(Photo by Bob White)
It's fall ball season. Hope springs eternal. Everyone is 0-0 and in the hunt for the natty.
As such, we're checking in with programs across the country and divisions to see what's happening. We're continuing with Western Washington coach, Joe Finnell, and senior Michel Shideler.
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After going 3-5 in '22, the Vikings bounced back with a 7-4 mark with only two losses coming against a D-II team. Was that improvement expected or did the team jell a little faster than expected?
Joe Finnell: The '22 season was a tough one for us. We came into the season with a handful of returning players and a group of freshmen and sophomores who hadn't played a game in a couple of years due to covid. We had a small roster, so the goal for us that year was to have as much fun as possible and build a culture.
Last year we were fortunate enough to have all guys from the '22 season return and a batch of freshmen who wanted to compete right away. The team culture we started building from the '22 season has stuck around and we started focusing on doing the basics better than our competitors, which led to a successful season last year.
Last year's roster was really young. Who are the leaders on the team and who do expect to make a jump for this season?
JF: Our main leaders are Alex Schreck and Michel Shideler. They treat this team like it's their job and have been doing all the work behind the scenes to make this a great experience for their teammates.
These guys can ball and are a great focal point for the direction and culture of our team. Outside of Michel and Alex, we expect to see some big things from Benny Bisquera, Kian Maestretti and TJ Victory. They are some fiery offensive players who command the field.
Western Washington was in the discussion for Texas last year, but the schedule just didn't have enough pop. Is that something that the program has been working on this year? What's the schedule look like?
JF: Building a respectable schedule is hard to do when you go 3-5 the year before. Obviously, we wanted to push our team as much as possible during the '23 season, but there's not a lot of leverage with that record.
In contrast, it's been much easier to schedule ranked games this year. It's obvious that we can compete at the national level and the games we are scheduling this year reflect that. Expect to see a competitive schedule for the Vikings this year.
The way that PNCLL-II is set up, you have some significant trips for conference games. Montana is an eight-hour bus ride! How do you budget for that along with your non-conference trips? Do you use any creative methods to raise money?
Michel Shideler: Our budgeting starts months before the season starts. Alex [Schrek] and I lay out where every dollar is being spent for travel and how we can keep the team’s future success in those very same plans.
When it comes to our closer conference games, the team takes our personal vehicles to keep more of our money for longer away trips. Longer road trips don’t just require a lot of money, but time as well, so when we travel, we try to double up as many weekends as we can to stretch that time we travel.
The best teams in the MCLA don’t just rely on the budget on hand; they grow with how much they fundraise. We have put our players in the driver's seat for the team's growth.
Our vision for fundraising is to serve and engage the community first. We ask them to not just reach out to their families, but to reach out to our student body and the growing Washington lacrosse community. Fundraising events that we have are less about the money we make, but more about growing our community and lacrosse that is played here in this state.
WWU has a proud tradition, including a run to the national semifinals in 2015. What are the coaches, players and alumni doing to get the Vikings back to being a perennial tournament team?
JF: Getting the Vikings back to the national tournament is the main focus for us. The whole coaching staff is WWU lacrosse alumni. Myself and our defensive coach, Skyler Bridgman, competed in the 2015 semifinal run with the Vikings. We know what it takes and how much it means to compete in the national tournament.
To get there, we need to do the basics better than everyone else and do them consistently. On a stage like that, the pressure is high so you fall back on what you know. The stronger foundation we have, the further we will go.
[Want to participate in the "Fall Check In" series as a coach or player? Email [email protected] to request your five questions]