2012 UMD Bulldogs Men's Lacrosse Team
For a program that has so much success — Minnesota-Duluth has been to the MCLA national tournament in 11 out of the last 12 years — it's a minor miracle that the Bulldogs have been able to do it with head coaches only able to show up on game days and weekends.
Both Rob Graff, who was the architect of Duluth's ascendency and coached through 2010, and Frank Clark, who was the coach the past two seasons, lived and worked in the Twin Cities — a solid two-hour and 30-minute drive from UMD. As such, it was only sane that they be selective about their on-campus attendance.
They were around for games (many of which were played in the Cities), but practice was usually limited to so-called "Coaching Weekends," when the team would practice Friday night, twice on Saturday and then finish on Sunday morning. This season, that dynamic has completely changed with the hiring of Sam Litman, a Duluth resident, as the new head coach.
Litman, a UMD grad who played under Graff, has been the proxy coach for years, but now he officially resides in the corner office.
"I've been the main coach in Duluth for the past nine years since I graduated from the program," Litman said. "I think it's great for players to hear one voice all week long instead of one of coach at practice and another coach at games and during the weekend practices. I've noticed that it pushes them that much harder because the person they have to look up to is there every day. It couldn't have gone any better."
As it turns out, Litman's tenure as the Big Dawg will start with a much larger obstacle than just a sleepy, two-hour drive up I-35 through Hinckley, Sandstone and Moose Lake, Minn. With the UMLC dipping below the MCLA's six-team threshold for an automatic qualifier to nationals, Duluth already knows it is relegated to the hyper-competitive at-large race.
"Each game for us is a playoff game and each game matters more now than it ever has," Litman said. "It's never been a free ticket to get to nationals — we've had to earn it — but at the same time, we've got to do our work during the regular season to get a chance to get in there."
Even with the coaching changes and a different path to the postseason, Litman expects the Dawgs to stick with its roots as an intimidating, defensive-based program.
"That's definitely remaining constant," he said. "We still pride ourselves on defense, playing hard-nosed ball and playing a bit more physically than others. At the same time, our coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball — Brian Hochman and Casey Mithun — has really raised the level. We'll have creativity on offense and not be quite as conservative. You're going to see a team that is willing to push the ball and move it a bit quicker and bring up our shots per game total, as well."
Duluth is off to a 3-0 start and has hit the 19-goal mark twice — a feat the Bulldogs only accomplished twice all of last year — so the new offensive ethos appears to be working. That, however, came against some relatively weak competition. The real season starts this weekend when 18th-ranked UMD hosts No. 15 Cal Poly and No. 2 Arizona State in the Twin Cities.
Both teams would appear to be a tough match-up for Duluth, but the Dawgs know they can run with anyone after last year's performance. UMD met Cal Poly, which entered the national tournament as the second seed, twice, losing in San Luis Obispo during the regular season, 9-6, before taking the Mustangs to overtime and losing, 10-9, in the first round. Cal Poly went on to play for the national championship, losing by two to Colorado State.
"That loss left a bad taste in mouths of the upperclassmen, who worked hard over the summer to get themselves prepared," said Litman of the season-ending loss to the Mustangs. "We're not taking on Goliath."
And Duluth is no David. But with a new coach and no AQ, every game will be a challenge.
DULUTH, MINNESOTA - The Minnesota-Duluth men’s lacrosse team has announced their upcoming schedule for the 2013 campaign. The Bulldogs have assembled one of the most difficult schedules in program history, facing five separate conference champions from the 2012 season and three of the four MCLA Final Four Participants.
The Bulldogs will open their season against Minnesota State University, Mankato on February 9 in Minneapolis, MN. This will be the MCLA debut for two first-year Head Coaches, UMD Head Coach Sam Litman and MSU Head Coach Tom Korrie. Coach Litman is a former All-American goalie for UMD and was recently promoted from Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator. Coach Korrie comes to the Mavericks with 25 years of experience that includes a playing career at Syracuse and coaching stint with Cornell University.
“Fall ball has shown the character this team has, which is a huge compliment to our new head coach Sam Litman. I couldn’t have asked for anything more with how Sam stepped into the head coach role. He did it with excitement, passion and love, which all of the players responded to with such high energy,” Offensive Coordinator Brian Hochman said. “It makes me even more excited for our season which is right around the corner." Defensive Coordinator Matt Kruse felt the same way, saying “Sam as a coach is nothing but a great thing for our program. He is a perfect example of a Duluth Lacrosse Player.”
The following weekend Western Michigan and Iowa State travel to Faribault, MN for a weekend of games with Minnesota-Duluth.
Duluth’s next challenge will arrive from out of state on February 22 and 24, as Cal Poly San Louis Obispo and Arizona State University come to the Twin Cities. Cal Poly is the MCLA National Championship Runner up. While Arizona State is coming off a season in which they reached the MCLA Final Four.
On March 9, University of Wisconsin-Madison comes to Minneapolis, MN for the first regular season matchup between these two programs. “We are pleased to start scheduling UW-Madison and hope this can be a yearly rivalry. Madison will once again be a threat to win the Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference,” stated Litman.
Spring break will feature contests with tournament quarter finalist Michigan State University on March 15, defending National Champion Colorado State University on March 19 and closing with GRLC Champion and National Tournament qualifier University of Illinois on March 22. This is an ever-important road trip for the Bulldogs in their quest to earn a bid back to Greenville, South Carolina for the 2013 National Championship. “Chicago will also be a very challenging week, it will be exciting to challenge last year’s National Champion, Colorado State,” mentioned Captain Stan Drutowski. The University of Missouri will be waiting for them in Minneapolis, MN on March 24 to close out their out-of-conference schedule.
UMD will play their only “true” home games of the season at Minnesota-Duluth against St. Cloud State and the University of Minnesota on April 7 and April 20 respectively.
Minnesota-Duluth has had a number of close games with teams on this year’s schedule in recent years making senior defenseman Kevin Soderholm more motivated then ever. “We have some unfinished business this season, especially for the seniors,” Soderholm said. “We look forward to the opportunity to have a second chance with Cal Poly after the outcome of our game at Nationals last year. We know they are going to be prepared, and so are we.”
With the loss of our automatic qualifier, every game is a tournament game for us this year. We cannot take a night off. We must perform to the top of our abilities as a team every time we step onto the field. This group is up to the challenge this schedule holds,” added Coach Litman
“A big part of what we pride ourselves on as Bulldogs is that we are a family and not just a bunch of individuals,” added Coach Kruse. “This year I see everyone is buying into that mentality. It seems to me the guys all have a blast when they play. When that happens, you allow your natural abilities to combine with everything you have learned and your game seems to hit that next level, no over-thinking.”
The Bulldog's full schedule can be found at www.umdlacrosse.com and can be followed on Twitter at @Duluthlacrosse.
The Bulldog's full schedule can be found at www.umdlacrosse.com and can be followed on Twitter at @Duluthlacrosse.
DULUTH, MN – Head coach Sam Litman has announced the captains for the University of Minnesota- Duluth Men’s Lacrosse team for the 2013 season. Kevin Soderholm and Stan Drutowski will lead the Bulldogs this spring.
Kevin Soderholm, a senior from Eagan, MN, was an All-American honorable mention and earned First- Team UMLC honors last season on defense. He has been a cornerstone of the team’s defensive unit for the past two seasons as a starter, and will be a major contributor this upcoming season. Kevin came to the Bulldogs from Eastview High School and is majoring in Statistics.
“I am following in the footsteps of a long list of great captains and I hope I can meet and exceed the expectations they have set before me. Every player who has been a part of Duluth lacrosse, past and present, has the goal of leaving the program better than when they have found it. The motto speaks for itself and the opportunity as a captain has placed it much closer to heart. The coaching staff has put together a challenging schedule this year and I can't wait to see what we can do with it. We have a young, athletic, talented, and hard working squad. I just can't wait to battle with this group of guys.”
Stan Drutowkski, hailing from Rosemount, MN, is a redshirt senior at the midfield for Duluth. He came into the program as a walk-on defensive midfielder, but worked his way into the offensive rotation and will be expected to lead the offensive attack for the Bulldogs in 2013. Stan scored 14 points last season, notching 11 goals and 3 assists. He is studying Marketing and will graduate this spring.
“I am extremely honored to be a captain at Duluth because I know how good our former captains
were. Being a captain means my peers choose me to lead them for an entire season. To me, that means I need to set the standard for the way guys on this team should act and play,” said Drutowski. “I take this role very seriously and it motivates me to improve myself as a player and person every single day. We are also fortunate to have a lot of good leaders on our team who aren’t captains, I learn things from guys like that every practice.”
Sam Litman will make his debut as head coach this season after being promoted with the departure of Frank Clark. “We have fantastic leadership on both ends of the field with an offensive and defensive player being selected as captains,” said Coach Litman. “Both Stan and Kevin are pure, natural leaders. They set the example and their peers follow. They are humble and selfless and that positively affects those around them. Their teammates truly look up to them as leaders and that’s why they were selected to be our captains for the 2013 season.”
“I expect to continue what we have been doing as a program: win the UMLC Championship and secure a spot at nationals,” explained Soderholm. “This year we do not have an automatic qualifier to the national tournament, so our regular season matchups have become even more important. I believe we are very capable of reaching our goals and the team believes as well. It's important to have these goals, but now that they are set, we focus on today, knowing our daily grind can get us there.”
“We have a great group of guys this year and the sky is the limit. We are a young squad and there is an energy I have not seen from any other team I have been part of at UMD,” added Drutowski.
“We have put together one of the hardest schedules in our program’s history and look forward to the leadership these fine young men can bring to our teams and help us reach our goals” said Litman. The Bulldogs will release their schedule in the following weeks as they prepare to defend the UMLC Championship.