When it comes to college lacrosse, Ian Wolfe has known nothing but starting programs from scratch. He did it as an undergrad at Lake Erie College, then again as a graduate assistant coach at Lourdes (Ohio) University. Two and a half years after being hired to do the same thing here at Columbia College as its inaugural head coach, and a year after sharing conference head-coach-of-the-year honors, Ian Wolfe’s team is ready to take the next step.
After fielding a team that was predominantly freshmen last season, Wolfe’s classes are starting to balance out. This year, his roster is comprised of five freshmen, 13 sophomores, a junior and four seniors.
Like the rest of his colleagues on Range Line Street, Wolfe is pleased at what he can sell to incoming recruits, and because he has plenty of experience with new programs, has assembled a corps of players who want to get in on the ground floor. “Columbia has a lot to offer. If I were playing again, I’d want to be here. What’s not to like?”
Even though Wolfe’s goal is for each incoming recruiting class to be better than the one before it, he’s also quick to point out the advantage the veterans possess. “The returners all have a full year of college lacrosse under their belt; they understand the game at the college level,” Wolfe says.
Those returners are looking to improve upon an inaugural record of 6-9 and 2-4 in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, yet that record was deceiving; five of those losses came to top-10 programs, and three of those five came by three goals or less.
One of those returners, senior attacker Sam Crum, will be counted on to conclude his Cougar career the way he started it last year. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native led the team with 38 goals and tied for the team lead by assisting on 16 more on his way to earning first-team all-KCAC honors.
Crum will be counted on to helm a squad that, Wolfe says, displays “flashes of greatness;” he’s looking for more consistency from the Cougars this season.
The schedule should once again provide a challenge for the young squad. After the March 2 season-opener on R. Marvin Owens Field vs. Michigan-Dearborn, the Cougars head to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to face preseason No. 4-ranked Indiana Tech. That is one of seven games against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the preseason NAIA national poll. In addition, half of Columbia College’s six KCAC contests feature such competition.
Wolfe loves that his players recognize when their good day is still not good enough. “Our guys work really hard every single day. They’re not complacent; they’re ceaseless.”
And because of that, Wolfe envisions a better season for his team than his colleagues have projected. “We have a very bright future ahead of ourselves. I foresee us playing at a high level.”