By: Evan Schlotterbeck
The Muhlenberg men’s lacrosse team began their 2023 campaign by taking the back-to-back defending national champions, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), to triple overtime, erasing a four-goal deficit in the fourth quarter. While the Mules ultimately lost that game, their gritty comeback followed by the convincing victories over Colorado College and DeSales University earned the team something more special than tallies in the win column.
Following the RIT overtime defeat, the Muhlenberg men’s lacrosse team found itself ranked in the top 20 nationally in Division III for the first time in program history, landing 14th on Inside Lacrosse’s list and 18th in the United States Intercollegiate Scholastic Association’s rankings.
Jake Suesserman ‘23 speaks to what the ranking means to the program. “A national ranking means a lot, not only to our current team but to all the past guys in the program who have put in a ton of work to elevate this program to where it is now. It’s a huge testament to the skill, talent, and competitiveness of our roster this year, as well as to the commitment of the teams that came before us.”
This is a tremendous achievement for the team and Muhlenberg College, but the Mules are adamant about ensuring it does not distract them from reaching their goals this season. “It means a lot to be recognized on the national stage,” said captain and pre-season all-American Ethan Grossman ‘23. “Our goal has always been to win the Centennial Conference, but after competing with the two-time defending national champions, we have raised our expectations considerably.”
Many things went into pushing the team into the national rankings, the most important being their commitment and willingness to remain consistent and diligent in practicing hard and studying film. “Guys are making it a point of emphasis to excel at the little things, both in practice and time away from team-mandated activities,” commented Suesserman. “We are playing physically and technically sound defense, sticking to our coaches’ game plans, and sharing the ball on offense, helping us generate high percentage shots.”
Being a champion in any regard is exceptionally unique. Many teams win games, but few move on to become champions; students, athletes, teachers, or coaches that live and breathe hard work and passion for improving, with the ultimate target of winning so often that it makes their competition sick to their stomachs. This ranking shows that the Muhlenberg men’s lacrosse team understands what it takes to embody this status.
What goes into accomplishing the goals of a champion, though, often occurs behind the scenes. “We are just trying to get 1 percent better every day,” said Suesserman. “We are focusing not only on studying the teams we are going to play but also analyzing our own game to tweak and critique it as we move deeper into the season. Practices have been very competitive in all aspects, and it is clear guys are really bought into doing everything they can to contribute to the ultimate success of our team and program.”
As the Mules move into the heart of a very cutthroat schedule, it will be crucial to continue to push themselves every day to maintain this level of success. The Centennial Conference is one of the best in Division III, and the Mules are in a great position to compete for the title this spring and preserve their national ranking. “We understand that we have to hold ourselves to a high standard every day to maintain the ranking we have worked so hard for,” explains captain and goaltender Max May ‘23.
Over Spring Break, the men’s lacrosse team will travel to St. John Fisher University on Mar. 11 and to the neutral location of Nashville, TN, for a matchup against Emerson College on Mar. 16, two games with the potential to help the Mules build considerable momentum going into their conference schedule.