The University of the Cumberlands men’s and women’s lacrosse teams are readying themselves for their inaugural seasons in 2016. During last weekend’s homecoming festivities at UC, the Patriot men held an open practice session for family and fans to come see what lacrosse is all about. Prior to the practice, Head Coach Pete Campbell and a few of his players took the time to discuss how things have been going for the lacrosse team, as well as their hopes for the future of the program.
When asked about what he would like everyone to know about lacrosse before the inaugural season gets underway, Coach Campbell said, “I’d like everyone to know that lacrosse is a very fast-paced game. It’s a full contact sport, and is a great spectator sport to watch. I think it is a sport that is definitely going to catch on very quickly here.”
As for what led Campbell to come to UC, he said, “I have been a head coach before in Ohio, where I took a high school team from winning two games a year to winning district and region championships. Then I moved out east and was an assistant at a high school that played in what was widely considered the hardest lacrosse conference in the nation. We were facing teams that were loaded with D-I commits. What led me here is I applied, and then when I saw the school I fell in love with it. Something just clicked in the interview where it felt like the right place for me. I love this area, and I saw a lot of potential for us to become a very good team very quick.”
Since arriving in Williamsburg, Campbell has been very busy preparing for the upcoming season. In addition to overseeing the construction of all-new lacrosse facilities, he has primarily concerned himself with recruiting top athletes from far and wide. “When I was hired last June the first thing I wanted to do was get a team on campus, so I hit the road recruiting,” he said. “I recruited all over the country. We have kids from seven different states that are going to be represented on the first team, including 4-5 Kentucky kids, and we have a kid coming in from Canada as well. That took up pretty much all of my time, but we were able to bring in 27 kids, which is amazing. That gives us a little more depth compared to some other new programs.”
Campbell said that he expects his first team, all freshmen, to be very capable in terms of their overall athletic ability. He said that most of his players come from multi-sport backgrounds, and he feels confident that they should be able to play a “high tempo offense, and high pressure defense.”
One of those players, Ryan Middleton (Atlanta, GA), said of being a member of the first-ever lacrosse team at UC, “It’s an amazing feeling. We’re a really good team with a lot of skill. We just have to find a way blend it all together.”
Cole Mendez (Cincinnati, OH) said that he fell in love with lacrosse when he first tried it as an eighth grader. As for what life has been like since arriving at UC, he said, “It has been a big change of pace compared to high school. Everything is much quicker, and more intense. It’s a big change, but it’s a change for the better. We’re all here for the same reason, and I feel like we’ll do well as long as we keep working hard.”
Josh Fuson (Louisville) is a cousin to Corbin Redhound basketball star Andrew Taylor. He said that he is glad to be at UC because he gets to be near family, and he is also very excited to be a member of the school’s first lacrosse team. “It’s definitely great to be part of something new,” he said. “That was one of the things that brought me here, actually. I wanted to be a part of something that we can all create together. I want to help create traditions that will continue for as long as the program lasts.”
Nick Difranco (Cleveland, OH) said that he grew up playing hockey, but always had an interest in lacrosse as well. He said that he immediately fell in love with the UC campus during his recruitment, and now that he is in Williamsburg he is eager to get the season underway. “I hope that a lot of people will come out to watch us,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Campbell summed up the general feeling of the Patriots right now, saying, “Year one is exciting, because you’re literally making history every day. The guys are buying in and working hard, and it’s really awesome to see these freshmen taking ownership of this program.”
“We’re all definitely excited. We feel like we have a pretty solid team, and if we stay healthy and do what’s right on and off the field, then I think we could surprise a lot of other teams in our conference.”
The Patriots are scheduled to compete in their first official scrimmage at Lincoln Memorial University on Saturday, October 10. The scrimmage will also serve as a fundraiser for a children’s hospital that is currently treating several kids who are battling cancer, so it is strongly encouraged that everyone make the trip to see some great lacrosse action, and help a good cause at the same time.
To find out more about the University of the Cumberlands men’s and women’s lacrosse programs, including full rosters and season schedules, go to www.cumberlandspatriots.com.