NAU Men's Lacrosse Team Plans to Continue Success and Attract Fans to the Sport

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Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2019 4:30 pm

When it comes to sports at NAU (Northern Arizona University), people tend to think of the football team, the track and field program, or the soccer programs. However, NAU offers more than just those sports to their students and to the City of Flagstaff, but when it comes to which sports are the most popular or have the biggest fanbase, there is one NAU sports team that does not get the recognition that many think they deserve. That team is Men's Lacrosse.

Lacrosse is a fast, up-and-coming sport from the East Coast that many here on the West Coast are just starting to be introduced to, and what better way for the people of Flagstaff to see it up close and personal than through their very own lacrosse team.

The lacrosse team started at NAU in 2005, making its way onto campus as a club team. This means that in order for students to play on the team, they have to "pay to play," which is a term that has become popular with all club sports. This can make it more difficult for a team to bring in talented players since recruiting isn't as easy as giving out a scholarship, as the easy choice for a recruit would be to take any sort of scholarship over having to pay to play. This has proven to be an issue for the team, as its records over the years have not been the best as proven by the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) data base. Over the past two seasons though, the team has seen a huge difference in the program as far as success. The two most successful seasons the team has ever had actually, going 13-2 in 2017 and 10-2 in 2018, with playoff berths to account for in those two years. The most interesting thing about those two seasons though is the fact that they had two different head coaches, and now yet again, the team has a new head coach for this upcoming season Will Lawlor.

Although this is Lawlor's first time as a head coach at the collegiate level, this isn't his first time being the head coach of his own team. Lawlor was the head coach for the Desert Cats Club high school team, in Tucson, but he does bring with him some collegiate-level coaching experience. Lawlor was the offensive coordinator and the faceoff coach for the University of Arizona before he made his way to Northern Arizona University. Now as the head coach of the NAU Men's Lacrosse team, Lawlor is filled with pure excitement and looks to not only continue the team's success, but to build a foundation of winning that this team can achieve for years to come.

"It's a great honor to be leading these guys on and off the field and this is something that I have been working towards and dreaming about my entire life," Lawlor said. Lawlor has been playing lacrosse since he was little and has been working as a coach for about five to six years now and is more than ready to use what he's learned along the way and apply it to be the head coach of this team.

“Our goal here this year immediately is to reach that national level," Lawlor said. The team has come so close to reaching the national stage and hope to continue to build upon the team's success over the years to help catapult them to nationals. Lawlor has already implemented some new things that he believes are helping the team stay at its successful pace, like an extra practice during the week, more film sessions and even participating in an indoor lacrosse league. Lawlor has had a lot of experience with different coaches throughout his career and is hoping that he can apply what he has learned over the years to help him in his first opportunity as a head coach for NAU.

“I feel that I have brought the positives and negatives and great minds of a couple of coaches that I’ve coached and feel I bring an expertise that the boys can attest to that is a good blend for success this season,” Lawlor said.

The captains of the team also expressed just how excited they are for this season and how determined they are to repeat the success that they have had over the years. Losing in the state semi-finals last season, the team got a taste of just how far they could go.

“As a team, were looking to build upon last year as we lost in the semifinals,” Senior captain, Jacob Belshin said. This year, our first goal is to win the SLC [Southwest Lacrosse Conference] Championship and the second goal for this team is to make it to nationals and depending on how we play, win it all there." These goals as a senior in Belshin’s last season and captain of this team shouldn't be a surprise to someone who has experienced the most of this team's recent successes over the years.

Troy Spinelli, who is also a senior, was named captain after only his second year on the team, is looks forward to continuing to shape the brotherhood that this team created last year.

“Last year something that everyone was saying that really pulled us together was that we really came together as friends,” Spinelli said.

Brent Marchand is also a second-year player on the team who was named a captain this season.

“I’m very excited for the direction the team is heading in. It’s been building over the past two years," Marchand also reiterated that the team has the goal to win the SLC championship and going to Salt Lake, which is where nationals are held. All three of the captains believe that there is no better place to experience the fastest game on two feet at 7,000 feet above elevation and hope their success helps build the fanbase of this team. This is the perfect opportunity to bring a first look at the sport for the students and residents of Flagstaff.