The fastest sport on two legs and the most rapidly growing sport in the country is finally taking St. Olaf by storm. In 2013, 60 collegiate lacrosse teams were added to the NCAA, following the addition of 30 teams the previous year. St. Olaf founded a lacrosse team in 2000 to compete in the Division II Upper Midwest Lacrosse League. This year, the St. Olaf men’s lacrosse team has found renewed dedication through fresh leadership, a new coaching staff and devoted players.
Nils Haugen ’15 and Matt Henry ’16 took over as president and vice president, respectively, with lofty long-term goals for the team. Haugen and Henry hope to improve the team’s record this season through better public relations and a new coaching staff.
“Better public relations start with better team dynamics,” Haugen said. The team formed a board of players to create a sense of camaraderie within, while forming a better connection with the school and future recruits. Perhaps the most drastic change Haugen and Henry have made this year is the employment of a head coach.
“This year we are a much more structured program,” Henry said. “We have brought in Coach Hank Marotske, who won two state championships at the high school level in Minnesota. Coach has been holding more frequent and structured practices, even in the offseason, and overall the team is very excited about the new direction the program is going.”
Team management approached Marotske this past summer in search of a more experienced coach.
“While I was hesitant at first, the team has demonstrated the enthusiasm and commitment necessary to build an excellent program,” Marotske said.
Marotske shares the team’s long-term aspirations and believes they are achievable through hard work and determination.
“We look forward to pushing this team toward its potential this season while simultaneously laying a foundation for future student athletes to help build the program,” he said.
Although the team has a very talented core group of players, Marotske admits that their greatest weakness is their lack of numbers.
“We look to address this by aggressively recruiting current students that have experience with the sport or want to learn how to play, as well as next year’s freshmen class,” he said. Marotske, Haugen and Henry have begun working with admissions to recruit current high school seniors.
Marotske, Haugen and Henry have also generated a buzz among the players. “The team has put in a lot of hours out on the field the past few months, and we are all excited to see how our hard work pays off in the spring,” attackman Sean Heaslip ’16 said. “[The captains] are all really talented players that know how to get us fired up and keep us focused.”
The Oles gained eight new players this year with the addition of five freshmen, one sophomore and two juniors.
“I’ve been learning a lot under Coach Hank, and our team dynamics seem great. I can’t wait to get the season underway come spring,” Henry said.
These are only the first steps in creating the foundation for a potentially great program. The players are thrilled about the direction the program is going, and with a recruitment class next year, Ole lacrosse is only looking up.
With progressive team leadership and a demanding yet positive coach, the future looks bright for the St. Olaf men’s lacrosse.
Graphic Credit: DANIEL BYNUM/MANITOU MESSENGER