Tom Shute has high expectations for the men’s club lacrosse team.
After defeating Binghamton University on May 4, 2015 at Penn State Lacrosse Stadium to claim the National College Lacrosse League Division II title, the junior defensive midfielder has similar goals this season.
“We want another national championship, this time DI instead of DII,” the junior defensive midfielder said. “If we don’t make it to the national tournament, we will be very disappointed.”
The team, coached by former Rutgers University club lacrosse member Chris Berkelbach and former Temple club lacrosse member Ian Ruder, moves into Division I of the NCLL after finishing last season 21-0. The squad opens its season March 12 against the University of Delaware.
The Owls were ranked No. 9 in the NCLL Preseason Division I Top 20. They will face six teams ranked in the Top 11 of the poll.
“Last year, as a Division II club, we played a lot of Division I teams like Penn, Drexel, Rutgers and Penn State,” senior co-captain and president Max Malloy said. “They’re all Division I teams, and they’re good Division I teams, but you know we have Navy on our schedule. We have Hofstra, UVA, North Carolina, so pretty much our strength of schedule just skyrocketed compared to years before.”
Under Berkelbach and Ruder, the Owls won the Liberty Conference last season, outscoring their opponents 183-66. The Owls also had 10 players named to the Division II all-tournament team. Then-junior Ryan Flynn was also named the Final Four MVP.
“The returners and some of the new guys we’re bringing in this year are awesome,” Malloy said. “We have size, we have speed and our depth at defense is fantastic. … One of our strong points is definitely our team’s focus. When we are focused, I think we are unbeatable. We’re just a phenomenal team.”
With the move to NCLL Division I, the Owls have increased their fundraising because of the travel expenses their schedule requires.
The club receives $3,000 each year from Campus Recreation and supplements its finances with a website created last year that sells backpacks, jackets and hats along with other team gear.
“We have seen a big jump in fundraising because more kids are interested in buying gear, which we use for funds,” senior defender and co-captain Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “With being a better team and a more popular team, more people buy gear.”
Malloy said the website has made $1,200 for the team so far.
“With that money it makes going down to the University of Virginia and North Carolina possible,” Malloy said. “Now we have the money to fund that trip.”
This past fall, Temple played in the Kelsey Klassic Tournament in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where they faced Penn State, the University of Delaware and the University of Vermont. The squad split itself into two teams, one with the seniors and sophomores on the roster and the other with the juniors and freshmen.
The team with the seniors and sophomores lost all three of the games it played, while the juniors and freshmen won two of the three matches. The club also faced the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University, losing to the Quakers and beating the Scarlet Knights.
“Since we won a national championship last year doesn’t mean that we’re coming into this season thinking we are going to win the DI championship this year,” Malloy said. “We understand. This fall we took a couple losses, and I think that was great. It was good that we lost, so we know what it feels like as a team to lose because we haven’t done it in the last 21 games. I think we understand that there are going to be some losses, but that it’s only going to make us better.”
Matt Cockayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.