In the 2018-19 school year, men’s lacrosse became an officially sanctioned sport at Taylor. From a team originally composed of new lacrosse players and underclassmen, Taylor lacrosse is pushing past the walls of inexperience and beginning to find success in the nine-team Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC).
Chad Newhard, who spent three years as an assistant baseball coach at Taylor, is in his fourth season as the coach of men’s lacrosse. He said the opportunity to coach lacrosse was not something he was intentionally seeking but a form of God’s intervention in his life. Prior to Taylor, Newhard also spent periods with Defiance College, Tabor College and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
“It was a lot of work to get up to speed,” Newhard said. “We needed to improve the talent pool for our team as it continues to get better … It’s been a very slow process, kind of a slow build, but I feel like we’re continuing to head in the right direction.”
Newhard took over in the spring of 2020 and the Trojan’s season was cut short due to COVID-19. However, in his first full campaign, Newhard led the Trojans to their first win over a team receiving votes for the NAIA Top-25 poll (Missouri Baptist University) and a three-game win streak.
Through four full seasons as a program, men’s lacrosse has yet to move past the quarterfinal in the WHAC tournament. The Trojans are currently in the heat of conference play and seeking to break the seal on the postseason.
Last season, the Trojans were amid a stretch where they lost nine of 10 games with only one remaining. Other than the final regular season game being Senior Day, Newhard said there was no legitimate incentive for winning. Despite this, Taylor defeated a solid foe in Lourdes University 14-13, and Newhard believes that victory validated the progress of the program as a whole.
Junior Aidan Craig, an attacker for the Trojans, has been one of the team’s leaders, having started playing in third grade. From competing in recreation leagues in the offseason to Taylor, Craig said he has enjoyed lacrosse despite it not being popular in his hometown of Indianapolis.
“I love lacrosse personally because it combines so many different sports,” Craig said. “There’s a lot of basketball in the game, like offensive movements, defensive movements and your own body movements.”
In his third season, Craig said he was automatically put into a leadership role because he possesses far more playing experience than nearly all his teammates.
Most of those who had never played lacrosse competitively before were former athletes in basketball and football, so Craig emphasized his personal growth as necessary to best help those new to the sport.
“It’s so unlike any other program I’ve been a part of where it’s just a bunch of people just trying to figure out the game,” Craig said. “But I love it … We’ve all grown a lot closer just in the last year.”
A fellow junior, Wyatt Marshall picked up his first lacrosse stick in seventh grade due to his older sister playing the game in high school. Following his first two years in high school, Marshall decided he wanted to pursue lacrosse at the collegiate level and ultimately chose Taylor.
Unlike many of the other lacrosse programs he had knowledge of, Marshall pointed out that Taylor separates itself from the negative stereotypes labeling the lacrosse community. Some of these stereotypes include selfishness and brash behavior.
“(Taylor) has made a group of guys who want to grow in their faith and a community of guys that are there for each other,” Marshall said.
While Craig said he enjoys the physicality of lacrosse and prides himself on his shiftiness, Marshall said his playing style is one of vertical dodging and operating on the edges rather than taking defenders head-on. Marshall put this on full display March 10 in a home contest against Missouri Valley College, netting six goals in the game, including a torrid five in the second period alone.
With a majority of the conference slate ahead, Newhard thinks the race between teams two through nine will be highly contested.
“We’re going to win more games, and even our losses are going to be more competitive,” Newhard said. “We’ll see what happens … but I know this team is ready to take off.”