Jacob Kittipol | Echo
After 18 years of competitive club play, lacrosse is now a recognized varsity sport at Taylor University. Although the road to recognition wasn't easy, the Trojans are now ready to break new ground with the sport.
"It was hard sometimes to find fields," Head Coach Brad Bowser said, " But now, these guys are so excited to see this as a varsity sport. It's a good legacy thing for us."
The men's team officially began the season with a 26-1 victory over Lindenwood University and 16-11 win over Clarke University at home, wins that would help bring the team together. With a schedule that has the team playing the Saturday after the start of spring break and another game the following Saturday, a strong start makes for a promising future.
"It just helps the confidence," Bowser said, "to get our guys believing that they can compete at this level. Those are big things for our program."
Given the program's past struggles of contending for resources and support, the team now finds itself in unchartered territory. When the team still held club status, it was the students who often had to step up to leadership roles including fundraising, training and being able to schedule games against different schools. Those responsibilities now fall on the coaching staff, leaving the players with more room to focus solely on the sport.
"We're building culture," Bowser said, "We're trying to develop a team and those things don't come without defeats or struggles‒ that's what makes a good team."
The theme of trying to build a good identity and culture of the team is something the players are eagerly looking forward to.
"Right now it's the next man up," sophomore Grant Gerig said, "We don't want to be looking too far into the future, and neglecting what we're on right now."
Currently, the men's lacrosse team consists of those who have played the sport for years and seasoned college athletes who may be new to the sport. Ex-football player and senior Jeff Kaczmarek is a midfielder and finds the sport fun yet challenging.
"You'd think it'd be a little similar (to football)," Kaczmarek said, "But it's totally different. The conditioning is a lot more just running, constantly. Holding the ball in the stick and all the stick skills‒ it's almost comparable to hitting a fastball in baseball, it just takes a lot of practice at a sport like this."
With the new addition of lacrosse, it's given players like Kaczmarek, along with four other former football players the task of learning several new skills while retaining and refining their athletic gifts from their previous sport. However for those familiar with lacrosse, the opportunity is welcomed with opened arms.
"I've been playing lacrosse for eight years,"Gerig said, "It's been really cool to be able to set the foundation for the program. Our Assistant Coach Chey West was my high school coach, and seeing how much work he put into it being a player and now being able to coach, I've been really happy to be a part of it."