“Sage has a lot going for it,” said Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach Ryan Lanigan of what attracted him, Assistant Coach Christopher Fleming and 30 competitive student-athletes to Sage, all eager to be part of the new Gators men’s lacrosse team.
Sage’s conference, Empire 8, is one of the best in Division III for lacrosse, said Lanigan, with teams in the country’s top 20 almost every year. Sage’s location is another advantage, he continued. New York’s Capital District has the job opportunities and quality-of-life amenities college students and young professionals want, and is centrally located between hotbeds of high school lacrosse in Long Island, Syracuse, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New England.
These qualities helped Lanigan with his priority since he joined Sage in 2017 – recruiting. He’s met prospective student-athletes from across the Northeast – Sage’s traditional area of influence – and also from Georgia, Ohio, Minnesota and Colorado. “We even had a Skype call with a young man from New Zealand,” he said in an interview with CapitalDistrictLax.com. “I guess that shows the word is getting out about Sage men’s lacrosse.”
He looks for young men who want to play college lacrosse and are the right fit for Sage in terms of their educational goals. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of finding them, thanks to a lot of help from administrators, admissions, everyone.”
Lanigan himself played for a startup lacrosse team as an undergraduate at Lebanon Valley College. He said that experience, as well as his work as an assistant coach with established teams at Misericordia University and Assumption College helped him see possibilities for men’s lacrosse at Sage. In Division III, four schools have won the national championships in lacrosse for 15 years, he told CapitalDistrictLax.com. “On the other hand, Sage has never competed in a collegiate men’s lacrosse game, which is the exciting part for me. Our team gets to write the first page of our history book … From there, we will define our legacy.”
The team is mostly first-year students – only two attended Sage last year. “I want to be competitive year one,” said Lanigan “but I can’t wait to see what these guys look like after playing together for three or four years.”
He liked the effort and attitude his players exhibited during the fall practices and scrimmage allowed under the NCAA’s non-traditional season regulations. Now as the spring semester gets underway, the team is practicing six days a week. The first game, a non-league game against Western Connecticut State, is on February 23.
“At the end of every game, I want the other team to think, ‘Man, Sage outhustled us,” continued Lanigan, “but off the field I want Sage’s men’s lacrosse team to impact the college and the community in a positive way.”
He’s especially proud of the team’s work with the Beverwyck Renegades and City Lax Albany, mentoring organizations that make the sport accessible for all youth in New York’s Capital District. One team member started a new Sage Fishing Club, several work on campus and others visit area elementary schools with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s Chompers Reading Program.
“We have the right pieces to not only be a competitive lacrosse program but to also be successful young men off the field,” said Lanigan.