Justin Chapman | Echo
The Taylor University Athletic Department announced Monday men's and women's lacrosse teams will officially will be a part of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC). This now solidifies most of their schedule since they will be competing against other schools within the conference.
The men's lacrosse team will begin their varsity program next year in the spring of 2019. Women's varsity lacrosse will not begin until the spring of 2020.
The WHAC consists of 11 NAIA schools. The schools in the conference competing in men's lacrosse include Aquinas, Concordia, Indiana Tech, Lawrence Tech, Lourdes, Madonna Michigan-Dearborn and Siena Heights.
The only school not competing in women's lacrosse is Michigan-Dearborn.
"We're playing in one of the toughest conferences in the NAIA," said men's lacrosse head coach Jared Nies. "We're (going to) have great competition up and down the board. Everything is going to be earned in that conference, and we're really excited to get after it."
Six of the eight men's schools used to participate in the club conference Taylor was a part of, creating a sense of familiarity for the team. The conference was called the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association, a conference in the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association. Taylor left the conference after the 2015 season.
The WHAC conference started men's and women's lacrosse in 2012, and was the first conference to sponsor every sport. As of last year, the winner of the WHAC tournament will acquire an automatic bid into the NAIA National Invitational.
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Kyle Gould believes joining a conference helps gain recruits. Recruits want to see if the school has the right facilities and is a part of a conference. It helps the sport feel more like an actual intercollegiate sport.
"The main difference between this conference and the Crossroads League is there aren't as many Christian schools," Gould said. "They're schools about our size. Some of them have protestant or catholic background, many of them don't. It's similar to our football conference where there's enough of a fit that it makes sense for us."
Gould also emphasized the fact the lacrosse teams now have the chance to play for a conference championship. No matter the conference, teams have the goal of winning their conference.
The women's team hopes to find their head coach this summer and prepare for their season debut in 2020. The men's team will continue to build and prepare for their season approaching in 2019.
"Photograph provided by Hannah Bolds"