Ellis Anchors Lacrosse Team With Steady Presence

Mitchell Smith

Dan Ellis
Photo by Allie Felt

When most people watch lacrosse highlights, they look for flashy goals and big hits. While senior men’s lacrosse captain Dan Ellis doesn’t often provide either of these, he acts as an anchor and a leader for a team thats success this year is very much in doubt.

The team lost a bevy of talent to graduation last year. Two defenders, a midfielder and a goalie will have to be replaced in order to improve upon, or even match, last year’s 3-3 record (1-3 in division).

“This year could be a big toss-up,” said Ellis, “we lost a lot of very key players.”

However, this uncertainty is exactly what the team will try to overcome, and Ellis is leading the charge. Even though the rangy defender is a BBMB major, which takes up much of his time, he still finds space in his schedule to fill out all the required paperwork for the team, run fall captain’s practices, finalize the spring schedule and even organize hotel rooms for tournaments.

“Every team needs someone like that and he’s taken that spot,” said junior Robbie MacNichol. “[Without Dan] our team would pretty much crumble.”

This has become even more evident this semester, as Ellis’ captain cohort, junior Max Skotheim, is currently studying abroad.

The season does have hope, though, partly due to Ellis’ emphasis on teaching the intracacies of college lacrosse to the less-experienced players.

“It really depends on how much a lot of the freshmen are able to step up and get motivated. This year could be a big success as we try to build on what we had last year with some new pieces, but it could easily go the other way around if we’re not able to put stuff together and get [the team] to work,” said Ellis.

The difficulty lately has been welcoming newcomers to the small roster without making the commitment level seem too daunting.

“The hardest part is trying to figure out the best attitude for the team and when it’s a good idea to go easy on people and when you need to step up and actually push people,” said Ellis.

This balance is especially hard for a first-time captain to achieve. So far though, Ellis’ teammates agree with the tone he has set.

“He’s definitely the top leader,” said first-year Chris Cahoon. “We have some jokers on the team, so he’s a good role model to keep everyone in line and working hard.”

Ellis does more than just contribute to the logistics. In practice, he’s an invaluable asset on defense. Ellis is not a defender who will recklessly initiate contact in order to knock the ball loose. Instead, he waits for the right moment to take advantage of the opponent’s mistake.

“He’s very precise. He’ll take the ball from you because he’ll hit you right on the hand. On my club team we call that the ‘punisher’ … but that doesn’t work because Dan’s not mean –– Dan’s kind,” said MacNichol. Sophomore Will Clifford has noticed the same thing about Ellis.

“Being that lacrosse is very physical and competitive, it’s amazing how Dan can play defense and still be composed. He never loses his head. He’s mentally stronger than everyone else in that way,” said Clifford.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to spend that much energy in lacrosse,” said Ellis of his thought process when deciding between Whitman and another school where lacrosse is a varsity sport.

While Ellis has ended up putting a great deal of time and energy into Whitman lacrosse, he will continue to keep his composure and keep the team running, both on and off the field.