Minnesota club lacrosse team sets sights on championship, Division-I realization

The Gophers' men's lacrosse team continues to push for D-I eligibility and has its sights set on a championship this season.

Ely Harel and Clay Diedrich, club lacrosse players at the University of Minnesota, run sprints after practice ended on Thursday, Sept. 14. The team is hoping to become an accredited University sport.

Ellen Schmidt

Ely Harel and Clay Diedrich, club lacrosse players at the University of Minnesota, run sprints after practice ended on Thursday, Sept. 14. The team is hoping to become an accredited University sport.

Paul Hodowanic

While most students are sound asleep at 6 a.m., head coach Rich Limpert and his club lacrosse team are hard at work. 

His players are already on the practice field, running sprints and going through drills. They have a dream to be more than just a club team, and they intend to make it a reality. For the last six years, Limpert has coached with the hopes his team will be the next club team to make the jump to Division-I.

“I truly believe we are ready,” Limpert said. “But it really comes down to money.” 

The team currently practices at the Students Recreational Sports Field, which is meant for intramural sports and other club teams. The field would need a few changes to accommodate the team at a D-I level such as more availability for their winter schedule and seating.

Title IX requirements for an equal number of men’s and women’s athletic scholarships could make it hard to secure scholarships for the team’s athletes as well. However, Limpert doesn’t see this as a problem. 

“Theoretically, it could be great,” Limpert said. “Men’s and women’s could both become D-I together.” 

Limpert sees funding, Title IX regulations and a lack of infrastructure as the central issues that are hindering the team’s advancement, and he knows other club sports like men’s soccer are just waiting to pounce on the opportunity as well. 

“[The University has] bigger fish to fry than to worry about us,” Limpert said.

Men’s soccer also already has a potential stadium where the women’s team currently play, Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. 

“It could easily be said that we are late to the game. [Lacrosse] is the fastest growing sport in the country, and a lot of other Big Ten teams have it: Penn State, Rutgers, Johns Hopkins, Ohio State to name a few. We’re late, we need to have a D-I team by this point,” sophomore defender William Watkins said. 

Many of the players share this sentiment, and they believe the best way to get the University to act quickly is to show out on the field.

“We haven’t been to the national tournament, and we haven’t beaten a couple big teams that we need to beat, so once we start winning those big games is when we will get recognition,” junior midfielder Lucas Martin said. 

The team believes recognition should come this year, as they have a national championship on their minds.

“Expectations are [that] we go to the national tournament” Martin said. 

Coach Limpert attributes the championship mentality to the change in the culture of the program. 

“I expect big things from this team, and hopefully we will be at the MCLA Championships come the second week of May.”