Thunder Lacrosse and the Transition from the MLC to the MIAA Conference

After nearly 125 years,  America’s oldest collegiate conference, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) has accepted America’s oldest game: lacrosse. Originally played by Native Americans dating back to the 1630’s, the sport consisted of the “use of a netted racquet with which to pick the ball off the ground, throw, catch and convey it into or past a goal to score a point”. While the technology has changed, the objective hasn’t, and the MIAA schools that participates in all other varsity sports (Adrian, Albion, Alma, Calvin, Hope, Olivet, and Trine) have finally adopted what is considered as “the fasting growing sport in the United States today” according to Sports Illustrated.

Trine joins Adrian and Albion as members of the new formed MIAA conference who departed the Midwest Lacrosse Conference (MLC) after being charter members in 2010. The previous conference which consisted of ten members scattered throughout the Midwest and was formed because of the desire to obtain an automatic qualification (AQ) bid to the NCAA postseason tournament. The biggest hurdle in forming the MIAA conference as well was being granted an AQ bid by the NCAA lacrosse committee last year. The lucrative AQ bid means teams will have an opportunity to potentially play for the national championship each and every year should they earn the bid given out to the winner of the MIAA conference tournament.

The newly formed conference brings with it the promise of establishing new rivalries, less travel, and being able to help recruit better locally according to Thunder men’s lacrosse coach Vinnie Lang. Among the new teams (Alma, Calvin, Hope, and Olivet) Trine will play in conference, Hope was the consensus choice among Lang, senior captain Dalton Madsen and assistant coach Christopher Olney who they wished to play for the first time. “Hope will be a tough challenge for us [since] they have been established…I think they will give us a run for our money” says Olney. Madsen had his opinion along the same lines: “they have played club lacrosse, (a step below NCAA Division III) but they have had a good couple of last seasons.”

However, Trine’s biggest rivalry is one that carries over from the MLC: Adrian. Having been humbled all three times they have matched up with the Bulldogs since the inception of the MLC, everyone realizes that they are the MIAA top dog until proven otherwise. Coach Lang called “the cream of the MIAA crop” and Madsen shared the same thoughts, saying “that [Trine is] probably going to be second stacked up with Adrian because Adrian is just a powerhouse.”

The long seven hour bus rides, the hotel stays the night before games, to getting to see the sights and sounds of a variety of states across the Midwest are a thing of the past. The creation of the MIAA brings with it the opportunity for Thunder men’s lacrosse establish themselves as a perennial conference contender and reach Trine’s first NCAA men’s lacrosse postseason tournament bid in their young history.


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