Photo Courtesy: Mark Guyton

The Rise and Fall of Cougar Lacrosse

Opinion Piece By: Mark Guyton

Frederick Community College is going on its second consecutive year without a men’s or women’s lacrosse team since the cancellation of a promising program in 2017. With the best start of a lacrosse program in National Junior College Athletic Association history, it is a wonder why it no longer exists.

Lacrosse as a sport is increasing in popularity every year in the United States. The US Lacrosse databases had calculated to have grossed twice as large of a following from ten years ago to now, especially on the East coast. Maryland having some of the best overall talent would make recruiting a full roster seem to be an easy task.

The Cougar’s first recruiting class of 2016 finished their programs debut season ranked 11th in the nation, followed by the 9th ranked spot the following year. This appeared to be a promising program that was gaining respect from local NJCAA schools in the conference, further building hype around their 2017-2018 season.

Coach Todd Hawkins’ and his team’s ability to finish one spot short of the top ten in their first year as a program is an impressive accomplishment. Hawkins would be named “NJCAA Coach of the Year” for the successful debut season. Hawkins was previously a coach at Middletown High School, which gave him the experience to recruit the right players. The recruiting experience had helped in building team chemistry immediately.

Connor Wilson of published a column in January about the NJCAA team rankings and asked “Who is really going to make the jump?” Wilson was comparing Frederick to another rising program from Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York after NJCAA’s projections placed them 9th and Frederick at 10th for the 2017-2018 season.

Photo Courtesy: Mark Guyton

Maryland is a top area for lacrosse with many surrounding colleges that dominate the top ten with Essex, Howard, Anne Arundel, and Harford, making player recruiting very competitive.

Meanwhile, Hawkins fell ill nearing the end of their second year as a program, making him unfit to recruit, inevitably stunting the growth of the program. The loss of this unique and personal recruiting style in combination with most of the team’s original starters gone due to transfer or enlistment caused a decline in overall talent leading into the third season.

Dale Cowatch was named new coach due to untimely absence of Hawkins and had spotted this fall off when tryouts rolled around that year. With only potential athletes showing up for spots on a limiting 15-man roster, a meeting was called between players, coaches, and athletic director Rodney Bennett.

Tony Arsenault, a former player of FCC’s Lacrosse team, recalled the difficulties of the programs cancellation.

“A decision was made to cancel the program in fear of a losing season and eligibility problems with players, especially with only two safety spots on the team,” Arsenault said.

The cancellation resulted in Arsenault’s scholarship being terminated that was in place for the season that year.

Now it is the start of the 2018-2019 year and Frederick has no lacrosse program. Once the school employs a permanent athletic director, talks of reviving the lost program can pursue. But with potential through the roof, their first two seasons as examples, it should only be a matter of time before we see the Cougars back on the field.

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