Whittier College in Orange County, California, is the latest college to drop its NCAA lacrosse program. This is extremely disheartened because the school was the only NCAA lacrosse team in the state of California. Whittier College played a huge role in the growth of lacrosse in the state in the 80s and 90s.
The team was founded in 1981 by Doug Locker who had graduated from Whittier two years prior. They joined what was at the time called the California Collegiate Lacrosse Association (CCLA) which included California, Claremont, San Diego State, Santa Clara, USC, Stanford, UC Davis, UCLA, and USCB. In 1983, the league was renamed to its current name, the Western Collegiate Lacrosse League (WCLL) and now included Arizona, Arizona State, Northern Arizona, and Cal Poly. The growth was thanks to Arizona lacrosse legend and league president at the time, Mickey-Miles Fenton.
The Poets dominance started in 1985 with their first WCLL Championship. From 1985 to 1999 they won 10 WCLL Championships and lost three meaning they only failed to make the finals two time in that 15-year span. This is by far one of the most dominate runs in lacrosse at any level in any time period. Their WCLL dominance ended in 1999 when they left for NCAA D3. To put into perspective how dominate they were, in the 21 seasons since they left, UCSB has won two national championships, Cal, Sonoma State, and Chapman have each won one, and yet none of those four teams along with powerhouses Cal Poly, Stanford, and Santa Clara have as many WCLL titles as Whittier does.
The Whittier Lacrosse program’s transition to NCAA D3 went well considering the Poets made the NCAA Lacrosse National Quarterfinals in 2002. That same year, coach Doug Locker was named NCAA Division 3 Coach of the Year. Locker later became the GM of the MLL San Francisco Dragons, then of the NLL Stealth, and is currently the Director of Lacrosse Analytics for the San Diego Seals.
The Whittier Lacrosse program continued to be successful after Locker’s departure and made many more NCAA D3 Men’s Lacrosse Tournaments and even had multiple players go pro in both indoor and outdoor. The Poets achieved all of this while having to travel to the east coast multiple times a season, playing two-to-three games in a single weekend. Something that most other NCAA programs never have to deal with.
Hopefully everything works out for the current players and committed recruits. Hopefully Whittier can field an MCLA team after their last NCAA season to keep the program’s strong tradition alive.