The team with the highest winning percentage in Michigan history isn’t the one you’d expect.
It isn’t the football team, despite its outstanding tradition. It isn’t the hockey team, despite its dominance in the CCHA. That distinction belongs to the men’s club-varsity lacrosse team which has won more than 82 percent of its games.
The lacrosse team’s 60-year-old tradition differentiates it from your average club program, though few on campus are aware of its historic success.
“Sometimes it feels like people don’t know about us,” said senior co-captain Zach Elyachar. “They see ‘club’ and think intramurals or something small.”
Being misled by the team’s “club” title is a common mistake. Even Elyachar’s co-captain, senior Riley Kearns, was fooled.
“I figured I would come here and just have fun,” Kearns said. “It ended up being a lot more serious than I thought it would be.”
The Wolverines pride themselves on the time and effort they put in at Oosterbaan Field House.
“There was no doubt we were he hardest working club team in the nation last year,” sophomore Trevor Yealy said. “We were out there early in the morning running. We were here late at night running — always running.”
The hard work has yielded a reputation that attracts talented players to Michigan.
Yealy chose Michigan’s club team over Division-I varsity programs at other schools. Head coach John Paul, who actively recruits students to the program, emphasizes that reputation to future Wolverines.
At the team’s informational meeting for freshmen last Thursday, Paul told them about the club’s rich history, winning record and nationwide respect.
“We talked about what a special opportunity this is to be a Michigan athlete,” he said. “Once kids learn about it — what we do, how we do it and how special it is — they want to be a part of it.”
The team’s hard work and varsity attitude made last year’s success possible.
The Wolverines went 20-0 in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association, the first team to ever go undefeated. The team also, won the championship after 10 consecutive appearances in the league’s tournament, defeating Chapman, 14-11, in a nerve-wracking title game.
Paul believes the key to future success is Michigan filling the gaps left by last year’s senior class — a class that included Brekan Kohlitz, the first-ever MCLA player to be drafted by a Major League Lacrosse team.
“I think talent-wise, we’ll be able to replace what we lost,” Paul said. “But whether or not we can recreate that kind of chemistry and leadership, that’s going to be the question.”
Paul may have his doubts, but Elyachar believes Michigan can duplicate its success with hard work.
“We weren’t always the best team on the field,” he said. “But we made a point to outwork every team we played last year. If we don’t do that again this year, we won’t win.”
If the team can repeat the success of last year, Paul has no doubt lacrosse will become a Michigan varsity sport in the near future.
“Eventually,” he said, “we will grow big enough that they can’t avoid us.”