Lacrosse team finishes season with 6th-place home showing

Ryan Schuster

The University men’s club lacrosse team concluded its sixth season at Minnesota this weekend with a sixth-place finish out of 11 clubs competing in the Upper Midwest Collegiate Lacrosse League State Championships in St. Louis Park.
This is the club’s third consecutive year of operation at Minnesota. It was formed during the 1990-91 school year but closed in 1993 because of a lack of players. The current team is suffering some growing pains as it tries to attract fans and new players while having to play and practice off-campus.
“They can’t fit a field at Bierman because the light poles would be in the way,” said Steve Smith, the University’s Associate Program Director of Sport Clubs. “It’s tough to get a fan base or reach potential players while playing off-campus.”
Lacrosse is extremely popular across the United States and is starting to catch on locally.
“Nationally it is still strong out East, in the South and in California,” said Minnesota’s Mikkel Hylden. “And in Minnesota a high school lacrosse league has just expanded this spring, combined with new youth programs in the state that are helping the sport to grow.”
Increased interest in the sport in Minnesota and other Northern states is hindered because the weather makes it difficult for teams to get outside to practice and play games in early April like schools do in the East.
“Lacrosse is really starting to take off here,” Smith said. “The only problem is that the weather makes it tough for the team to compete.”
Minnesota is the only Big Ten school that does not have a men’s lacrosse team competing against other teams in the conference. Ohio State and Penn State have varsity teams, and the rest of the Big Ten schools have club teams that play each other during the season and hold a Big Ten tournament.
Minnesota is one of nine club teams in the state that form the Upper Midwest Collegiate Lacrosse League. The other teams include St. John’s, St. Thomas, St. Mary’s, Bethel, Gustavus, Minnesota-Duluth, Mankato State and Carleton along with Iowa State and Wisconsin-LaCrosse.
But while the sport has managed to survive in Minnesota so far, it is still a long way from attaining varsity status.
“That’s quite a ways down the road,” Hylden said. “It is still a growing sport in Minnesota and it would depend on the development of the league.”
State championships
En route to the sixth-place finish, Minnesota opened the tournament Saturday by winning a forfeit over Iowa State, which had dropped out at the last moment. Minnesota lost to St. John’s 5-4 Saturday, defeated Bethel 6-4 and lost to Gustavus 6-5 in overtime.
Minnesota, which took third in the same tournament last year, finished 5-7 on the year.
“I am optimistic for next year,” Hylden said. “Hopefully we will do better.”
Women’s lacrosse
The University also has a women’s club lacrosse team, which started two years ago. But the women don’t have enough players to compete, so they’ve practiced and played a few exhibition games.
Smith said he’s optimistic the women’s team will be able to join a league next season.