Three years after winning the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association Division II National Championship, Concordia University – Irvine continues to climb the MCLA D1 ranks. Led by second year head coach Jesse Foss, the Eagles have their eyes set on improving on last season’s No. 11 ranking.
The quest began this month with an eight-week fall ball regimen in which Foss will work with a plethora of returning and incoming talent to get the Eagles ready for the 2020 Southwest Lacrosse Conference and beyond.
Coach Foss took some time to fill us in on players to watch and his thoughts for the 2020 season.
Key Returning Players
Jackson Lienhart (Torrey Pines High School, Senior, Attack) had a breakout year for us in 2019 after transferring from NCAA D1 Bryant University. Lienhart finished the year with 53 points (44 goals, 9 assists) and was honored as a MCLA 1st team All American, 1st team All-SLC selection, and Scholar Athlete. Jackson’s shooting ability will only be heightened with the addition of some key transfers!
Connor Reed (Aliso Niguel High School, Senior, LSM) will be a three-year Captain for us and has been a dominant presence at the defensive end. He was honored as an MCLA 3rd team All American, 1st team All-SLC selection, and Scholar Athlete. He has a combined 308 ground balls and 44 points (12 goals, 32 assists) in his first 3 years! Connor has the ability to change the course of the game with his play between the lines!
Tyler Collins (El Toro High School, Sophomore, Defense) was charged with covering every team’s top attackman as a freshman. He excelled in that role and will only be better with a year of experience under his belt. Tyler was honored as an MCLA Honorable Mention All American and 1st team All-SLC selection. I believe Tyler will be one of the best defenseman in the MCLA!
Tyler Schweickert (Beckman High School, Junior, Goalie) was hampered by injuries all last year but still managed to post a 55% save percentage on the year. Schweickert was the MCLA’s Pearl Goalie of the Week and was an Honorable Mention All-SLC Conference Selection. I expect a healthy Tyler to be one of the top goalies in our conference!
Jacob Aho (Esperanza High School, Senior, Midfield), Jack Fisher (Santa Margarita Catholic, Sophomore, Midfield), and Hayden Greco (Canyon High School, Sophomore, LSM) have looked great so far this fall and I expect them to have breakout years in 2020!
We are very excited to welcome 14 new players (8 freshman and 6 transfers) onto campus this fall! Our freshman have already made an immediate impact and are pushing the upperclassmen. Two transfers we are very excited about are Jonah Rinaldi (Aliso Niguel High School, Junior, Attack) and Austin Babb (Foothill High School, Sophomore, Face Off).
Rinadi is coming back to CUI after a year off. He was the 2017 MCLA D2 Player of the Year and a 1st team All American. Rinalid will be one of the toughest covers in the MCLA!
Babb was a 4-time All-County selection and one of the most dominant draw guys in Orange County during his time at Foothill. I expect him to continue his success and allow us to play more relaxed on offense!
Team Goals for the 2020 Season
On the field, the goal is to have fun and compete every day and to build on the day before. In the classroom, we are working hard to increase the team’s GPA with the goal of having the highest team GPA in our Athletic Department. Off the field, we are trying to be more engaging in the community and be a resource to the youth teams in the Orange County area. To do this we are holding our first Youth Clinic (5th-8th grade) on Saturday, October 5th from 9am-10am. This will be one hour of drills and instruction. The cost is $20 and kids will be coached by our coaching staff and current players. Here is the link for interested players; http://abcsportscamps.com/cuieaglesmlax/.
Recent Notable Achievements
We finished the season with a 12-5 record and an MCLA National Tournament and SLC Semifinal appearance. Throughout the year we had several big wins including home wins over then #1 Michigan State (2018 National Champion), #3 BYU, and #23 Northeastern. We were ranked as high as #3 during the season in the MCLA Coaches Poll and finished ranked #11. We had five players honored as MCLA All Americans and seven players selected as All Conference. What I am most proud of is we had a program-high four Scholar Athletes and significantly raised the Team GPA from the previous year!
We run a typical eight-week “fall ball” schedule September through October where we watch film, lift weights, and practice three days per week. We also have scrimmages set up every Saturday in October against MCLA programs. In November, we continue our lifting program but mix up our practice time with Box Lacrosse and competing in other sports.
2019 Schedule Highlights
I think the new conference alignment of the SLC will make it the most competitive conference in the MCLA. It will be a dog fight to make it to the semifinals and every game will have post-season implications. We also have some exciting non-conference games against Cal-Berkeley (#2), Cal Poly (#10), Clemson (#19), and Boston College (#23) based on the 2019 MCLA Final Rankings.
Offseason Team-Building Plans
Every year we spend a ton of time building our team off the field as well as on it. We start every year with a team BBQ and had a great team day doing some river tubing a few weeks ago. We have a beach day planned in late September and are attending an Anaheim Ducks game on October 3rd. In addition to our Youth and High School Prospect Clinic we have several community service events scheduled including a Food Distribution event on October 12th with Christ Lutheran Church and volunteering at Mariner’s Church Christmas event on December 7th. We will begin the spring season with our Training Camp which will include paint balling and other fun team events.
If any high school athletes are interested in learning more about our program I’d encourage you to fill our RECRUIT QUESTIONAIRRE so we provide you with information on our school and program. We are also holding a FALL PROSPECT CLINIC on Sunday, October 13th from 9am-3pm. Players will work with our coaching staff and current players through 4 ½ hours of instruction and scrimmaging and attend a campus tour & admission presentation. The clinic price includes Lunch and a CUI Lacrosse T-Shirt. There is no better way to experience CUI and see what it is like to be an Eagle!