After nearly a decade of playing their “home games” off-campus, the Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves lacrosse team finally has its own field. Beginning this month, the ThunderWolves will play their home games on the CSU-Pueblo campus at the new Student Multi-Purpose Recreational Field.
Since 2000, when the club team was formed, the ThunderWolves have practiced and played their home games at local high school fields in Pueblo.
Now, with truly their own home turf to defend, team captains Loghan O’Hayre and Brian Henley are ready to lead the ThunderWolves into Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Conference play. CSU-Pueblo will open the 2008 season March 8, against the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs at 1 p.m. at the CSU-Pueblo Student Multi-Purpose Recreational Field.
O’Hayre, 22, is a fifth-year senior who hails from a family of lacrosse players raised in Denver. His two brothers, Colby and Colin, play at Regis University in Denver, which happens to be one of the ThunderWolves’ chief rivals.
Colin is Regis’ goalie and despite family bonds, their match-ups are very intense. The night before their game last season, Loghan predicted that he would score six goals against Colin. O’Hayre would score four goals that day, but unfortunately, his game and season were cut short by a severe knee injury when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament.
Doctors gave O’Hayre a nine month rehabilitation period, but with his perseverance he was back on the lacrosse field in just six months.
“I lost all my strength, and about 20 to 25 pounds, but now it’s starting to come back,” O’Hayre said.
Henley, 23, is from Las Vegas and is in his third season with the ThunderWolves. While a team captain this season, Henley had never played lacrosse until he arrived at CSU-Pueblo.
“I saw a guy with a lacrosse jacket and asked him about the team,” Henley said. “I had no experience, but Loghan took a lot time with me and I practiced a lot and became a good player.”
With the lack of high school lacrosse teams in the region many of the players on the lacrosse team like Henley had never played lacrosse before joining the team.
Since there are no athletic scholarships awarded at the club level, the players are out there for the pure enjoyment of the game. O’Hayre said that the team is allowed 25 players on its roster, but there are currently several open roster spots. The team performs its own recruiting through mostly word of mouth and conducts open tryouts.
For those interested in joining the lacrosse club, they can contact team captain Brian Henley at 702-218-3291.
Lacrosse may not get the recognition like mainstream sports, but it is the oldest sport in North America.
In recent modern times, participation in youth lacrosse has more than tripled since 1999 from 40,000 to more than 125,000 members according to a 2006 U.S. Lacrosse participation survey. This growth has translated into the college ranks where there are now over 400 college club programs.
Combining the sports of basketball, soccer and hockey, lacrosse requires coordination, agility, quickness and speed.
Each team fields nine position players and one goalie. There are four positions on the field: attacker, midfielder, defensemen and the goalie. The three attackers must remain in the offensive zone, while the three defenseman stay in the defensive zone. The three midfielders, however, are allowed to move anywhere on the field.
Lacrosse is a sport of constant movement and contact. To prepare for game speeds O’Hayre said he focuses more on sprinting and using quick bursts of energy rather than long-distance endurance running.
The physical play of lacrosse can take a huge toll on the body as O’Hayre has experienced in his years at CSU-Pueblo. In addition to his season ending knee injury, O’Hayre has had two other seasons cut short by a broken ankle and broken hand.
Contact is a huge part of lacrosse, but there are limits. Players are not allowed to make contact below the waist or above the shoulders.
“You can’t wrap somebody up with your stick, whack them or trip them, but other than that anything goes,” Henley said.
Goalies may have the toughest job in the sport. They are expected to stop shots that reach speeds of more than 100 miles per hour, deflect off any player or even bounce off the ground.
“I don’t even know how they see some of the shots,” O’Hayre said, who himself has spent time in the goalie box.
Not only is the lacrosse club active on the field, they are also active off it.
“We do our own fundraising,” O’Hayre said. “We go to the World Arena in Colorado Springs and sell concessions.”
In 2007 the team raised more than $1,500 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money to help research cures for child cancer patients, by having team members shave their heads.
Heading into the season both O’Hayre and Henley are optimistic about their team’s chances, but it’s not always what happens in the win and loss column that determines a successful season.
“It’s fun, we like to play competitively, and our ultimate goal is to win, but we’re just out here for people to have a good time and learn about lacrosse,” O’Hayre said.