Men’s lacrosse team preps for season, including exhibition game at the Xcel
February 8, 2007
Their hard work will pay off with the opportunity to play in an exhibition match at the Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 18.
“It gives us an opportunity to create some excitement within our school,” team captain and coach Ben Wilson said. “We don’t get a lot of fan support traveling to places like Platteville and Madison.”
Adding more excitement to the exhibition at the Xcel is the fact that the Falcons will be going up against their rival UW-Stout. The opportunity to play on the big stage is especially sweet for Ashley.
“Playing at the Xcel has exceeded every expectation I have had for this organization,” Ashley said. “Excitement is an understatement.”
The team is part of the Great Lakes Lacrosse League (GLLL). River Falls had a 2-8 record in their first season in the GLLL.
Ben Wilson and assistant captain Matt Ribar expect improvement during their second season of conference play.
“Last year we wanted everyone to play,” Wilson said. “This year our mentality is to play to win.”
When the Falcons faced UW-Stout last year, they applied their win-first strategy resulting in an 8-2 victory.
“When we play to win we pretty much dominate,” Ribar said.
The regular season begins March 24 at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn., but the Falcons play year round in multiple exhibition matches and an annual tournament to gear up for conference play.
UW-Stout is also part of the GLLL accumulating a record of 8-10 in two seasons of conference play. The rivalry between the teams is caused due to geographic reasons.
“They’re the closest school to us that we play in every sport,” Wilson said. “They’re defiantly the team to beat no matter how good they are.”
There isn’t any bad blood between UWRF and UW-Stout, but things have naturally gotten heated during their previous clashes.
“It’s a rough sport,” Ashley said. “During a game anytime you play there’s going to be hostile actions.”
The sport of lacrosse itself has come a long way since it was played on the open plains of North America by Indian’s over 500 years ago.
Back then, matches consisted of at least 100 players on massive boundary-less playing fields. Today’s game is played on grass, or turf, with 10 players on the field for each side including a goalie. The field is 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. The scoring format is basically the same as hockey.
Even though lacrosse is a very old sport those who play it say it is best described as a hybrid.
“It’s a combination of soccer, hockey and basketball,” Wilson said. “It’s fast like hockey, spread out like soccer [same size field] and has off the ball movement like basketball.”
The popularity of lacrosse is growing quickly nationwide. It’s the fastest growing National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sport over the last five years, according to lacrosse.org.
“When I started playing lacrosse [seven years ago] nobody knew what it was,” Ribar said.
Ashley would have to be considered the founding father of UWRF lacrosse.
“He’s [Ashley] really taken it to the next level,” Recreational Leadership Coordinator Kurran Sagan said. “He’s gone well above and beyond what was asked of him for that club.”
When Ashley arrived at UWRF in 2004 his competitive itch inclined him to continue playing lacrosse, which he grew to love at Hopkins high school in Minnesota, but it wasn’t offered at UWRF.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Ashley said. “All I know is I had a desire to play lacrosse, and we didn’t have a team.”
On the field one of the teams most important players is Wilson.
Wilson is listed on the roster as the Falcons goaltender but he’s a jack-of-all-trades on the field playing multiple positions and serving as coach and captain.
Wilson started playing lacrosse 11 years ago in his home state of Massachusetts.
While he takes care of business on the field he is very thankful to have Ashley taking care of business off it.
“Everything but actually playing he’s got his fingers in,” Wilson said. “All I have to worry about is winning, and Blake does everything else.”
The lacrosse team is officially considered a campus organization, but there is a lot more put into the team besides playing games. The team practices five days a week, and each practice lasts an hour and a half. This fall practices took place at six a.m.
“You can really see who’s dedicated when they show up at six o’clock in the morning,” Ashley said.
Regardless of the outcome of the game at the Xcel this is an opportunity the team should savor.
“It’s a great opportunity for them,” Sagan said. “And it’s exciting for all the other clubs on campus.”