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ISSUE 117 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 5/7/2004

Lacrosse caps off stellar season

By Ken Foote
Sports Editor


Friday, May 7, 2004

Entering their fifth season as a St. Olaf club sport, the mens lacrosse team, known as Stolax to the players, faced a host of changes in what would be the programs defining year.

In the off season, the Upper Midwest Lacrosse League (UMLL) split its members into A and B divisions to provide more appropriate competition. Teams in the A division are eligible for the conference tournament and subsequent National Championship berth. St. Olaf made the cut despite their youth and was in the A division, insuring they would play the UMLLs best squads.

Making the A grade was perhaps the biggest compliment to the clubs founders, all of whom graduated last spring. However, proving they belonged among the leagues elite was left to the dedicated men chosen to continue what John Chapman 03 et al. began.

The season did not begin in a positive fashion as the Oles were routed by several UMLL foes. Doubts started to creep up in the minds of the players and whispers could be heard around the league.

I was worried around midseason, midfielder Jack Macintyre 07 said. The season was really hanging in the balance and it could have gone either way.

With the season and the programs legitimacy hanging in the balance, Stolax put on a late season charge to finish in the middle of the conference pack heading into the UMLL tournament.

Waiting in the first round were the Redbirds of Iowa State, who dominated the Oles when the black and gold traveled to Ames, Iowa over spring break. This was a different Ole team, however, than the one that made the inter-state trip a month earlier and things would be different this time around. Playing a home playoff game for the first time, the team was stirred on by a raucous home crowd exceeding 100 spectators. The Oles controlled the tempo throughout the game and dominated the dispirited Iowa State team en route to a solid win.

The crowd was great, goalie Lance Kuehn 05 said. It was really energizing to play in front of a crowd that was so into the game.

As well as the team played in its rousing victory, the would have to play nearly flawless lacrosse in order to have a chance against defending conference champion and perennial juggernaut University of Minnesota-Duluth in the semifinals. A win was not in the cards, but the Oles put up a valiant effort in what captain Dave Strand 05 called the best St. Olaf lacrosse game I have ever seen.

The game was closely contested throughout as both defenses rose to the occasion and played the type of physical defense that is essential to postseason success. The final score, 7-5, was the fewest number of goals scored by either team in the UMLL tournament.

Although they were not leaving with a win, the team left the game in high spirits as they prepared to take on Mankato in the third place game.

We proved a lot about our team in the UMD game, Kuehn said. Either way this was going to be our best finish ever but we felt we still ha a lot to prove. That gave us some extra motivation to go out and beat [Man]kato.

The Dragons dismantled the Oles in the regular season, but the recharged and refocused Oles would be too much for the shorthanded Mankato squad. Stolax dominated from the opening whistle to come away with a 10-7 win and a third place finish.

The work for St. Olaf lacrosse is still far from over. The pressure will be on next year to validate this seasons finish and further prove they belong among the leagues elite.

It will be a challenge, Kuehn said. We are losing a lot of valuable seniors, but we will be ready to go next year.

This was a season of firsts for the Oles, but if they continue to improving next year could be the season they finish first.





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