New Paltz Sports Information Department
NEW PALTZ, NY -- The State University of New York at New Paltz athletic department will add men's lacrosse as its 17th varsity sport with the inaugural season starting in 2019-2020.
Michael Gallagher and Nicholas Lasko, two men's lacrosse club members, were anxious to let their teammates know about the announcement and although there were whisperings of officially moving the program to a varsity sport, it didn't lessen the reaction from the rest of the club when they heard the news.
"The excitement was there. It was really cool to feel," Lasko said. "I'm pretty hyped to even get the chance to play, just to even try-out will be really, really cool for me… Now I am just rocketing towards senior year where maybe we'll be able to play a little bit of lax."
Gallagher and Lasko spent a combined five years with the SUNY New Paltz men's lacrosse club team and never thought they would be a part of the history of the varsity program. And although Gallagher, who is graduating in 2019, won't have the opportunity to suit up for the team, he is excited for the chance to be a part of setting the foundation for the Hawks.
"We always thought it would be a possibility, but I never really thought it would happen while I was going to school here," Gallagher said. "It will be exciting to be able to work with the coach and the athletic department to transition our club into a varsity sport. It is obviously sad that I won't be able to play, but at least I will have something to do with it."
The first step in assembling the program is finding the right fit at head coach, who will be responsible in curating a competitive schedule and recruiting players for the inaugural season, along with evaluating current students who will try-out for the team.
"The willingness to work with us," Gallagher said in what he is looking for in a coach. "It would be really great to find someone who is more open to working with us as students and having been a part of this club, and wanting to transition it and develop it into a varsity sport."
There was consistent interest on campus for men's lacrosse, as numbers ranged from 25 to upwards of 35 players per year. The club team has also seen some recent success, winning the conference championship in 2015. The following year they placed third and last year they finished second after losing in the conference championship game.
"I'm hesitant to say we're going to kick [butt] right out of the gate, but I think there is a shot." Lasko said. "Especially if we can get somebody who is willing to work with us and someone who is willing to put in a lot of time in the recruiting process. I think we have a chance to be decent at the very least. Also, how much work the kids who already on club are willing to put in to get better for a varsity level."
New Paltz will compete in a tough SUNYAC conference, which features Cortland, Plattsburgh , Brockport, Oswego , Geneseo, Oneonta and Potsdam.
Cortland won its 26th conference title in 30 seasons in 2018, defeating defending SUNYAC champions Plattsburgh State in the conference title game.
Lasko said he will relish the opportunity to play against an elite program like SUNY Cortland and is excited to step foot on the field and compete in a stout SUNYAC conference.
"Assuming that I make the team, I am really excited to go toe-to-toe with people who already have these established [programs]," he said. "The SUNYAC conference has amazing records and amazing runs, so I am excited to get the opportunity to join New Paltz. I have a lot of friends on other teams and seeing them compete is really cool, seeing their dedication and go against all these amazing teams to give all they got, it really is an inspiring thing. I welcome the challenge."