Entering this season ranked fifth in the nation, the Georgetown men’s club lacrosse team had already reached heights it did not think were possible just a few years ago. But the team surmounted expectations again this year, as the Hoyas took a leap forward with their appearance in the Chesapeake Conference tournament at the end of April.
While the Hoyas ultimately fell to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the tournament semifinals, this setback does not reflect the program’s journey. The story of club lacrosse’s rise to become one of the country’s top club teams, despite the relative anonymity, will certainly make it a program worth watching on campus in the future.
Before fall 2017, Georgetown’s club lacrosse program consisted of just a few sporadic intersquad games and practices throughout the year. The team occasionally hosted nearby schools for scrimmages but seldom traveled off campus for games.
But after the Hoyas finished up their spring 2017 season, a few players were determined to take the program to the next level by gaining National College Lacrosse League recognition to compete formally against programs from across the country.
Much of this effort was spearheaded by current two-time captain and graduating senior Patrick Foley, who recognized that attaining national recognition would help the team recruit more players. Foley was well aware that such substantial growth would be slow but was willing to face the challenges in building the program to its current status.
Before formal competition began in spring 2018, the club lacrosse team spent much of fall 2017 recruiting and incorporating new players into the program. By the time they played their first game in the spring, the team hit the ground running.
Their time and hard work paid off, as the Hoyas beat UMBC 19-3 in their first game as an officially recognized program. The team finished its 2018 schedule with a 5-4 record and earned an at-large bid to the Chesapeake Conference tournament.
Foley could not believe they had received a bid in just their first year — undoubtedly a significant achievement in the team’s debut season of recognition.
“After years of not being recognized by the league, I could not be more proud of the team and every one of the guys on the field alongside me,” Foley said in an interview with The Hoya. “Last year, our first year back in the league after close to half a decade, we got a bid to the conference tournament. That really speaks to the passion and commitment of everyone involved, from the captains to the freshmen.”
Yet the team had to decline the invitation last year, as it still did not have enough players to commit to a meaningful tournament appearance.
In the 2018-19 season, the Hoyas continued to attract attention, as their roster doubled from a squad of 20 men to a fully-formed team of 40. Many of the new players were underclassmen, eager to join because of the previous season’s success.
With the uptick in recruits came better results on the field: The team went 8-3 and rattled off a number of wins against top competition including Loyola Maryland, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, all of whom were ranked in the NCLL top 10. The only regular season blemishes on the Hoyas’ resume were losses to three of the top-five ranked teams in the country: Navy, Delaware and Maryland.
Georgetown’s most impressive performance undoubtedly came when the team traveled to Charlottesville, Va., to take on the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers to start the season February 9. The task ahead of the Hoyas was certainly daunting: Several of Virginia’s players had spent time with the varsity team.
Facing raucous crowds, Georgetown weathered the storm throughout the first three quarters and remained within striking distance. Trailing heading into the fourth, the Hoyas overtook the Cavaliers and walked away with a 7-6 victory.
This win not only gave the team its best win of the season, but also signaled a breakthrough in the process towards a better program and solidified the team among the country’s most formidable programs. This added momentum propelled the team to its first NCLL Chesapeake Conference tournament in May, a feat that seemed so distant just a few years ago.
While many of the leaders of this year’s club lacrosse team will graduate, the team undoubtedly has a promising future. The influx of talent from the freshman and sophomore classes shows the future of the program is in good hands.
Rising senior Joseph Carney, as well as juniors Jack Mahoney, Cameron Hartman and Patrick Alberts, will take the reins from Foley as team captains and will look to continue the Hoyas’ success. While the results on the field are unquestionably important, the opportunity club lacrosse has provided for this group of guys is the primary takeaway.
Reflecting on his career and the growth of the program, Foley said the team provided “a great opportunity for guys looking to continue their lacrosse careers.” The program also gave incoming students an opportunity the Hilltop had lacked when he first arrived.
Foley was also proud the program allowed its students to not simply “sit on the sidelines anymore,” as it gave many players the chance to once again competitively enjoy the game they love and had grown up with.
Club lacrosse’s rise to the apex of club lacrosse perfectly exemplifies collective determination in pursuit of passion. The role next year’s seniors will have in the program’s growth is noteworthy, as the team looks to take over from Foley and the other current seniors to sustain the program’s success.