Russell ready to lend Mavs a hand
Josh Russell could have stayed in a Division I lacrosse program.
Instead, the redshirt sophomore at Colorado Mesa University wanted to help build a Division II program.
Russell, who is from Denver, went to Stony Brook University out of high school, then transferred to Mesa a year ago, but had to sit out a year. He is the captain for the second-year Colorado Mesa men’s lacrosse team.
He is one of three Division I transfers on the team this season. Kyle Wollenhaupt transferred last season after a year at the University of Denver. Danny Duresky transferred after Presbyterian (S.C.) College discontinued its program and is the only senior on the team.
“We’re setting high goals for ourselves, but we’re not worried about what people think on the outside (of the team),” Russell said. “We’re trying to find ourselves first.”
With 14 returning players, including their top four scorers and goalkeeper, the Mavericks not only look to build off last year (6-8), they expect to contend for the Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (WILA) title.
“We have a couple goals this season,” CMU coach A.J. Stevens said. “One is to win the conference. We got third last year, so we feel we’re in good position to do that.
“Beyond that, to keep maturing as a team. Our whole team, with the exception of one kid, are all freshmen and sophomores. Right now, we’re making a down payment on our future, but our goal is to be successful while we’re making that down payment.”
The returning starters include Trace Wollner (attacker), Stuart Foster (defender), Johnny Nitti (defender), Giuliano Sanchez (defender), John Moore (midfielder), Kade Robinson (midfielder) and Brad Brandenburg (goalie).
Mesa hosts a scrimmage with the University of Colorado club team at 3 p.m. Saturday at Walker Field, then opens the season next weekend with RMAC rival Adams State, which, like the Mavericks, started its program last year.
The Colorado Mesa women’s program has similar goals after finishing 4-9 in its first season.
“With the group of kids we have, I really believe we can go far places,” CMU coach Abby Simpson said. “We are a new program, but we are the most competitive team in this conference. I think all the teams in this conference are going to be surprised. I think they’ll be expecting the team they saw last year and we’re not the same team.”
The Mavericks have eight returning players from last year, sophomores Allie Henderson (midfield), Amanda Simon (midfield), Kate Diamond (midfield), Tayler Lansdown (attacker), Morgan Nance (midfielder), Lauren Wells (goalie), senior Myka Wiebe (defender) and junior MacKenzie Alexander (defender).
“We have a lot more talent this year,” Simpson said. “Last year, we had to work a lot on fundamentals. This year, we worked more on the strategy of the game.”
Freshman Lauren Elliott (defender) could make a big impact for the Mavericks. Lexie Chavez, Rachael Sutton and attacker Keri Kopchik shore up the middle.
“We’re much more aggressive,” Simpson said. “The girls have been wanting to get after it.”
Colorado Mesa begins its season against WILA rival Regis at Noon Saturday at Walker Field.