teammates. I don’t like to take credit for it, but it helps when I have guys on my side trying as hard as they do.

Baltes: The home opener was an incredibly exciting game to watch. How do you think that the team is coming together so far and how do you carry forward that momentum from the home opener going into the double header weekend?

Benesch: That was a pretty sweet game to be a part of. As far as the team coming together, we all get along with each other. You can tell that there aren’t any cliques; there aren’t any groups or what not. We all talk to each other. We all hang out with each other. Obviously, the nine guys that we have in town here spend a little bit more time together. We do fun little games, like play Xbox. Currently, we are in the process of putting together a 2,000 piece puzzle—trying to anyway. The team has jelled together quickly and that’s great to see. Continuing forward, we just have to be ready to play every minute of every game. That’s where our coaches come into play too. They do a great job of scouting other teams and getting us prepared for the next games.

Defenseman Joe Cinosky enters his fourth season with the Swarm. He was selected by Minnesota in the first round (13th overall) of the 2008 NLL Entry Draft.

In addition to the Swarm, the 6’3” defenseman also plays for the Major League Lacrosse’s (MLL) Denver Outlaws, coaches for the University of Minnesota Men’s Lacrosse Club and gives personal lessons through Lakeshore Lacrosse.

In three games this season, the Mountain Lakes, NJ native has racked up five loose balls, five forced turnovers and two PIM.

Jessica Baltes form the Minnesota Swarm recently caught up with D Joe Cinosky.

Baltes: A lot of the players in the NLL are from Canada. You on the other hand are from New Jersey. So, how did you get into box lacrosse?

Cinosky: I started playing when I was in third grade. I played the field version though, which is completely different than the box version. I actually only started playing box when I was drafted out here in 2008 after I graduated from Maryland.

Baltes: You also play in the MLL, which is a field lacrosse league. What are some of the major differences between field and box? Is it a difficult transition going between the two?

Cinosky: It’s definitely a lot different. The shot clock is 60 seconds in the MLL in comparison to 30 seconds in the NLL. In the MLL, it’s essentially a soccer field, so it’s a little bit more space. I actually use a d-pole which is 60-inches in length. It’s a bit longer than the normal shaft that I use for Swarm.

Baltes: In ’09 and ’10 you were a part of a team that won back-to-back championships in the MLL. Do you play the same type of role on your team in the MLL as you do for the Swarm?

Cinosky: I definitely think that my role is similar. I’m not a goal scorer. You’re never going to read my name in the paper, and I’d like to keep it that way as well. I just kind of do my job. I think that’s important for all defensemen. Whether you are at the middle school, high school level or beyond, defensemen have a huge role in every game. Even though they don’t get the headlines, a majority of the wins usually lie heavily on the defense playing well. I take pride in wins and losses.

Baltes: You also coach for the University of Minnesota Men’s Lacrosse Club, which is a field lacrosse team. How did you get into coaching and how did that opportunity come about?

Cinosky: When I first moved out to Minnesota in 2008, I began coaching at White Bear Lake H.S. From there, I moved to from an assistant to a head coach position at Mounds View H.S. I actually coached with one of the players from the University of Minnesota. From there, he got me an interview with the leadership group that hires and runs the team. I sat down with those guys and expressed to them my knowledge and passion for lacrosse. They liked it, and we ran with it. We had a pretty successful season last year during my first campaign, and we’re looking to do the same this year.

Baltes: You were a member of Team USA for the Lacrosse World Championships and won a gold medal. How did that opportunity come about and what was it like?

Cinosky: Originally there were 84 players who were selected out of over 300 to go to the training camp. That was probably one of the coolest experiences of my career playing at that level with 84 of the best players in the United States. From there, it got dropped down to 40 players and we had three different events at Army, Stony Brook and one other university. We were then selected to the 23 man roster. It was a pretty grueling process that took over a year. I was fortunate enough to make the cut out of some of the best players in the world. We had seven games in 10 days while we were in Manchester. It rained, so not exactly the best circumstances, but I learned a ton from that experience. I played with a great group of guys. Winning a gold medal was obviously the highlight of that whole entire experience.

Baltes: You’ve clearly been a part of some teams with some tremendous success. What elements did those teams have that allowed you guys to go all the way?

Cinosky: I think that it’s important that with every team that there are defined roles. I think that people were held accountable for their roles and the coaches allowed players to play, but also put them in positions to make plays. I think that at the level that we’re at with the Swarm, we’ve got a great coaching staff and great ownership. They’ve put us in a great position here to be successful this season. I think now it’s up to the guys in the jerseys to put all of that together, go out and work hard every night.

Baltes: Through your Lakeshore Lacrosse business, you offer personal lessons. Do you mainly work with younger kids? How can people get in touch with you if they are interested?

Cinosky: I’m pretty accessible. My email is all over the University of Minnesota web site and the Lakeshore Lacrosse web site. We work with a wide variety of kids. I do lessons with fourth graders all the way up to college guys who come back and ask for some help. We help out wherever we can and we are willing to work with anyone who wants to put the work in.

Baltes: Living in Minnesota, you get to be a part of a lot of Swarm events, including the initiatives in the Native Communities. Recently, you attended the Lax-4-Life Camp. Can you talk a little bit about that experience and what it was like working with the kids?

Cinosky: The Lax-4-Life Camp was a great event. Being a part of that, you realize that there is a bigger world out there than just the world of Minneapolis or St. Paul. It’s definitely put a lot of things into perspective for me to see all of these kids giving up some of their summer time to come out and work with us, talk about their nutrition and behavior, and learn some lacrosse on the side. It was definitely a cool and humbling experience.

Baltes: This season, all eight home games are being aired on Channel 45 as part of a delayed broadcast. How much does that mean to the players? It must be kind of fun to see yourself on TV. Do you plan to tune in?

Cinosky: Yeah, it’s great not only for the Swarm guys, but for the community to kind of reach out and to be able to catch a game on TV if they miss it. To see replays, especially when we have games where five guys are being ejected, it’s definitely entertaining. Hopefully the people in Minnesota can grasp onto that and we can get more fans out at our games and hopefully sell out like some of the other teams in the league.

Baltes: What do you do to prepare yourself for games? Do you have a pre-game routine?

Cinosky: Not really. It’s a pretty busy weekend. They’ve got us doing a lot of running around and practice and shootarounds. So, my pre-game routine is usually just a nap and then a light meal before the game. Get some good music going in the locker room with the guys and that’s about it.

Baltes: The home opener was quite an exciting game. What was your impression on everything that happened?

Cinosky: It was honestly more than just a great victory. It was a good team building game for our team. I think that we really came together that night. Guys stood up for each other that normally wouldn’t fight. It was great to see. It was a little tough afterwards only having six defensemen on the bench. We didn’t have much of a break, but I think that a game like that sets the tone for a season really. It gave us a little bit of confidence going into our Rochester game. I like the way our young guys are coming along, and we’ve got some really good veteran guys as well who are contributing to the mix. I think that once we start coming together it’s going to be a pretty dangerous team.

Baltes: The Swarm has a doubleheader weekend on Feb. 10 and 12. Is it tough having two games in one weekend? What’s it going to take to come away with a couple of wins?

Cinosky: I definitely think that from the player standpoint that it’s difficult. Having a day in-between will give us some time to get our legs back, recuperate and recover from the games. I think that those games are more of a mental battle having to play two games, but the coaching staff has done a great job of getting us prepared for our other games, and we watch tons of film and we have scouting reports, so I think that we are going to be plenty prepared and ready to go for the weekend.

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