UST Lax, as is it affectionately known, has gone through many transformations throughout its 25-year existence. Starting as a rag-tag group in 1985 to winning the National MCLA Championship in 2010, it has been a long and winding journey.
Each year, new student athletes join the team. Each year, starting with fall ball, those new players come in and have a lot to learn and a lot to prove. Can they compete at the college level? Can they learn the system? Will their specific skills/positions be in demand that year? And most importantly, will they commit themselves to the cause? The cause for the last several years has been simple: win the MCLA National Championship.
In 2004, a group of young, incoming freshman decided they wanted a serious college lacrosse experience. Those freshman from 2004, many of whom had developed their skills during the early "pioneer days" of high school lacrosse in Minnesota, would become the class of 2008. Those young student athletes included guys like Joey Julius, Dan Reuther, Franny Madden, Andy Lee, David Hildebrant, Sam Diederich and others.
They developed a passion for the cause which, through hard work and practice, gained momentum each successive year. Each new incoming class also bought into the cause. By the fall of 2008, those young cause freshman were now seniors and believed their lacrosse goal was within reach. They almost succeded in putting it all together. However, that season ended with a difficult 13-15 loss to Grand Valley State in the semi-finals of the 2008 National Tournament in Dallas, TX.
For people who knew the history behind UST lacrosse, it was difficult to see those seniors leave after that game. However, the ongoing contributions of that class are not measured with that year's won-loss record but with the continuing strength of the cause. They set the tone and proved that St. Thomas lacrosse was a strong force. They proved their unity not just to their opponents but also to the younger teammates, the fans, and the University of St. Thomas in general
Fast forward to 2009 when the Tommies were able to make UST lacrosse history by winning their first National Championship. St. Thomas came from behind in all three games that year. They set the MCLA Div II scoring record of 50 tournament goals (a goal that would last only one year until the 2010 Tommies scored 67 goals in four games).
Now in 2010, the momentum has lead UST to become a powerhouse in MCLA lacrosse. Finishing this season with a perfect record of 17 wins, UST won its second National Championship. Their winning streak now extends to 26 games.
The 2010 National Tournament also brought new changes. The number of teams invited was expanded from 12 to 16. Some teams that had been in a rebuilding mode in recent years were now back in strength. Utah Valley had been the runner-up in 2005 but was quiet until returning this year to the title match against UST. Other teams like Briarcliffe, Cal State Fullerton and Western Washington were making their first appearances in the tournament.
For most sports teams, experience plays a huge role in post-season playoff and UST is no exception to this rule. However, the statistics indicate that a whopping nineteen goals were scored by St. Thomas freshmen throughout the National tournament. If one were to talk with young St. Thomas players during Tournament week, it would be extremely clear that they were a very focused group. The cause, it seems, has sunk in quite well.
Other teams may have underestimated their opponents and failed to reach the Big Game ... but not the Tommies. Rather, St. Thomas showed poise, determination and stubborness. Over four games, they were able to score 67 goals, win over 60% of the face offs and restrict all of their opponents to single-digit goals.
The 2010 St. Thomas lacrosse club proved they were the best team on the field. What happens next year? Losing nine seniors, the Tommies will miss the likes of Dan Soukup, Derek Michalski and Sam Kepner at defense, Tommy Hoffman at LSM, Dayne Smith at goalie, Tony Sadder, Ryan Pietsch and Andrew Larson at midfield and Jason King at attack. As the most decorated class in UST Lax history, these seniors can be very proud of their accomplishments.
As for the returning UST players, the cause still continues, the flame still burns and desire to be the best never ends.
Congratulations 2010 Seniors!