Editor’s Note: Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, the NCAA lacrosse world was taken by storm by the Whittier Poets, located just outside of LA in California. The Poets started out playing mostly MCLA teams (back then I believe it was the USILA) and eventually picked up enough NCAA Division 3 teams to qualify for the NCAAs. From 2001 to 2003 Whittier was an enigma wrapped in a shroud of curiosity, but one thing was certain: The Whittier Poets could straight up play with ANYONE.
For this week’s Old School, we’ve got a couple photos of Whittier back in the day that we got from their facebook page, as well as a great write up from Brian Kelly on what it was like to play for the Poets back then. Kelly is now the Head Coach at Whittier, was an All-American as an offensive-minded longpole, currently plays in the LXM PRO Tour, and has played in the MLL.
What’s up Lax All Stars? Brian Kelly here, checking in from Whittier College in Southern California. After a few old school lacrosse pics went up on our facebook page, Connor asked me to share a few things about the program back then..
First and foremost, playing at Whittier and experiencing the success that we did is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. We took the lacrosse world by storm and as a result are undoubtedly recognized as one of the foremost pioneering programs in the history of NCAA lacrosse. Words could simply not do justice to the level of pride I take in what our program was able to accomplish.
Since the whole idea for this post was based off a facebook picture, I must say that the action shot (below) couldn’t describe the way we played any better – two longsticks pushing the ball up the field. This is who we were. A run and gun team with some of the best Canadian players of that time and we had a blast – our 19 goals per game in ’03 is still the highest single season total over at least the last 12 years.
There’s something special about being that fringe NCAA program that not only won games, but won games with some of the most explosive offensive production DIII lacrosse has ever seen. We were an unknown quantity that threatened the lacrosse establishment – and it’s funny to hear outside perspectives on our program from those days. Some accurate of it is accurate, and some of it has morphed into tall tales, but the bottom line is that we made a lasting impact on the lacrosse world.
We didn’t play a whole lot of defense back then with games routinely featuring 30+ goals combined, but there is no denying how enjoyable that style of play was – high risk, high reward. While we fell just short of our ultimate goal of winning a national championship, we are most certainly proud of leading the way for west coast lacrosse and hope to get back to playing at an elite level in the very near future.
Video from the 2007 alumni game:
The landscape of DIII lacrosse has changed dramatically in recent years making it even more competitive to rise to the top, but we are working as hard as ever to move the program back to the national spotlight. I want our current players to leave our program feeling the way I did when I was done playing – extremely proud of what we accomplish and what that ultimately means for the growth of lacrosse everywhere!