Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Denver's Other Lacrosse Pioneers

                          Head Coach Dave Leach instructs the Wildcats (Photo / J&W /IG)                                                     
by Boxer Journal, Mar. 4, 2015
Denver - Denver lacrosse is best known for its DU Pioneers, currently ranked #4 in Division I in the country. Under former Princeton head coach Bill Tierney the program is consistently a Final Four contender at the sport's highest collegiate level. The city's professional entry, the Outlaws, are Major League Lacrosse's reigning champions.

Another program vying to establish a winning tradition in the state that's emerging as the true western hub for the sport is Johnson & Wales University - Denver. The school is part of the expansion of the Johnson & Wales University system from its original campus in Providence, Rhode Island. Although established in 2000, the Denver campus is located on the 26-acre former home of Colorado Women's College, and its brick and stone buildings and rolling lawns harken back to a century ago.

The lacrosse team, lead by head coach David Leach, is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and competes in the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA), a national association of non-NCAA lacrosse programs. The NAIA was founded in 1937 and is largely comprised of smaller Midwestern schools.

The MCLA currently includes over 200 teams and is segmented into Division I and Division II programs. The Wildcats lacrosse team was established in 2013, began play in 2014, and currently is in the MCLA's Division II as a member of the eight-team Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference.

It is one of 25+ NAIA schools competing in the MCLA, but is unique in that it's the sole NAIA representative from Colorado. Although a new program at a relatively small school (1,600 students), the Wildcats have garnered representation from 15 states in their short existence. Included in that group are three of the top Eastern lacrosse states: New York, Maryland, and New Jersey. Leach is clearly growing the program from the bottom up, with this year's team listing only two seniors in defensemen Thomas Glascott (San Jose) and Hunter Kehr (Milford, Ohio).

The 2015 J&W - Denver Wildcats (Photo / J&W)
"We have some talent, and definitely our goal is to compete each year," said Leach. "Our overall goal is nothing short of the MCLA Division II national tournament."

This year the team is scheduled to play fifteen games and is currently 0-1 after a season-opening loss to CSU-Pueblo. After a long pause, the Wildcats will return to action against Dallas Baptist on March 21. The Wildcats play their home games at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, which hosted the 2014 FIL World Championships.

Dick's Sporting Goods Park (Photo / turnerconstruction.com)

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