With the NCAA field lacrosse season starting soon, we thought it’d be a perfect time to take a look back at one of the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association’s best teams from 2016 – the Trent Excalibur.
The Excalibur had a season to remember, even if it didn’t end with a championship. The men’s lacrosse team rode an 11-1 regular season record all the way to the Baggataway Cup championship, losing to the Western Mustangs 11-7 in the final game on November 6.
The Excalibur were a perfect 11-0 before a loss on the road in their last game to the defending champion McGill Redmen. Although Trent tied with McGill in points, the Excalibur finished second in the East by virtue of a goals for and against formula. It was enough to secure them a home playoff game at Justin Chiu Stadium.
A 17-11 win in that game over the Nipissing Lakers earned the Excalibur a bye to the Baggataway Cup semi-finals. They faced the host Brock Badgers who had played in a quarter-final the night before. Brock jumped out to a 4-1 first half lead, but the Excalibur pushed back and took the game 7-6.
In the final against Western, Trent wasn’t able to match the Mustangs intensity. Western had previously lost in the 2015 finals to McGill. This was Trent’s first-ever appearance in the championship game.
Trent midfielder Dan Michel, whose stellar play helped him get drafted by the New England Black Wolves, is part of a strong core that will return in 2017.
“It was really exciting playing in that championship game,” Michel expressed. “Representing your school on a stage like that is a really special feeling. Looking out and seeing all the green in the stands of people who drove down to St. Catharines to watch us play was really special. The team we had was extremely talented but also worked extremely hard to get there.”
The Trent lacrosse program began in 2005. Back then, the athletic centre was the original from 1964. It was old and the school lacked decent facilities. In 2005, the school added an artificial turf field and the university’s outdoor track was turned into an actual stadium with seating for 1000, a broadcast booth, a new scoreboard, and a well cared-for field. The athletic centre itself was renovated into a state of the art building in 2010. The renovations have helped the school build their athletics program. The success of the Excalibur lacrosse team is proof.
Going into the season, both players and coaches had high expectations for the team and believed they would be one of the top teams in the country. They had only lost a few players to graduation and brought in talented rookies, including Cam Garlin, who finished third on the team in scoring with 38 points.
From the first day of training camp, the team knew they would have a special season. It became even more important to win after finding out that alumni Johnny Lynch had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“Johnny is a great person and a great teammate so this was our way of showing him that we were all there for him and had his back in this battle that he is going to get through,” Michel said.
The team rallied to play the season for Lynch, creating their own Twitter hashtag #JL67 to honour his jersey number.
Lynch beat the disease in January.
“We really have a tight knit team at Trent that makes coming to school a blast,” Michel said. “I think winning can really bring a team together and when you know that the guy beside you has your back no matter what it really creates a culture that attracts winning. We knew we were good but we knew that we had to prove it every time we touched the field.”
Despite their history-making season, Michel said that next year the Excalibur have to be better.
“Nobody remembers you unless you win the last game of the year,” he stated. “With a strong returning core coming back next year and some experience under our belts, we will be ready.”
Trent Women Win First Title*
The Trent Excalibur women’s lacrosse team had an even more record setting season than the men did. The women went undefeated during their OUA season, winning their first championship just four years after the program began. The Excalibur dethroned the Western Mustangs, five year defenders of the title, by an 11-10 score. The Excalibur went 13-0 in the regular season and 3-0 in the playoffs.
Trent absolutely dominated every other team in the OUA, winning most of their games by double digit scores, including 23-1 over Guelph and 21-0 over McMaster during the season’s last weekend of play.
Trent’s Leah Michel was named the OUA’s Rookie of the Year, and Leah Ogilvie the Most Valuable Offensive Player.
*On January 10 the OUA announced that the Western Mustangs would also be awarded gold medals as the result of an error in the championship game. The OUA did not state what the error was, but is allowing Trent to keep their title, banner, trophy and gold medals. While acknowledging issues within the championship, OUA believes that this outcome protects the validity of the sport’s policies and regulations, while continuing to honour Trent University as OUA women’s lacrosse champions. The OUA believes the decision reinforces their mission “to provide leadership in fostering sportsmanship and fair-play in the pursuit of athletic excellence”.
Note: Men’s field lacrosse is part of the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association, while women’s field lacrosse falls under the umbrella of Ontario University Athletics.