Written by Rachel Krome
Since Concordia University Wisconsin started its men's lacrosse program three years ago, it has been interesting to watch the leadership roles within the team and the core group of juniors develop as the seasons have passed.
There was no history or tradition to fall back on, or even upperclassmen to lead the way. Success was nothing more than just a thought and it had to be attained because everything was brand new. Therefore, when being recruited by head coach Jeff Roberts, the main question recruits had to ask themselves was "Why CUW?"
"I was a little worried because there was nothing set in stone for me," junior Justin Krause said. "I viewed it as an opportunity to perhaps build something new and lay a foundation for something great."
A new team and a new program provided the opportunity to develop a set of standards at CUW. This meant going beyond the normal expectations as a student-athlete and taking far more responsibility for the future.
"We wanted to set a foundation here at CUW for many years to come," junior Sam Wladyka said. "The lacrosse team is going to be a national contender people are going to have to watch out for. We haven't reached that level yet, but we feel that in the next few years we should be able to get there. We want a solid foundation so that future players who come in after us know the expectations are high here at CUW."
Laying the bricks for a new program is never easy, but Roberts recruited 19 student-athletes who had character and a willingness to do something never done before in Mequon, Wis.
"I came in during the spring semester and saw that we were voted dead last in the preseason poll," says Wladyka (Winnipeg, Manitoba). "Coach Roberts said we'd be prepared for every game. We never take anyone who is considering joining the team lightly because we want teammates who want to win."
It was very apparent that the juniors on the men's lacrosse team want to win games and are willing to work harder than the person next to them to achieve the team's goals. The expectations increase as each season passes.
"We can always get better," Krause (Hartland, Wis.) said. "We can try to win more games the previous season. We have to make the MLC Tournament and advance to the NCAA tournament. We set out goals higher and higher every year and I think that is what made us work harder. I want our class to be remembered for its hard work and having the mind set to never settle for less than what we are capable of."
There is a lot of hard work that goes into building an entirely new program and many times much of the sweat, blood, bruises and hours of preparation go unnoticed.
Starting with nearly 20 players in 2011, CUW finished with an impressive 8-6 overall record considering the adversity it faced. The Falcons didn't stop there and compiled a 9-7 record last season.
The 2013 season is looking to be better yet again, as they have a 5-2 mark nearly midway through the 17 game season.
"I think we are fortunate to be getting better every year", says junior Kyle Burrell. "We just try to keep everybody in line so that we keep a tight ship and hopefully not hit any bumps on the way."
Eight remaining juniors from that inaugural season have taken it upon themselves to lead the program on and off the field. The freshmen and sophomores are starting to take their cues from the now juniors who are building a successful program day-by-day.
Why is it so important to establish a work ethic and a set of standards for the future?
Because each person associated with the program is representing the person next to him and most importantly, the team's legacy is growing every day.
Why hold each other at such a high level of accountability? Why take this sort of leadership? Why uphold team's rules and regulations?
"I like to think about it as I only get to play here only a certain amount of years," Burrell (Calgary, Alberta) said. "It's sort of a life lesson because life is not going to be fair and you have to do stuff on your own. So, we try to instill in our teammates that sometimes things aren't going to go the way you want it and sometimes you have to find the solution."
The eight juniors know that wearing CUW across the chest means more than putting on a shirt that day. It is signifies something greater.
"Representing CUW is what we are trying to do," junior Zach Davis (LaPorte, Indiana) said. "We do it the right way. We are a family and we want to be one group, not a whole group of individuals. When you wake up and put on a CUW shirt it means you are part of this team and family, and you want to do your best every day to make that family look good."
One thing is known about the junior class on CUW's men's lacrosse team; they are laying the foundation and building a legacy that will be remembered for years to come.