Lacrosse: As a club sport, men’s lacrosse is on the rise

In 2007 men’s lacrosse was discontinued as an NCAA Division I athletic program at Butler.

But in response, a few players from that team created a men’s lacrosse club team at the school shortly after.

Photo by Marcy Thornsberry

Josh Phelps, junior team vice president, said the popularity of lacrosse is on the rise all across the nation.

“The sport is more popular on the East Coast than most places, but that is spreading all over Indiana,” Phelps said.

Butler’s team originally played at the D-I level from 1993 until the program was cut in 2007.

Initially the players on the club team coached themselves, but the school now employs head coach Kyle Mates.

Mates grew up in Indianapolis and played high school lacrosse at Cathedral High School.

Mates played college lacrosse at Bellarmine and Trine. He also played semi-professionally in Ontario, Canada, for two years.

“I got the job at BU when my men’s club team scrimmaged Butler, and they showed interest,” Mates said. “I grew up watching Butler sports, so I felt it was a great fit for me.”

The Bulldogs compete in the Central Division of the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association. The CCLA is a division of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association, which is a premiere national club lacrosse program.

This is the team’s second year in the CCLA.

Schools that compete within the CCLA Central Division include Indiana Tech, Oakland, Taylor and Michigan-Dearborn.

Butler is 2-2 in the division and 4-7 overall this season.

The Bulldogs also play teams from the surrounding area that are a part of the MCLA.

Phelps said that the Butler men’s lacrosse program was cut along with the men’s swimming program because of Title IX.

Title IX is a federal law that protects equal opportunities for women to participate in sports and extracurricular activities.

The team lived on as a club to continue to provide a competitive opportunity for Butler students.

Phelps said he never played lacrosse until he came to college but joined the club for the competitive edge.

“I wanted to continue playing competitive sports but not at the D-I level,” Phelps said.

Phelps said he believes the popularity of lacrosse at Butler has increased because it is an fast-paced contact sport, and sporting fans are intrigued by it.

“We’ve had a better turnout this spring than we did in the fall,” freshman attacker Andrew Taschler said.

Taschler has played lacrosse for eight years and said he has seen it go from non-existent to a sport with rising popularity in Indiana.

“Attendance has been better recently because we’re playing in the Butler Bowl,” Phelps said. “There aren’t many diehard Bulldogs fans, but there have been more Butler students at home games than most other teams we’ve played in the MCLA.”

Butler dropped two games over the weekend at home against Oakland and John Carroll.

The game against the Golden Grizzlies of Oakland ended in a 10-9 sudden-death overtime loss for the Bulldogs.

“As a team, we are having a successful season and are currently tied for second in our division,” Mates said.

The top two teams in each division make the playoffs, and Butler’s playoff hopes are on the line this weekend.

The Bulldogs have two more games this weekend to finish up their regular season.

They will head to Michigan to face Calvin and Northwood.

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