January 3, 2013

Arthur Stares Down Challenges for Westminster

Senior midfielder is LM's MCLA Division II Preseason Player of Year

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Westminster (Utah) midfielder Jake Arthur scored six goals in last year's MCLA Division II quarterfinal matchup with Davenport, bringing the Griffins within a goal of an upset.
© Shooting Star Photography

His coaches and teammates call it the "Jake Stare."

It's the point where Jake Arthur is no longer taking advice, feedback or interest in any of his surroundings. It's just him with his sites directed firmly on his objective. On the lacrosse field that means it is Arthur, a senior midfielder for Westminster (Utah), with the ball in his stick and a six-by-six square as his target.

"Sometimes he gets into his own zone and you have to wait for him to come out," Westminster coach Mason Goodhand said. "For the most part, that zone has been a good zone, so we don't need him to come out of it too quickly."

The last time we saw the Jake Stare, it was in the quarterfinals of the 2012 MCLA Division II national tournament. With the Griffins locked in a close game with then-defending national champion Davenport, Arthur's blinders appeared. He scored six goals, charging past defenders as if they weren't there, bringing Westminster within a goal of an upset.

"I get to the point where they'll keep telling me things and I'll just get in my zone," Arthur said. "The analytical part escapes me sometimes. This is what I'm going to do, and I'll do it."

The lacrosse rendition of the Jake Stare is just one — and, in the grand scheme of things, the least consequential — of many versions. It has also been spotted around other extra-curriculars and in the classroom.

A four-year member of the campus ROTC, in conjunction with the University of Utah, Arthur's focus resulted in him being named Battalion Commander, an honor bestowed to the top cadet, putting him in charge of training 119 other trainees in the program. It also produced a 3.85 grade point average in biology and admittance to the Uniformed Services University medical school, which begins in August.

The pursuit of medical school, along with a two-month stint in Germany with the ROTC this summer, has made Arthur scarce on the Westminster lacrosse field this fall. It might not be the optimal situation for a team with championship aspirations, but Goodhand isn't worried about Arthur's springtime readiness.

"Sometimes when a kid has that much talent, you have to take them when you can get them," Goodhand said. "With the Army, he would be doing physical training at 6 a.m., being all he can be, and then he would come out and win every sprint that we would run at practice."

Arthur is a self-admitted conditioning nut. It has paid off in drills and between the lines. He finished second in goals (47) and third in points (61) for the Griffins, who finished 16-3 in 2012. He'll be the centerpiece of a stacked Westminster squad this spring.

"I love just working out. It makes me happy," Arthur said. "I definitely take pride in it and I work hard to finish the sprints first because I hate losing. I want to be in front. I like being the best. Of course, that doesn't always happen."

Finishing on top hasn't happened to the Griffins since 2008, two years before Arthur arrived on campus. The last three seasons, Westminster has lost by a pair of goals or less in the quarterfinals of the MCLA national tourney, with two of the defeats at the hands of the defending Division II champion. Goodhand, however, feels like his squad this year has the same makeup of that '08 edition, and while the Griffins' success won't rest exclusively on Arthur's shoulders, he could be the catalyst if he picks up where he left of last spring.

The only aspect of his game that could slow him down at is what's happening between the ears.

"I think with all athletes, they gain confidence in themselves when new challenges arise, and that confidence helps feed them in times of doubt," Goodhand said. "Jake has just started to scratch the surface. 'Hey, wow! I can accomplish this.'"

"I've always had the ability. I don't think I got too much better," Arthur said. "I just got more confident in what I could do. And having teammates with confidence in you definitely impacts the way you play, because I play better when my teammates trust me."

There will undoubtedly be times this season when the Griffins need a goal and will put it in the stick of their best midfielder. When they look through Arthur's facemask, it's a good bet they'll like what they see staring back at them.

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