Men’s club lacrosse begins season with new hope and 17th ranking, an all time high

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The club lacrosse team begins their first season ranked in a national conference at 17th and are poised to move upwards. (Photo courtesy of the NCLL on Instagram)

Charlie Berman, Assistant Sports Editor

The men’s club lacrosse team opens up its season in two weeks with a completely different mindset than it has ever been in before. After being unaffiliated and having to schedule their own games, the Leopards have now joined the National Collegiate Lacrosse League (NCLL) and secured a top 20 ranking for the first time in program history.

“It is definitely a step in the right direction. We have played all of these teams before, we have been practicing a lot and we’re going to rise to meet the competition,” junior captain Alex Oliver said. “Our defense is really strong, and the rest will come with time.”

In their first game back in November with no prior practice time, they played the fifth-ranked Lehigh and stuck with them the whole game, only to lose in a heartbreaker at the end.

“During Covid, it really sucked because we couldn’t get the team together. Since we’ve been back on campus, this program has gone through a significant evolution, and I think we are heading in the right direction,” junior offensive coordinator Harry Ricker said.

Besides the roster, the most significant change in the club lacrosse team has been the tactics used to try to entice more experienced players to join.

“There’s definitely a wide range of skill. There’s people who started here for our Division I lacrosse team and people who didn’t start for their high school team,” Oliver said.

As they ascend into the NCLL, the Maroon and White will join the ranks of fourth place Villanova, Rutgers, Lehigh (fifth) and Penn (sixth). This new league is providing an extra motivating factor for the team. For the first time ever this spring, club lacrosse has begun practicing twice a week with games on Sundays.

“I don’t see us as trying to break into this league, I know that we are good enough to be in it which is why we are in it. My goals are primarily to beat Lehigh and really establish ourselves in the league as more than just a newcomer,” Oliver said.

Some team members have seen a stark growth in players and in dedication over the past four years, including senior Hank Scheffler, who has played for the team since 2018 and watched its popularity skyrocket.

“I think the program has grown so much because of its leadership. We are finally taking it seriously and it feels great to be recognized for it,” Scheffler said. “When I started, this program was less serious and now it feels like there is more of an emphasis on practice and winning.”

A strong culture comes largely from cohesion and chemistry among teammates. Building that camaraderie can be tough, especially when practicing only twice a week.

“I think we are building the chemistry to be a good team and now I think it comes down to dedication,” Ricker said. “We have held team bonding experiences on days when we couldn’t get enough people, but like any other team sport, we struggle with numbers.”

Oliver believes the team will improve on its 17th place national ranking, and cites a growing program that will contribute to future success.

“The biggest thing to building a strong culture is a winning program and I think with this league, we will build that strong program that we are looking for. Seventeenth is a little disrespectful but I’ll take it for now,” Oliver said.

Club lacrosse starts its season on Feb. 20 in a round-robin tournament at Villanova. The Leopards have home games set for March 6 against TCNJ and on March 27 against Bloomsburg.