Montreat men’s lacrosse Strides into 2016

Tom Flynn
Special to The Black Mountain News

Editor’s note: Tom Flynn is a recruiting assistant/coach for Montreat lacrosse (and the author of “Men’s Lacrosse in Maryland.”

Two seasons old now, Montreat College’s men’s lacrosse team is coached by a former winner of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association’s National Coach of the Year Award.

Head coach Will McMinn is the college’s overall director of lacrosse, responsible for the development of both the men’s and women’s programs. A member of the Greater Los Angeles Lacrosse Hall of Fame, he leads the Cavaliers into their second season this month.

“We started last year at a very appropriate place - the beginning,” said McMinn, who has been coaching for four decades. “After going through the crucible of our first season, we are now ready to take the next step in building a nationally competitive program.”

The team plays at Montreat’s campus in Black Mountain. The facility was markedly upgraded last year by a $2 million overhaul that included the addition of a state-of-the-art turf playing field for the soccer and lacrosse teams, as well as a rebuilt softball diamond. When fully completed, the compound will also host Montreat’s track and field practices and home events.

The Cavaliers open 2016 on the road on Sunday, Feb. 7 against the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, a National Collegiate Lacrosse League power.

Montreat competes in the Asheville-based Appalachian Athletic Conference of the NAIA. While the conference’s roots extend back to the 1940s, the AAC is in its first season featuring lacrosse as a championship sport. The league’s lacrosse members include Montreat, Asbury University (Kentucky), University of the Cumberlands (Williamsburg, Kentucky), Point University (West Point, Georgia), Reinhardt University (Waleska, Georgia), St. Andrews University (Laurinburg, North Carolina) and Tennessee Wesleyan (Athens, Tennessee).

With the experienced McMinn at the helm, the Cavaliers have been able to draw from across the country and into Canada. Attackman Jordan Faubert attended high school in Windsor, Ontario and is one of the young team’s leaders.

“Growing up in Canada, I’ve played lacrosse almost my entire life,” said Faubert. “Playing for a school with a brand new program is exciting; I feel I have a lot of knowledge and experience to pass on. I’ve never been so excited for a team to be bringing lacrosse to a town and hopefully putting this small college on the lacrosse map for everyone to see.”

Faubert brings south the stickwork that is a hallmark of the Canadian game, stickwork that is often developed in the tight confines of indoor or “box” lacrosse field that proliferate in the country’s hockey arenas in the offseason.

The Cavs’ last line of defense is sophomore goalie Dakota Henson of Arden. Like many of Montreat’s players in the defensive zone, Henson was new to the game last year. Nonetheless, in his first year in the sport he went on to lead the MCLA’s Division II in saves per game.

In front of the keepers are defensemen David Joseph (Concord, NC) Charles Highley (Whittier, CA/USMC) and Evan Harris, all playing for their second season. Harris, a senior from Hickory, successfully made the leap last year from the Cavs’ baseball squad. He’s a talented athlete and in his high school career at Tri-City Christian School played baseball, soccer, and basketball. At 6-foot-2 inches and 230 pounds, he is also part of a towering defensive backline for the Cavs.

Montreat is the northernmost of the AAC’s seven-team circuit and was most impacted by Winter Storm Jonas. The team made good use of its time while the field was still under several inches of snow by running the inclined roads of Montreat or soldiering through the snow on the field early last week.

The men’s team currently has an 11-game slate for 2016, excluding the postseason. It plays its six league foes, as well as Tennessee-Chattanooga, Morehouse College (Georgia), Dalton State College (Georgia), St. Ambrose (Iowa), and UNC Greensboro from outside the conference.

“We have a strong core of character-driven returners, and have added this year some excellent men who stepped directly into leadership roles, both on and off the field,” McMinn said. “I’m very excited about the quality of men on this team, and how hard they are growing and improving as men and lacrosse players. I believe there are great things ahead for this program.”

McMinn’s daughter Kylie attends Montreat and is a member of the women’s lacrosse team led by Western Michigan alum Katy Ferguson.

McMinn’s son Kelly is a former starting goalie at NCAA Division I Virginia Military Institute.

The head coach and his wife Christine live in Black Mountain.

Montreat’s home opener is 2 p.m. Feb. 14 when it hosts Morehouse College.