DENVER – The 2019 Johnson & Wales men's lacrosse team is all about growth and integrity.
Led by third-year coach Kurt Ohlen, the Wildcats are embarking on their second season as a varsity team after starting out as a club in 2013. Building the young program through recruiting is one of Ohlen's top priorities, and he's doing so with a certain student-athlete in mind.
"First and foremost, integrity is a key word for us. Whether we win or whether we lose, in everything we do, we try to make sure that it's done with a sense of integrity. We're going to do things the right way," Ohlen said. "We're going to play the game the right way – physically, hard-nosed, fast – and we're going to play clean. I hope the fans and the other teams in the conference will see that, and I certainly hope that they'll understand that this is a group of young men that are doing something special – starting a program here at Johnson & Wales. I hope that 'effort' will become one of the key words associated with our team this season.
The Wildcats return five starters from last year's team that went 1-11, including junior Coleton Threlkeld and senior Deshaunte Longley on the offensive side, and senior Robert Wanzer and junior Anthony Campos on defense.
Sophomore Jordan Livingston will be counted on to help out in a variety of different ways – as a goalie, a defender and team captain – while junior transfer Eric Walker (attack/midfield) freshmen James Compton (midfield) and Justin DeFoe (defense) are a pair of newcomers expected to make an immediate impact.
"I'm expecting and hoping to build a bond with each other, to make this year a changing year for JWU," he said. "A lot of guys are coming in not necessarily knowing what to expect, but they're coming in with a positive attitude and hoping that this team can grow together and be stronger."
JWU Denver is one of four men's lacrosse teams in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Association (Southwestern, Colorado College and Dallas are the others) as the conference is sponsoring the sport for the first time since 2014. Being part of a league adds plenty of fuel for the Wildcats as they gear up for the 2019 campaign.
"I would definitely say it's a big motivation. Now the guys are feeling like they have a chance to make something of themselves as a player and as a team," Livingston said "Having this opportunity definitely motivates me to be at my best and always try to give 100 percent, as well as the rest of my team. I feel like that gives them something to work toward."
After opening the season Sunday, Feb. 17, JWU will be on the road for the rest of the month with upcoming matchups against Northwestern-St. Paul, North Central (Minn.) and Northland. The Wildcats are also away from home for most of March before playing three out of their final four regular season home games at home: Southwestern on Saturday, March 30; Colorado State-Pueblo on April 6; and Dallas on April 20.
The SCAC Championship Tournament is slated for April 26-28 at Dallas.