25 Years of Coast Guard Lacrosse – 25 Years of "Old Bears”
It’s hard to believe, but the 2008-2009 season marked the 25th year of Coast Guard Academy Men’s Lacrosse. Starting from humble beginnings that included teams with barely enough players, playing in uniforms that rarely matched – the Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse Team is now a member of the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA), competing in the Pioneer Collegiate Lacrosse League (PCLL). The PCLL has an automatic qualification to the MCLA National Tournament and consists of Boston College, Boston University, University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University, University of Connecticut, University of Rhode Island, Stonehill College, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Framingham State College, Central Connecticut State University, University of Maine – Orono, University of New Haven and Bridgewater State College. As the silver anniversary of Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse was celebrated,
the goal was to honor the past and ensure success in the future.
How did the Men’s Lacrosse Club come into being? Understanding and documenting our past is critical to charting the team’s future course to success. While the founding and administration of the club was undoubtedly a team effort, supported by many different cadets, faculty and staff through the years, one of the key figures in the founding of the team was John M. Senyard, CGA ‘83. Discussions with several classmates revealed LT Senyard’s intense love for the game of lacrosse. As a cadet, LT Senyard, a Maryland native, was often seen roaming the decks of Chase Hall with a lacrosse stick in hand. He attempted on several occasions to start a Men’s Lacrosse team without success. However, his persistence and example to junior cadets sparked the launch of the Men’s Lacrosse team during the spring following his graduation. Unfortunately, LT Senyard was not able to witness the Men’s Lacrosse team grow into the highly competitive team that exists today. He was killed in an aircraft accident in Ilhithi, Kenya in 1989 along with his classmate LT Anthony Czapowskyj. Following his untimely death in 1989, LT Senyard’s parents started the LT John M. Senyard Lacrosse Endowment that has been the life blood of Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse since 1989. LT Senyard could very well be considered the "Father of Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse”. As part of the silver anniversary of lacrosse at the Academy, and as a way to honor LT Senyard, the team adorned their new game uniforms with the Class of ’83 crest and JMS on the right sleeve.
The spring of 1984 started official club play. The team had to borrow a goal from Conn College, dodge baseballs, javelins, hammers and flickerballers during practice and play all of their games on the road. After the first three years, the team had grown to 25 strong, including an occasional ineligible 4/c goalie who had to be snuck out for every game and football linemen recruited with the enticement at "not only can you hit people, but you can use this 6-foot stick, too!” During the intervening years, the Men’s Lacrosse team developed into a highly competitive team. 1994 saw the first winning season (7-2), with a thrilling overtime victory over WPI, a spring break trip to Daytona, FL and a hard fought win against Fairfield University (who went NCAA DI Varsity the following year). The Bear’s only losses that season came at the hands of the Naval Academy Prep School (NAPS) and Dean Junior College – both feeder schools for highly competitive Division I programs.
1999 was another banner year for the Bear’s, who completed an undefeated 12-0 season that culminated in a PCLL championship. Like many other seasons of Coast Guard lacrosse, 1999 was filled with challenges and adversity, including the unexpected departure of the coach, early morning practices, battles for field space and recruiting players who had never seen the game of lacrosse before (this time, hockey players). The hard work and tenacity of the team paid off with three regular season overtime victories against perennial powers University of Rhode Island (URI), University of New Hampshire and Boston University. The BU game was a 4OT affair and went down in PCLL history as one of the league's most exciting games. Other highlights included close victories over WPI and UMASS and a thrilling 9-5 victory over URI on the lower field the Sunday prior to graduation to clinch the championship. Six Coast Guard players were names First Team All-PCLL and one was named PCLL MVP.
Most recently, during the Spring 2008 campaign, the Bear’s achieved their first ever national ranking in the MCLA Division II National Lacrosse Poll en route to finishing as runner-up in the PCLL Division II tournament.
Over the years, the team has also racked up several individual honors including (click here for a full list of individual honors):
Mike MacDonnell (CGA ’00) as USLIA/MDIA 2000 First Team All-American, Defense;
Jon Gryzb (CGA ’02) as USLIA/MDIA 2002 All-American Honorable Mention, Defense;
Jay Kircher (CGA ’06) as USLIA/MDIA 2006 All-American Honorable Mention, Attack;
Coach Scott Ostrowski, PCLL 2008 Division II Coach of the Year;
Pat Powers (CGA ’08) as MCLA DII 2008 Second Team All-American, Defense;
Kyle Ennis (CGA '11) as MCLA DII 2009 All-American Honorable Mention, Midfield;
- For the first time in program history, Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse had two MCLA All-American selections in 2010:
Kyle Ennis (CGA '11) as MCLA DII 2010 All-American Third Team, Midfield and
Greg Bernstein (CGA '11) as MCLA DII 2010 All-American Honorable Mention, Defense.
In 2004, to help maintain a tradition of lacrosse excellence at the Academy, the "OLD BEARS” Lacrosse Network was formed. Presided over by Sean Cross, CGA ’94, and assisted by Doug Goodwin, CGA ’94, the "OLD BEARS” is an informal group of former players, coaches and friends of the Coast Guard Lacrosse Program that follow the team throughout the season, supporting events such as the Spring Break trip to Washington, D.C., assisting with recruiting and completing minor fund raising projects to assist with yearly expenses.
To more fully represent the history of Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse, the "OLD BEARS” are looking for former players and coaches to join our ranks. Please call or email Sean Cross and Doug Goodwin to be added to our roster. We are always willing to talk lacrosse, so send us stories from your seasons. Finally, check out the new "OLD BEARS” Blog at http://www.cgalaxoldbears.blogspot.com/. Check out the blog for information on official "OLD BEARS” gear. We hope that the blog can be the next link between honoring the past and ensuring future success of the Coast Guard Men’s Lacrosse Team.