While the cold weather has yet to subside and January turns to February, the Lake Erie College men's and women's lacrosse programs are gearing up for their inaugural seasons.
The men's team, under head coach Greg Stocks, will get underway
on Feb. 27 at Lees-McRae College, while head coach Laura Maness'
women's team will play its first game on March 2.
"We're just ready to get into the season and play," Maness said. "The anticipation is building for the athletes and for me."
Both teams started full practices in early January, preparing for the season openers after months of work leading to this point.
"It almost eases your mind," Stocks said about getting on the field. "Being on the field is where I like to be. We'll start to see our progress."
After working for 18 months on the job, Maness will finally see
the first fruits of her recruiting labor. She has brought in 14
student-athletes for the inaugural season and hopes to build that
number to 22 when the 2011 season rolls around.
"We've made great strides in building from the ground-up and establishing the foundation of this program," she said. "Every recruit and every athlete is really excited to get going. From Day 1 of Fall Ball it's been a complete 180 from where we've started. We're excited to see the progression as we get going through the season."
Maness and Stocks have been working hard to gather players they know will benefit both the lacrosse program and the college.
"We wanted to bring good student-athletes into the program," Maness said. "Not just strong players, but students with good grades and students who will be good role models on campus. Those are the type of people that will be vital to our success the next couple of years."
"We wanted athletes who were excited about being in a new program and that start-up, kids looking for that challenge," Stocks added. "It will be a tough schedule and a tough conference. Its one of the most competitive schedules at the Division II level and we'll be facing that slate with a team that's all freshmen, but one."
With the start of the season, the lacrosse programs will be the first at Lake Erie College to compete in a conference at the Division II level. The lacrosse programs were accepted into the East Coast Conference (ECC) for their debut seasons, while the other sports at the college will join the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) starting in the 2010-11 academic year. But opening the program in a conference could be challenging for an upstart program.
"There are some great teams in the ECC, but we want to be competitive there," Maness said. "We know that's where we want to be."
In an 11-team conference on the men's side of the ECC, five teams were ranked in the top-10 at the end of last season.
Despite the challenges and work that go into building a program
step-by-step, Maness and Stocks said their players are anxious to
get into their first collegiate season, ready to build on what has
been growing over the last many months.
"The players are raring to get going and excited to see the results of all their practices and workouts," said Stocks. "They're eager to see what they look like against Division II competition."
While the final goal will be to pick up wins, the teams will also be working to pick up steam as the first lacrosse recruiting classes try to build for a four-year future at Lake Erie.
"Wins would be nice, but to see them working together and learning this system will be good," said Stocks. "We'll see these guys learn to play a team game, which is huge at the college level."
"They understand it will be a big part of Lake Erie history and they want to make the college proud," Maness said. "We want the team, fans and college to buy into what we're doing, knowing that it's the groundwork for future success."
And now that the groundwork has been laid, it's time to start the games.