By Brandon Fessley
Change is coming in William Peace University’s athletic department, and it’s certainly sparked excitement throughout the university. This year, the university announced the addition of new men’s and women’s lacrosse teams.
This is the first time the program will have lacrosse in its arsenal, and the change is a part of a new trend in the school’s growth in the athletic department, as a new swimming team is in the works as well.
The men’s team is set to start competing during the 2017-2018 school year, while the women’s team has been delayed a year.
Naturally, the process of starting up a new sports team is challenging, specifically in the recruiting aspect. Starting a new program means competing with other established programs for athletes, which is not an easy task. New head coach for the men’s lacrosse team, Nate Bates, was able to give insight on the program’s tough road ahead.
“The biggest hurdle has been getting kids from places where lacrosse is more popular,” said Coach Bates.
Bates has been a head coach at both the high school and Division III level for 11 years, so experience and knowledge are on his side. Looming challenges aside, the new coach is just excited to introduce a new sport to the fans at WPU.
“It’s exciting to help really brand the Peace name,” said Bates.
Bates speaks highly of the players he’s already recruited and started to work with. He sees a bevy of potential in the new program for years to come.
“We’re very blue collar and the kids show up to work,” Bates said.
As for the women’s program, the progress has been delayed indefinitely. The department recently hired Akasha Kasper to fill the head coaching vacancy, but complications in the recruiting progress has caused all progression to stall. In fact, the school’s athletic department has decided to suspend the introduction of women’s lacrosse until the fall of 2018.
Despite the disappointing status of the women’s team, the excitement of the upcoming start for the men’s program is beginning to take hold at the university. It is no secret that the students, faculty, and alumni at Peace take athletics seriously, so the new addition of a different sports team not seen before now will be gladly welcomed.
“I think it’s great for the morale of the school because now we all have more to cheer for, and it really helps put Peace athletics on the map,” said Matt Proctor, a senior baseball player at WPU.
With the addition of the new lacrosse team, WPU becomes the only higher education school in Raleigh to have a team. The team will compete against the other five USA South Conference programs that currently offer the sport. Game and practice fields and facilities have yet to be established, but the school’s athletic department is currently working on a solution.
In the meantime, Coach Bates will continue to recruit new talent to the program, and will work to build a winning team. The inaugural season is now within a year from its start time, so the pressure is certainly on. Win or lose, members of William Peace will be sure to come out and cheer on the new Pacers.