The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Taking on the team

    Gym. Tan. Lax.

    Those were the words printed proudly on t-shirts sold by the UW-Eau Claire men’s lacrosse team.

    “Ever since the Jersey Shore came out …” said team vice president Matt Michener, describing where the slogan came from.

    The t-shirts were an idea that originated at a different university where lacrosse players reworked the popular phrase “Gym. Tan. Laundry.” to make it more to their liking.

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    “They made a killing off selling lacrosse practice pinnies that kids were basically buying all over the United States,” Michener said.

    Junior Sean Usher, a defenseman who also serves as the defensive captain of the team, said the fundraiser gave the team some good publicity. Usher originally pitched the idea for the slogan after visiting his brother on the east coast and seeing similar shirts there.

    “It’s funny, it’s simple, and people can kind of recognize the GTL,” he said. “I thought it would be interesting since, of course, Jersey Shore is still a thing.”

    Lacrosse, Eau Claire, Wis.
    Lacrosse has been a part of Michener’s life since his sophomore year of high school when he played in Neenah, Wis.

    After graduating he took a year off to think about what he wanted to do and explore his options. This included a tour of several universities, one of which was UW-Eau Claire.

    Although he didn’t come here just to play lacrosse, Michener said it was definitely in the back of his mind. During his orientation he met with then team president Jeremy Clements, who talked with him more about Eau Claire and the lacrosse opportunities available at the university.

    “Well, if I played in high school I’ll need something to do still … to keep me out of trouble basically,” Michener said.

    Michener plays midfield ­— or “middie” — on the team, and next year he will be the team president and, he hopes, a full-time nursing student, too. He will be responsible not only for his schoolwork and helping the team perform during games, but also for how the team handles itself off the field.

    A task that includes bringing in new recruits, finding the team spaces to practice and play and sometimes even making Jersey Shore references.

    Matt Michener looks for an open teammate.
    Matt Michener looks for an open teammate.

    The fundraiser was just one of the ways that the team has been able to get their name out there.

    The most recent bit of attention for them was Michener’s online interview with the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. According to William Glass, an Eau Claire lacrosse alumnus, the MCLA is the biggest non-NCAA lacrosse organization in the nation.

    By actively working with the MCLA, the team has been able to share their schedule, roster and stats with players and teams across the country.

    Glass said that through them the team was able to get out of Wisconsin and play squads from places like Michigan and Montana.

    Michener was asked to do the interview by an old friend who plays lacrosse at the University of Idaho and who is also an editor for the website.

    “(He) and I were talking about the season, and he just decided to ask me, ‘I know every team is basically looking for publicity, but would you mind doing an interview?’” Michener said.

    The interview was another successful opportunity to tell people that not only does Eau Claire have a men’s lacrosse team, but that it’s becoming an important piece of the university’s sports culture, too.

    #87-Greg Olson performs an expelliarmus! (de-sticking an opposing player)
    #87-Greg Olson performs an expelliarmus! (de-sticking an opposing player)

    Starting the team
    The team was formed in 2002, but its campus presence has been growing and its leadership team has improved.

    As president, Michener will be in charge of “everything, in a sense,” he said. However, he acknowledged that the team depends on the hard work of the entire executive board to keep things running smoothly. The team even has its own graphic designer.

    Another item Michener and the team will oversee is their increased budget. This past year they were able to receive an increased amount of funding from Student Senate allocations, which Michener said went a long way in covering the team’s expenses.

    “Our league dues are pretty high … with equipment and travel and whatever else we have,” he said.

    He also thanked the University Recreation Office for helping to get the games held at Carson Park rather than Bollinger Fields.

    “We are the only (club team), other than the baseball team, to use Carson Park … to be on the turf football field,” Michener said, “which has been a very big improvement.”
    This year the team played four home games, three of which were held at Carson Park, instead of the usual one or two.

    “We probably get five times more people to come to games at Carson than at Bollinger,” said Glass. “You feel like you’re more a part of the university.”

    The team just finished up their season for the year, ending up 4-6 overall with a 2-5 conference record. Michener acknowledged that it was a rough one.

    “I think we just mostly had some mental errors,” Michener said. “We knew we had a very, very tough season with St. John’s University, University of St. Thomas and North Dakota State in our league.”

    They did, however, successfully defeat their archrival: Bethel University.

    One tournament the team always looks forward to is hosted by Northern Michigan University. Michener said that trip is an excellent opportunity for the team to bond.

    “When you’re on a bus for six or seven hours with a bunch of dudes, just watching movies and just shooting the crap back and forth,” he said, “that’s when you really start to get to know people.”

    Building the team
    Michener said he is definitely looking forward to bringing in some new talent this fall and added that they will have a lot to offer the players.

    “We’re really trying to pick up recruiting now with some new improvements, new helmets, new jerseys, new apparel for the guys,” he said. “We’re hiring a new coach for next season.”

    Usher said that they have used several methods to recruit new members and spread awareness about Eau Claire lacrosse in general.

    They take advantage of the Blugold Organizations Bash every semester, he said, and they had an unexpectedly good turnout this year.

    “This past year we’ve actually exceeded expectations,” Usher said in regards to BOB. “We got a large number of new guys that came onto the team. It was surprising.”

    Despite their efforts, however, recruitment has been decreasing over the past few semesters. Michener said that when he transferred to Eau Claire in 2009 the team had about 30 people on it, and now there are closer to 20 members.

    Glass said that one reason Eau Claire has occasional problems with recruiting is the student demographic as compared to other universities.

    “Eau Claire doesn’t get lacrosse players, it gets students that want to play lacrosse,” he said.

    In addition to their recruitment efforts, the team has also been focusing on fundraising for future tournaments and new equipment, Usher said.

    Their latest endeavor was the t-shirt sale from earlier this semester. It was the first time the team tried it, and Usher said it was successful.

    “We were discussing different fundraising ideas, and … a lot of different clubs sell t-shirts, so we thought why don’t we jump on that bandwagon,” Usher said. “That was the (idea) that came up the most, so we just took it and ran.”

    Usher said the GTL design was one of their biggest sellers, and with a large number of students buying the shirts, he is hopeful that the team will gain even more support in the future.

    #1-Kyle Hagan trying to break free from a defender for a shot!
    #1-Kyle Hagan trying to break free from a defender for a shot!

    After the team
    One group that gives the team plenty of support is its alumni.

    Glass is an Eau Claire alumnus who first played on the men’s lacrosse team during his sophomore year in 2004. Now, he is a member of the newly formed Lacrosse Alumni Association.

    The group is involved with the summer golf outing fundraiser and works to let other alumni know when a home game is scheduled.

    “Our alumni are very, very involved,” Michener said. “(They have) really grown in the last few years.”

    Usher agreed and added that having the alumni available made dealing with issues that arise a little easier because the team could go to them for advice.

    “Even though our class is moving on, we still stay in contact with the team because we want to still stay involved … so we have a very close network.”

    Glass described the early organization as “disheveled,” but he watched things improve.

    “We had a couple of executive boards that really took the program a long ways,” he said.

    Glass credits Clements, who served as team president for two years, as a key component in turning the program into a more competitive one. Clements is now the head of the Lacrosse Alumni Association.

    “But the priority is still having fun playing lacrosse,” he said. “He was probably the best thing that ever happened to the team.”

    Taking charge
    Now, Michener will be working with the rest of the team to compete strongly and continue spreading the word about Blugold lacrosse.

    “It’s something I really, really wanted to do,” he said. “I still had a passion for it, I still (do) to this day.”

    With the interview, the fundraiser and the increased number of games held at Carson Park, Michener said he is optimistic about next season and the future of the team.

    Usher said he is confident that Michener, as president, will take the team where it needs to go to succeed.

    “He’s a great leader, great player and a very great friend of mine,” he said. “When we need to get stuff done, he cracks down, we get it done and we move on to the next thing.”

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