December 4, 2010

Holler at Your Hollow: OVU Repping West Virginia

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Ohio Valley will have 18 players on its inaugural roster this spring, including seven from West Virginia. Coach Carl Anderson is hoping that will be a solid building block for his program.
© Ohio Valley Athletics

Lacrosse in West Virginia.

It's a phrase you just don't hear that much, which is somewhat surprising. West Virginia clings to the western borders of three prime feeder states in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, but for a long time now the Mountain State has had just one collegiate lacrosse program.

Wheeling Jesuit, located in the state's northern arm that massages the back of Pennsylvania, has been around for decades, but it wasn't built by prep players from the 14 high schools that sponsor the sport in West Virginia. In fact, Wheeling Jesuit has more players from both Nebraska and Wisconsin than it does from its home state, which is zilch.

Another presence is about to emerge in Appalachia this spring, however; one that has a goal of giving West Virginians a spot at the collegiate lacrosse table.

Ohio Valley University, a small, Christian school with an enrollment of 501 students located in Vienna – right on the Ohio border – will be playing its first varsity season in 2011. One of its missions will be to significantly boost the stature of lacrosse in West Virginia.

"A lot of the kids from West Virginia want to keep playing and love the sport, and they'll have that opportunity here," said Carl Anderson, the Fighting Scots coach. "We'll find a couple of kids that want to do well and have the talent, but are just a little rough around the edges."

Not to say that OVU will be solely comprised of players from the hollows. Anderson is not putting any boundaries on his recruiting arena, and is already in discussions with a pair of California players for 2012.

"We're pretty much just looking to get anybody from anywhere if we can get some people who are coachable and have experience," said Anderson, who founded the club team at OVU in 2006 after playing prep ball in Connecticut. "We're recruiting for the situation we're in now and it's easier to get kids from West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania because we are close to home for them."

Anderson's recruiting efforts will be helped by some financial incentives. While he doesn't have the full complement of scholarships – the plan is to gradually build toward the maximum – they do have enough to make OVU an attractive destination in Division II.

Ohio Valley, which will be joined by Division III Bethany as West Virginia start-ups this spring, had the opportunity to make a huge splash in its first year and potentially lure name recruits, but opted for a more gradual evolution.

The East Coast Conference, the premier men's Division II conference boasting teams such as two-time defending champion C.W. Post, extended an invitation to the Fighting Scots to join its ranks – which already features two of OVU's natural West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rivals in Seton Hill and Wheeling Jesuit – but Anderson demurred.

"For us to jump into that conference right away would be like staring down the barrel of a gun," he said.

While Anderson envisions a day when OVU can revisit the possibility of joining the ECC, he and the school have opted for the independent route at this point. The schedule has games against newer Division II programs such as Shorter, Lake Erie, Grand Canyon and Lenoir-Rhyne, but also includes more established programs, most notably a February home date with Mercyhurst, which should be in the national title hunt.

The schedule is consistent with Anderson's vision of this inaugural season, which is about creating a foundation for the program.

"This first year is about laying the groundwork and getting things established, like getting our university used to having a lacrosse program and getting people to understand what it is," said Anderson, who has a link on his website entitled 'What is lacrosse?' "I'd like to go out and win a couple of games for sure, but it is not our No. 1 priority. I think if we can just get a couple of key guys to build a program around, I think we'll advance at a pretty rapid pace and that will lead to us putting checks into the win column."

The wins will come eventually. Right now, Ohio Valley is all about putting a new name with West Virginia lacrosse.

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