Pilots' club lacrosse plays its first home games on a recently lined turf field at UP
By John McCarty, Staff Writer -- email@example.com
While most UP students were holed up inside avoiding the rain on Saturday afternoon, the men's Club Lacrosse team was racking up goals on the field and checking off goals on their to-do list.
For the first time in program history, the club lacrosse team was able to play a home game on campus, having previously called Delta Park their home turf. With a new head coach, new stopping nets, lines on the field, and their first home tournament under their belts, the lacrosse club looks forward to a promising spring season.
Despite a drenching Northwest downpour, the men's lacrosse club faced off against Central Washington University winning 8-0, and against Willamette University winning 4-1.
Senior attackman and nursing major Rob Church has been with the lacrosse club since his freshman year and has seen the program develop.
"We started with ten guys who wanted to play and I think we only won one game but every year we get more players and we keep improving," Church said. "Having a team and continuing to grow the program helps our chances of bringing a new sport to UP."
According to Church, one of the best things that has happened to the program is the addition of head coach Mike Wilkerson.
"Mike knows how to coach and to use what he's got to make each player achieve the best of their potential," Church said.
Though originally from Portland, Wilkerson was interim head coach and an assistant head coach at Claremont University and head coach at UC Irvine before coming to UP.
According to Wilkerson, his time at UC Irvine where he revived a nearly defunct program has prepared him well for UP.
"I got used to developing players at a college level and working with a startup program," Wilkerson said.
UP is at a critical position in terms of lacrosse programs because of its membership in the WCC according to Wilkerson. Schools with well-established programs like Santa Clara, Stanford and Saint Mary's bring players to the WCC, and Wilkerson thinks that more players will start considering UP.
"My main goal for the program is building toward the future. I am going to run the program as though I had a full squad of four-year players. We are not going to hold anything back," Wilkerson said.
Sophomore goalkeeper and mechanical engineering major Mike Henry said, "This year's team is incomparable to last year's. Mike's (Wilkerson) focus on the fundamentals is already showing and we've got a really strong freshman class."
The men's lacrosse club is a member of division 2 of the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League.
The top three teams in the league make playoffs to vie for their chance in the national championships.
Wilkerson says that this will be a growth year for UP.
"Right now we don't have the numbers or the budget to do a lot of travelling," Wilkerson said. "We are going to focus more on league games while trying to maintain an aggressive out of league schedule to prepare us."
According to Henry, if the team continues to improve at their current rate then they will stand a good chance of making the playoffs, making this a possible breakout year for UP.
Hosting a game on campus is a big deal for the lacrosse program according to Wilkerson.. It gives the team much needed visibility on campus and should draw players and spectators alike.
As a senior, Rob Church says the home games are a mixed blessing.
"In a way it's a bummer because I'll be leaving, but I'm glad to think I can come back in 15 years and there will be an NCAA team," Church said.