The ladies of the women’s club lacrosse team have been competing for Michigan for more than 10 years, but this year is special.
This year they’ve begun the season with a 5-1 record, losing by just one goal to last year’s champions Cal-Poly. They’ve reached fourth place in the nation, their highest national ranking ever, and they’ve been offered club varsity status from the University.
“It’s a really big deal for us,” junior Jane Friend said. “Club varsity status is something we’ve been working for. It means a lot more respect for our organization.”
The team practices during off hours at Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, so a 10-11:30 p.m. practice is not out of the ordinary. That kind of schedule weeds out players who aren’t totally dedicated.
“Our work has really paid off this year,” Finkenstaedt said. “We beat three top-10 teams last week.”
“A lot of credit has to go to our coaches,” Friend said. “It’s amazing what Coach Meltzer has done in the year she’s been with us.”
Meltzer – an ex-captain of Maryland’s women’s lacrosse team and past member of the U.S. women’s lacrosse team – previously coached Birmingham Unified’s women’s lacrosse team, leading them to three state championships in four years.
She looks to be doing the same thing for the Wolverines this year, with the help of assistant coach John Sung. Sung also has a strong coaching record, with a specialty in goalies, and has “brought a lot to the team,” Friend said.
Still, even with amazing coaches and club varsity status, the ladies are forced to spend a lot of time off the field fundraising.
While they play year round, most of their fall season is spent hosting clinics and selling candybars so they can travel through spring without money flow problems. Next fall, the team will be hosting a golf tournament that it hopes will cover most of its travel expenses.
But, because of the ladies’ rising status in the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League, they’ve obtained sponsorship from Warrior, a company that manufactures lacrosse gear. This sponsorship alleviates many apparel and equipment costs, because Warrior provides free bags, sticks and other necessary items.
“Warrior is great,” Finkenstaedt said. “They give us a lot. It’s nice to have that kind of support.”
“Now that we’re a club varsity sport, there is more incentive for people to sponsor us,” said Friend, referring to the inclusion of club varsity sponsors in the University’s Victory Club. “We’re looking forward to more sponsorship with our higher status.”
Women’s lacrosse has transformed from a team which, a few years ago, didn’t even implement cuts at tryouts to a team where, “if you haven’t played seriously, you don’t have a chance,” said Friend.
From a club sport to a club varsity sport, from another team in the crowd to a national force, it seems as though they’ve got more to look forward to than just sponsorships.