Concordia University Irvine is a private Lutheran school of about 4,000 students located in Irvine, California with a very successful men’s lacrosse program. In the span of 15 years they were able to start an MCLA DII lacrosse program from scratch, win five conference championships, a national Championship, move up to MCLA DI, have multiple players play professionally, and move up to NCAA Division 2.
Their inaugural season was 2009 when they joined the MCLA to play in the SLC DII. They had 22 players, and went 1-8 with their only win being over Occidental, a school a fourth of the size of theirs which no longer has a team. Their first head coach was Will McMinn who played at UC Santa Barbara.
After a first tough season, the Golden Eagles never looked back and started their SLC dominance. The next two seasons they went 10-4 and 13-3, and in 2012 they qualified for the national tournament in just their fourth season.
In 2013, Ryan Brent, another former UCSB player took over as HC and they won their first SLC Tournament and made the national tournament again where they ultimately lost in the first round. They continued to win the SLC DII Championship every year until 2017. In that year they captured their first national championship with a 13-10 win over St. Thomas, which also happened to be played 30 minutes from their campus.
After winning the Division II National Championship, they moved up to SLC DI, and Ryan Brent stepped down as HC and former Maryland and Bayhawks defenseman Brian Cooper took over. They found immediate success going 12-1 before losing to Chapman in the SLC finals and Liberty at nationals.
Former Stony Brook midfielder Jesse Foss took over in 2019 and saw the same results of 12 wins, an SLC finals loss, and a first round of nationals loss. This past season they finished the regular season with 13 wins, but again finished with an SLC tournament loss and first round of nationals loss. Despite the recent playoff struggles, the Golden Eagles proved without a doubt they are one of the top MCLA DI teams. Now in their final MCLA season they hope to win it all and also become the first team to win a DII and DI MCLA National Championship.
The switch to the NCAA may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but the Golden Eagles were definitely well prepared for it. On the field, they practice more often and harder than the average MCLA team, and off the field they have already been recruiting DII and above caliber players as well as bringing in NCAA DI and DII transfers every year.
Their new conference, the RMAC, features two other former MCLA teams in Westminster and CSU Pueblo, as well as Adams State and Colorado Mesa. Adams State lost in scrimmages to Colorado and Air Force this year, and Utah Valley and BYU played close scrimmages against Westminster recently. Concordia University Irvine has already beaten BYU this year by eight, and are currently ranked higher than the other three MCLA teams mentioned so I think the Golden Eagles will do just fine next year.
Another factor that can lead to success is that Concordia University Irvine will have the only NCAA Men’s Lacrosse team in California. Whittier, an NCAA DIII team located about an hour away has seen consistent success at that level recruiting California players. Unfortunately, Whittier will no longer be NCAA, which means a lot of DII/DIII level recruits out of California will now look to Concordia as a top choice.
A lot of new NCAA teams struggle initially mainly because they have to start from scratch. Concordia has a huge advantage going into NCAA already having a great coaching staff, solid roster, and a culture of winning, so I’d say they are definitely ready for next season in the NCAA.