Men’s club lacrosse hopes to send coach off with a championship

Andrew Hawkins

Credit: Faith Bernstein

“We don’t rebuild,” says David Schmitz. “We reload. We play for championships.”

At the end of the 2011 season, Schmitz, the Robert Allen Skotheim Chair of History at Whitman College, will retire as the club men’s lacrosse coach. Schmitz played lacrosse as a midfielder at Roanoke College and has stated that his 26th year of coaching will be his last.

“[Being a coach] has been an absolutely enriching experience,” said Coach Schmitz. “I’m going to miss it terribly.”

In the past 25 years, Schmitz has led the men’s lacrosse team to eight championships and nine consecutive final four appearances. The team returns seven of 10 starters. However, the illness of freshman defender Dan Ellis and the graduation of Bidnam Lee and Ben Spencer could prove significant barriers in the team’s hope of adding a ninth trophy to Schmitz’s honors.

This season, the team hopes to bring home the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League (PNCLL) Championship to end Schmitz’s career on the highest note. However, to do this, they face tough competition from Western Oregon University.

The club team lost by one goal to Western Oregon in the 2010 semi-finals. While the competition remains tight, Whitman has shown itself to be a dominate force in the PNCLL.

“My only concern is sending the coach off without winning first place for the season,” said sophomore defender Ben Skotheim.

“Every year [we get] knocked out by the same team, Western Oregon,” said senior captain Stephen Over. “We wanna crush them and send Coach Schmitz off the right way.”

In order to end their three-year losing streak to Western Oregon, the men’s lacrosse team will be expecting continued improvements from all players to make up for the loss of two-time All-Conference attackman Lee ’10. Senior captains Sam Kollar, Ryon Campbell and Over are expected to push Whitman to the next level.

While the loss of Lee in attack was a huge blow for the team, Kollar has impressed the team with his speed, precision and passing distribution. Furthermore, the team will look to Jan Start Aeden Weber to improve his form to make the Whitman offense truly formidable.

“Our returning attackmen are very good. Aeden is a little delicate but gets the job done,” laughs Skotheim.

Perhaps Ellis’s injury is more concerning than Lee’s graduation. Ellis started for Bellevue High School, which won the state championship in 2010. He is currently recovering from an illness, which may leave him out of the pre-season: a pivotal time for team development.

Meanwhile, Skotheim and Over return in defense. The absence of passionate leadership from Spencer ’10 will be sorely missed; however, Schmitz is confident about the progress of sophomore John Tarzan Mighell.

In goal, sophomores Luigi Lollini and Stephen Toyofuku continue to impress.

Along with Over and Kollar, the team relies on midfielder Campbell for leadership and athleticism to bolster the club team’s success.

“Ryon needs to be a workhouse,” said Schmitz. “We have a capable, talented team. I’m excited to see how the season will go.”

“Wildkat Campbell is a model in unbridled ferocity,” said Skotheim.

The men’s team starts their season against Montana State University on Feb. 26 on Ankeny Field, and they look to the fans to show their support for both the team and Schmitz as he starts his final season.

“Lacrosse is notorious for having rowdy fans,” said Over.

With a talented team at their disposal, the captains and Schmitz are expecting success. Schmitz’s loyalty and consistency has become a trademark of Whitman’s team. Because of his efforts as a volunteer coach for the past 25 years, Whitman has become a powerhouse in the PNCLL.

Ultimately, the team is and should be confident coming into this season. Continued improvements throughout the field and the return of so many starters suggest that the Whitman team will be a strong contender for the championship. Hopefully, for both the seniors and Schmitz, Whitman can end its three-year losing streak against Western Oregon and add a final trophy to Schmitz’s collection.

Credit: Faith Bernstein