Building something from the ground up is a daunting challenge, but it’s exactly what head lacrosse coaches Josh Stewart (Men’s) and Rich Manieri (Women’s) have done over the past year at Asbury University.
In an article published on Asbury’s Athletic website in July, Manieri was quoted saying, “We [Manieri and Stewart] kept coming to the same conclusion, that success would depend on more than just hard work. It was going to take a lot of faith and a lot of prayer.”
In a recent interview Stewart described the process of putting his team together. “I put hundreds, if not thousands, of miles on rental cars trying to get 25 individuals take a leap of faith on a concept only…There was nothing and now we have 28 players on this roster, eager and ready to take on the challenge of being the building blocks.”
Despite not having anything resembling a lacrosse team at this time last year, Stewart and Manieri have managed to draw in 39 recruits from across the United States to fill out their rosters. The lacrosse season doesn’t begin until next semester (the first match for the women’s team is slated for February 13 against Truett-McConnell College). Both coaches will have a lot of time to organize and prepare their teams for their inaugural season.
While neither the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) nor Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) recognize lacrosse as an official sport yet,it is the fastest growing collegiate sport in America. The NCAA reported that there were over 35,000 players competing in universities across the United States and over 60 varsity programs were added in 2013 alone. In the meantime, Asbury’s teams will look to compete in National Women’s Lacrosse League (NWLL) and the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA).
When asked about his hopes for the team this year, Stewart was optimistic about a winning record, but more concerned about growing his team in the long term. “As a coach, you always want to win games; it’s part of the reason you are in that role. But I ultimately want to grow these students into better players, better people and push them to their potential and help them realize what they are capable of individually.”
These incoming athletes, along with others who attended Asbury last year and tried out, now have the responsibility of writing a new page of history in Asbury athletics. Though faced with a tough job, Stewart put his faith in his team. “I expect the world of them right now, and I don’t foresee them letting us down.”