Men’s lacrosse has experienced a revival at Occidental over the past few years. After almost folding in 2008, the club team has rebuilt itself into a formidable power in the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference (SLC). The team is currently 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the SLC DII North and is seeded first in the division. As a result of their three conference wins, the Tigers have secured a home game in the first round of playoffs.
According to co-captain and club president Vinny Vigorita (senior), Coach Mike Delabar, now in his second year with Occidental, has provided tremendous support through his love of the game. In addition to Oxy’s team, Delabar now coaches middle school and high school teams in Calabasas.
The current senior class, which includes captains Vigorita and Jake Kahane, midfielders Louis Usarzewicz and Danny Stern and defender Evan Tolley, has experienced a lot of growth over the past few seasons. After making the playoffs in 2013, the team was left without a coach or a goalie last season.
Luckily for the Tigers, first-year Emerson Smith has taken over the goal this season. With the highest save percentage in the league, his dominance at one of the game’s most difficult positions bodes well for the team’s future at Occidental.
“At the beginning I was kind of worried because people were quitting and we seemed to be losing steam before the season started,” Smith said. “It’s been awesome to see us really play our hearts out in every single game even though we lack the numbers other teams have.”
One of the season’s most important and memorable games happened at Northern Arizona University on March 1. After a night of team bonding at the Grand Canyon, they woke up to find Flagstaff, Arizona covered in snow.
Vigorita was unsure if they would be able to play due to the weather conditions.
“They had shoveled just the lines [on the field],” Vigorita said.
Both teams and the referees agreed to play with orange balls that easily stood out in the snow-covered field. The game was hard-fought by both sides. Occidental eventually pulled ahead in the third quarter after a long back-and-forth battle.
Occidental eventually secured a 10-8 victory, which guaranteed their home field advantage in the playoffs.
“I think the team really came together during our trip to Arizona,” Kahane said. “There was a lot of camaraderie and we were mentally and physically prepared for it. It was probably the greatest game that Occidental men’s lacrosse ever played.”
While all division games are important, Occidental’s biggest rival in lacrosse is California State University, Fullerton, which has consistently beat Occidental over the last few years.
“I’d really like to get a [win] on them,” Vigorita said.
As a club sport, the members of the lacrosse team have to elect an executive board, including a president, vice president and treasurer. Together they are responsible for funding and running the club on a daily basis.
Both Kahane and Vigorita want the program to continue to grow after they graduate.
“My goal is for all of us to be closer and to keep building the program stronger every year,” Kahane said.
As the sport is still relatively new to not only Occidental, but also California, the team is currently in the building process and is constantly looking for new talent.
“Even though we’re in California where lacrosse isn’t as big, people want to win no matter what,” Smith said. “It’s still really competitive and fun.”
Vigorita encourages anyone interested in joining the team to contact him with any questions.
The Tigers play tomorrow against Nevada at 8 p.m. on Patterson Field.