Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Profile: James Madison University Men's Lacrosse (NCLL)

#18 Zack McCann and #43 Joseph Park during a Dukes' practice. (Photo /JMU)
 by Boxer Journal, February 4, 2015
Harrisonburg, VA - James Madison University women's lacrosse team is well-known as a Division I power that's regularly a top-twenty contender.

Less known but increasingly accomplished is their men's club program, which plays its games away from the limelight at a turf complex tucked behind a collection of dorms and dining venues.

JMU men's lacrosse team has roots extending back to the late 1970s. Thomas Kretzschmar of HDR, Alaska was a member of the original team that began in the fall of 1978 and he served as the club's vice president, playing through the 1980 season.

The Dukes currently competes in the Blue Ridge Conference of the National Collegiate Lacrosse League (NCLL). The NCLL is a two-tiered (Division I and II) league and in 2015 celebrates its 25th season. It includes over 140 teams.

The NCLL combines teams without varsity programs, such as JMU, with a mixture of club teams that also have NCAA Division I, II, and III counterparts. In that regard, the NCLL is more traditionally "club" oriented, whereas the better-known Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) is largely comprised of teams without NCAA counterparts at their schools. The funding of MCLA teams can be much more akin to that of an NCAA program and often in Western states, where fewer opponents are available, MCLA and NCAA teams compete directly.

"The MCLA and NCLL are in the same industry but have vastly different perspectives as both leagues fulfill integral roles in the non-NCAA sphere, but utilize different platforms to achieve their respective goals," said NCLL President Jamie McNealey.

JMU team President Aaron Humphreys explains the choice of the NCLL, "It's geographically closer to competition, but also there are several rules that the MCLA has in place like requiring a certified coach, uniform restrictions such as matching helmets and gloves, and having much steeper league dues when in reality we just want to play lacrosse. The NCLL is a great fit for our club and provides us with a great lacrosse community," said Humphreys.

Within the NCLL, James Madison boasts a Division I 2015 preaseason #3 ranking among such heavyweight lacrosse names as Navy, Penn State, and Cornell. The Blue Ridge Conference includes the club teams of two ACC powers, Virginia and Duke, along with Virginia Tech and JMU. Last year the Dukes finished the season at 11-2.

James Madison has no formal coaches but are lead instead by an elected executive board. In addition to Humphreys as President rounding out the board are members Patrick Ferrell (Vice President), John Jurgaitis (Treasurer) and Jon Hurst (Secretary). That group collectively plans the team's practices, organizes the schedule, and makes final roster decisions. The team hosts tryouts in both the fall and spring semesters, typically two weeks after school starts to allow for the students to settle into their schedules. In the spring practices are from 5-7 PM Monday through Thursday.

Aaron Humphreys defends against Duke last spring in a game JMU won (Photo / JMU) 
The Dukes' fall season mainly consists of tournaments and team-building activities. Humphreys is accomplished off the field as well as on. The senior from Newport News is majoring in Exercise Science and Biology and is also an Operations Supervisor at JMU's UREC recreational facility.

The Dukes celebrate their threepeat last fall as ECU Pirate Invitational Champs. (Photo / JMU)

The Dukes first games of 2015 will be part of a tournament at Towson University on the weekend of February 28. Leaders on the team include Humphreys on defense, junior goalie Patrick Farrell, senior Jordan Jurgaitis and junior Jon Hurst at midfield. On attack, Michael Garcia, Will Thompson and Taylor Wirth will figure heavily in the Dukes' scoring. 
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2015 NCLL Pre-Season Division I Top 20
1. Penn State
2. Navy        
        3. James Madison
4. Salisbury
5. Virginia
6. Towson
7. Cortland
8. Cornell
9. Penn
10. Rutgers
11. Syracuse
12. Hofstra
13. Maryland
14. Stony Brook
15. Vermont
16. UMass-Amherst
17. Cincinnati
18. Duke
19. Michigan
20. Connecticut College

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