Michigan Lacrosse: Land of Opportunity

For more, check AllLacrosseMichigan.com

If you are a high school laxer looking to play at the next level, you are in an excellent spot. Currently, there are 31 teams playing Men’s lacrosse at the collegiate level in the Mitten. For women, the number stands at 24.  It’s true that there are less than a handful of Division I teams, but not everyone is cut out to play at the D I level.  And that is perfectly acceptable!  If you love the game and have skill, you may have a better collegiate experience playing at the D III or D II level. The club programs have come a long way in the last few years, as well.  Many club teams are run like a “virtual varsity”.

“I didn’t know they had a team”

Over the past few years, a number of schools have established programs at the organized club level, as members of the CCLA. The CCLA (Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association), as part of the MCLA (Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association) is a top-flight league. There are expectations and procedures that need to be followed in order to be in good standing. It’s not “beer-league”  lacrosse.

Lawrence Tech is in their first year as an official CCLA member and Head Coach Kevin Riley talked about the entry process:

“The university made an application to the MCLA and we waited almost a year until the next CCLA meeting. The application was approved and I had to make a presentation to the CCLA board to show that the university and its students were committed to lacrosse.  We had to discuss athletic history of the university, the commitment from the players, students and the university as well as the team budget and our travel capabilities. The CCLA has a number of rules and regulations – the league follows all of the NCAA lacrosse rules and as far as recruiting goes, many of the CCLA teams are aggressively stepping up their recruiting efforts to compete with NCAA schools.  There are many very talented players playing in the CCLA.”

Sometimes the newer schools have trouble getting the word out about the program – and that includes the student body.  “Even on a small campus, news and information sometimes travels very slow, even though e-mail is the easiest method. We still had some players who said that they didn’t know there was a team here. We’re working on that”, Riley said.

Another CCLA II Club program, University of Michigan – Dearborn, has been around for 12 years now. Oakland University had some great success in Division I of the CCLA, before dropping down to DII.

Aquinas is in their sixth year as a top notch club team. MSU grad, Luke Griemsman is their coach:

“I was recruited to play lacrosse at MSU from Long Island in the early 90’s when it was an established D I team. That’s what I came from and I try to share that with my players – from fall ball to work outs to film and practices. The nice thing is that we play at a level where we can find balance between the dedication to academics and athletics. You are respected for your time playing with a possible scholarship, equipment, travel, lodging and meals. It’s a great balance you cannot find at a lot of the other schools out there.”‘

Coach Griemsman went on, “Aquinas has what rival coaches have told me is the best and one of their favorite fields to play on. It truly is a beautiful venue in the middle of our wooded campus.  The surface is the new turf so that players can wear cleats. It’s well maintained and should last for years. And recently our field house was renovated and has all the modern bells and whistles – new weights, top notch locker and training rooms. And we are really excited about phase two – which includes a new regulation indoor track and a turf field with nets that will fill up the inside of the track. This will significantly better our off-season and inclement weather preparation and play.”

Division III plays some good Lacrosse

The NCAA Division that is growing the most is D III. The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the oldest conference in the country, has officially sponsored lacrosse on both the men’s and women’s side. Teams from Adrian, Albion, Olivet, and Hope are making an impact. In 2012, the Adrian Men’s team   received a bid to the NCAA D III tournament and took perennial national power, Denison to overtime before bowing out.

Hope Coach, Mike Schanhals and Adrian Coach, Don LaSala, discussed the merits of D III lax:

“The biggest positive to the D III experience is that you have time to be a student first and then an athlete. You receive all the benefits from being an athlete in college, yet you can pursue a rigorous course of study, Schanhals said. “You will graduate on time with a good degree and be highly employable because of your leadership and teamwork experiences as a student-athlete.  Our players are involved in a variety of academically oriented experiences in addition to their playing lacrosse. One definitely enhances another. ”

LaSala agreed, “Participation in D III sports allows sub-elite athletes to continue their competitive sport experience at a higher level than high school, without requiring the elite status needed to compete at a D I program. D III athletes can gain all the benefits of sport participation (teamwork, work ethic, communication, time management and leadership) while still maintaining a focus on academics.”

Coach Schanhals is impressed with the opportunity here in Michigan, “The growth of the game at the youth, scholastic and club levels in Michigan is amazing. These kids are going to want to continue to play the sport and there are a variety of opportunities for them to keep playing in college. The MCLA has offered a solid avenue for this, and the growth of the NCAA in D III is going to provide another opportunity for kids to play ball. The talent level of recruits is growing across all levels of college ball. There will be more competition for spots on all teams, and that will lead to a rapid increase in the skill level of the games. This has happened quickly and will continue to progress.”

Coach LaSala added, “Michigan has a large number of D III programs, so local athletes are able to participate in collegiate athletics while remaining close to home, if they do desire.  D III athletes have a level of skill substantially above the average high school athlete. Of course, this varies by school and program. The lack of athletic scholarships available for athletes at the D III level may influence the level of play found at D III schools.

And the opportunity is not just there for the men. The women’s game is growing rapidly, too. D III Kalamazoo will start up in 2014 as will Lawrence Tech. Central Michigan will take the huge step and begin play as a Division I program in 2015. The women’s club teams are very solid and play in the fiercely competitive WCLA (Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates).  Michigan leads the way and Michigan State and Oakland have powerhouse teams as well.

Michigan truly is a land of opportunity. Parents, players and fans need to promote the game at all levels – just not Division I. There are plenty of good lacrosse players to go to good schools here in Michigan. Take advantage of the opportunity.

Here is a list of Michigan schools, and their levels, that are currently playing lacrosse:

Men’s Lacrosse

Women’s Lacrosse

Adrian – D III

Adrian – D III

Albion – D III

Albion – D III

Alma – D III

Alma – D III

Aquinas – CCLA II

Aquinas – D II / NAIA

Calvin – D III

Calvin – D III

Central Michigan – CCLA I

Central Michigan – WCLA I ( D I in 2015)

Davenport – CCLA I

Davenport – D II / NAIA

Detroit – DI

Detroit – D I

Ferris St. – CCLA II

Eastern Michigan – WCLA II

Grand Valley State – CCLA II

Ferris St. – Non WCLA

Hope – D III

Grand Valley St. – D II / NAIA

Kalamazoo – D III in 2015

Grand Valley Club – WCLA II

Lawrence Tech University – CCLA II

Hope – D III

Michigan – DI

Kalamazoo – D III in 2014

Michigan – Flint – NCLL

Lawrence Tech – D II / NAIA in 2014

Michigan – GLLL

Michigan Club – WCLA I

Michigan Club – NCLL

Michigan B – Non WCLA

Michigan St.  – GLLL

Michigan Flint – Non WCLA

Michigan State University – CCLA I

Michigan State – WCLA I

Michigan Tech – GLLL

Oakland – WCLA II

MSU Reserve – GLLL

Olivet – D III

Northern Michigan – GLLL

Saginaw Valley – WCLA II

Northwood – CCLA II

Siena Heights – D II / NAIA

Oakland – CCLA II

Wayne St. – WCLA II

Olivet – D III

Western Michigan – WCLA I

Saginaw Valley – NCLL

Schoolcraft – GLLL

Siena Heights – CCLA II

U of M  – Dearborn – CCLA II

Wayne St.  – NCLL

Western Michigan – CCLA I

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