Six years ago, Wayne State had two men and women’s club lacrosse teams. After four years, both team faced an uncertain future as major players graduated and left remaining members without leadership. The women’s team has since dissipated without a captain or players and it looked like the men’s team would do the same, but now they can tell a different story.
In 2010, the men's team joined the National College Lacrosse League, playing other club teams during their seasons until they stopped playing in 2014. The women’s team also held consecutive seasons that started in 2010, up until 2015.
Supervisor of Intramural and Club sports at the Mort Harris Recreation Center Justin Harden said the lack of leadership was a defining factor in the disassembling of the women’s team.
“A lot of their leaders graduated, so they didn’t have anyone in place to help run the club sufficiently,” Harden said. “I hope they will be back up and running for the following school year.”
Jordyn Burdick, a senior chemistry major, was the president of the women’s lacrosse team in the year it collapsed. She said a lack of interest was the real reason the team could not move forward.
“Low recruitment was the root of the majority of the challenges we faced as a team,” said Burdick. “I played in the 2013 and 2014 seasons and tried to make the 2015 season happen, but it wasn't possible.”
Burdick said she abandoned women’s lacrosse at WSU after she and the remaining team ran out of reasons to keep it going.
“I had about four other committed players and they were helping out as much as they could, but none of us really thought it was worth putting in hours of our time when we only had half of a team worth of women that said they would play,” she added.
Keeping costs down
For WSU alumna and co-founder of the women’s lacrosse team Carolyn Reimann, money was a huge concern for the team. But with waning interest since their start in women’s lacrosse, she prepared to pass on leadership with rigorous fundraising that did little to help the dwindling team.
“I spent hours doing fundraising at Ford Field concessions to get enough money so that the team would be set for me moving on,” said Reimann. “Honestly, it would break my heart to hear the team is no longer going on. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into Women's Lacrosse at WSU.”
Crystal Zhang, the other co-founder of the women’s team and graduate student in the School of Medicine, said the possibility of a women’s lacrosse team is very real but it will take dedication to the extracurricular activity.
“I think that there would need to be at least one person who is truly dedicated to reviving this team,” said Zhang. “There are bound to be a lot of barriers to reviving the women's lacrosse team, but as long as there are people who are passionate about this sport and want to see WSU have a team again, it is a very real possibility.”
Reviving men’s lacrosse
While women’s lacrosse struggled to build a team last year, two students spent the year restarting men’s lacrosse. Jacob McNeilly and Kevin Stackpoole, two sophomores majoring in finance, said they dedicated much of their time to rebuilding the men’s lacrosse team at WSU in 2015.
McNeilly said attempting to restart lacrosse at WSU was a way of getting back an opportunity he missed in high school.
“I was the one thought of the idea…I tore my ACL my senior year,” said McNeilly. “I had worked really hard, but I didn’t get to play and [it was a] really empty feeling.”
After deciding to start the lacrosse club up again, McNeilly and his partner Stackpoole said they set out to build interest in lacrosse with members who would be willing to not only play with the team, but remain with the team.
“Since the program died, there were attempts to get it started every year but no one was successful until me and Kevin… We talked to every freshman we could,” said McNeilly
The men’s lacrosse team is currently a club sport under the Recreation and Fitness Center, but not a part of the Deparment of Athletics. Being a part of the athletic program right now is not one of their major goals, but McNeilly said it is something Head Coach Matthew Kassa and Head Defense Coordinator Jason McDonald are looking towards in the future.
“Our goals right now are growing our program because I don’t think that in our time at Wayne State, both Kevin and I will see the program become that level,” McNeilly said. “With the new coaches that we brought on board, I think that it’s something they are shooting for because of their collegiate background.”
The team has seen new development in the past year and growth in support, including a sponsorship, but it is still self-funded. Stackpoole said it is a big factor in finding players who are dedicated to being a part of the team.
“Lacrosse is not a cheap sport, it’s expensive to play,” said Stackpoole. “It’s a buy-in program where everybody is committed to the point where they do what they have to do to play.”
Finding dedicated students
McNeilly and Stackpoole spent the last school year making sure that lacrosse would continue. They set up a table at FestiFall, emailed students regularly and targeted students who would be willing to play. They received responses with 60 students signing interest forms and eventually 18 players out on the field.
“I think there’s a lot of things to be proud of, because…we’ve seen tremendous growth and it speaks volumes of the guys who ended up doing the program. We see the product of actual hard work,” McNeilly said.
As for actual field performance, Stackpoole said they were very pleased with their results last season after only playing four games and ending the season with two wins and two losses, especially with being such a new team.
“Our first two games were at home and we had never played a real game together as a team,” Stackpoole, said. “We won the first game in overtime, against last year’s championship runner-up, so that was kind of a big deal. We were pretty pumped about that.”
The WSU lacrosse team has a new website, a new role as a Division II National College Lacrosse League team, a sponsorship from Warrior Lacrosse, new jerseys and new game dates. Stackpoole said he can see the hard work of last year pay off with so many new changes in just one year.
“I’m most proud of how far we’ve come in one year. We’ve got players willing to buy-in to the program, what we stand for here, the commitment of everyone on the team and the coaches who want to take us to the next level,” Stackpoole said.