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What Happened to Sam Houston State Lacrosse?

This is the fourth part in a series of articles about former MCLA teams primed for a comeback. Click the links to read about UNLV, Weber State, and Louisiana Lafayette. This time we will be going over the history of the Sam Houston State lacrosse program.

The Sam Houston State lacrosse team was founded in 1980 by Joe Fritts, a student at the school at the time. He was a player/coach for the team until he graduated in 1984. The team continued to play and operate smoothly after Fritts’ graduation. By the fall of 2008, the team was still player run and was coming off an 0-8 finish in their first MCLA season. Fritts was living in Denver, missing lacrosse, and so he decided to follow his passion and moved back to Texas to coach the team.

In Fritts’ first season as head coach, the team finished 5-4. They were led by two, star freshmen on each side of the ball. Attackman Michael Mann had 46 goals and 25 assists and defenseman John Messer had 93 groundballs, one goal, and two assists.

In 2010, Sam Houston went 10-3 and won the LSA DII Championship. They did so in dominating fashion, scoring 20+ goals five different times and allowing three or fewer goals six times. Their top three scorers, Wil Nielsen, Brendan Gawronski, and Zachary Fry all had 40+. They were also all freshmen, giving a preview as to what the next couple years of the LSA DII would look like.

Texas A&M assistant, Jim Perouty took over head coaching duties in 2011, and the team had equal success as the previous season going 9-2 and winning the LSA DII again. Michael Mann returned after missing the ’10 season to put up 40G, 30A, and Gawronski and Fry both had 40+ points again. The next season went the same way, 13-3, LSA DII Championship, team led by Michael Mann (70G, 51A), John Messer (110GB, 1G, 1A), and newcomer Travis Tabb (54G, 36A). In 2013 they won their fourth LSA DII title in a row but faced a big problem.

Sam Houston was down to 15 players, seven who were seniors. Four of the five leading scorers were leaving the next year and there was only one freshman on the team. The next year despite getting a new head coach in Derek Skinner, and only having 12 players on the team they completed the 5-peat in the LSA DII. From 2015-2017 they had three different head coaches, but still did pretty good, however never made it back to the LSA DII Finals.

The ultimate demise of the team came in 2017 at the end of the season. The team spent more money than they brought in and when vendors came to the school asking for their money, the school decided to suspend the team indefinitely until they repay their debts. Since that news broke there have been no updates I could find about the team.

The Bearkats run from 2010-2014 remains one of the most dominate ones in LSA history, Division I or II. Only one other team has completed a 5-peat (Texas ’95-’99), and since the MCLA was officially created no LSA DI or DII team has more conference championships. With a strong history of success and great support from founder, Joe Fritts, there is no doubt that Sam Houston State will eventually form a lacrosse team to compete in the MCLA again.