Cal State Fullerton just finished their first lacrosse season in the MCLA since 2018. The hiatus was not due to COVID, but rather a problem that has hurt other teams across the league, simply a lack of players.
Founded in 2007, the team had little success in their first two seasons in the MCLA. That all changed in 2009 when Ryland Huyghue took over. Huyghue moved to Southern California in the 1980s and is known as one of the biggest reasons for the growth of the sport in the area. In his only season with the team, the Titans won the SLC DII Championship and made the MCLA National Tournament for the first time, and five players were named MCLA All-Americans. Huyghue went on to coach many teams in the area and is currently the CEO of the Panama Lacrosse Association.
The following year Kyle Morrison took over the team and followed Huyghue’s success. The Titans won the SLC DII, went to Nationals, and had multiple All-Americans in both 2010 and 2011. Their high-powered offense had four 80+ point and five 30+ point scorers in those two years. After 2011, Morrison left to become an assistant at Chapman where he later won the National Championship in 2016.
From 2012-2013 they stayed a very competitive team, but never made the National Tournament, just missing it. In 2014, Mike Ansel who played for the team from 2009-11, took over as coach. Ansel had an impressive three season run ((66G, 40A) (78G, 26A) (67G, 19A)), was a three time All-American, and is the team’s all-time leading goal scorer. Under Ansel, the team went to Nationals in 2015, 2017, and 2018.
After the 2018 season Mike Ansel stepped down as coach. Things got worse when 24 players graduated on an already smaller roster, leaving only 11 returners. Not enough new players joined the team the following school year and they ultimately were forced to cancel the season and leave the MCLA.
The Titans luck turned around this past fall. Thanks to the efforts of Michael Snipes, a freshman on the 2018 team, as well as the help from past and present players the team, Fullerton was able to reorganize and recruit enough players to have a team again. They rejoined the MCLA this past fall and played their first full season since 2018. After successfully playing all of their scheduled conference games, the SLC DII voted to allow them to compete for the SLC DII in the 2022-23 season.
The story of Cal State Fullerton goes to show just how important the leadership of an MCLA team is. A group of players in charge of a team have the chance to save a team from disappearing with the right attitude and effort. The players being in control of the team off the field and being able to control the team’s future is what separates the MCLA from the NCAA and makes the league so special. Hopefully more disbanded lacrosse teams are able to come back just as Cal State Fullerton did.