Michigan State Men’s Lacrosse Club Looks To Defend National Title
The Spartans have not fielded varsity lacrosse in 22 years, but club program maintains the tradition.
EAST LANSING, Mich- Michigan State has not had varsity men’s lacrosse since 1997 when the university axed the program. However, the culture remains strong as the MSU men’s lacrosse club team continues to be nationally successful.
In 2018, the Spartans won their first national lacrosse championship, defeating Chapman in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) tournament final. The MCLA is a national organization of non-NCAA men's college lacrosse programs throughout the United States and Canada, has over 200 teams.
This season, the Spartans are ranked No. 1 in the country, but Coach DJ Lubs feels there is no additional pressure on his defending champions.
“We’re not doing anything special,” Lubs said. “We’re doing the same things we did last year through hard work and focus. We’re not worried about defending anything, because it’s about attacking another year and getting after it. We have a special team but also a different team than last years. We have new players and we have players who aren’t on the roster anymore and that’s just part of sports. It’s an internal expectation that we have as a team to be better every year and every time we step on the field, and this year we just looking to make another statement”
Lubs, a former two-time All-American lacrosse player at Florida Southern, is in his first year as head coach. Last year, he coached defense under head coach Cam Holding, who was a former teammate at Florida Southern. Holding left MSU to pursue a pro lacrosse career.
Lubs is more than ready to step up to the challenge as a head coach.
“It’s exciting, but it's way different,” Lubs said. “As an assistant, you get to focus on the, for the lack of a better word, easy stuff. I just had to focus on defense and getting to know all of our players. But as the head coach now, I have to balance everything. I got scheduling and have to worry about fitting in a budget.
“As far as on the field I’m super excited for this year, as far as off the field stuff goes it’s like eating your veggies, no one likes to do it but it’s something that’s got to be done, so we can have a successful season.”
The players are buying into what Lubs is preaching, also wanting to maintain their success from last season.
“Last year we were ranked 14 and this year we come in ranked No. 1 with the attitude of no favors and nothing is given,” said Ian Genord a junior who plays long stick midfielder. “The guys are all juiced up and ready to go and get after another national championship.
Charlie Pistner, a senior who plays attack, is one of the team’s four captains. He knows what it means to lift the trophy and all that comes with it afterward.
“Every team we play is going to know we are defending national champions,” Pistner said. “We need to play our best every game because we know our opponents will be playing their best game in the hope that they can beat us because of the image and publicity that comes with beating the defending national champions.”
That’s not the only challenge the Spartans will face this season. For senior short-stick defensive midfielder Mac Alexander, it’s finding the balance between school and lacrosse.
“The balance can be difficult at times,” Alexander said. “We just got to make sure we are going to class. When we are on the road, we can be gone for the whole weekend so for us it’s important that we get to the hotel and rest up while getting some studying in. For us as a team it’s all about staying focused, staying disciplined and staying on schedule.
The players know that they are representing MSU on a national stage and know that they are much more than a club team.
“We carry ourselves and everyone on the team views this as an NCAA level program,” Pistner said. “We really don’t have that club mindset even though that is our designation. We are doing everything we can to on and off the field to get the university’s eyes toward us so we can level this program up.”
In accordance with Title IX, MSU removed men’s lacrosse from varsity sports to bring up participation in women sports at the university.
For both Lubs and his players, the idea of MSU lacrosse becoming a Division 1 program once again is something everyone wants to see happen.
“It would mean a lot,” Lubs said. “These guys have made it their mission to make that jump. Their not looking to lay back and just be a club team. Years ago, it was just club team but now the players have a mission to be stronger academically and be role models for the athletic community. The players came forward with things they want to do off the field, helping out in Lansing and doing more community outreach.
“I had things I wanted to implement, and they were already two steps ahead of me. We see other Big Ten schools go and it leaves us scratching our heads, why not us?”
The Spartans are a part of the Continental Lacrosse Conference which includes Boston College, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Connecticut, Davenport, New Hampshire, North Eastern, Pittsburgh, and Western Michigan.