Colorado State University club sports teams won two national championships in 2012, one from a team in its first year of existence.
The new men’s disc golf team placed first in the Men’s Collegiate Disc Golf Championships on April 16, while the men’s lacrosse team defeated Cal Poly 7-5 on May 20 for the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association title.
On the way to the championship, CSU lacrosse defeated No. 6 UC Santa Barbara, No. 3 BYU, and No. 2 Cal Poly, avenging regular season losses in the semi-final and championship games against BYU and Cal Poly.
“We beat every team that was a real contender for this thing. There were only a couple teams in the top 10 that we didn’t play,” CSU lacrosse coach Alex Smith said. “We were worthy champions, there’s no one out there that we didn’t take care of.”
The Rams took advantage of a dominant defensive effort to claim their first national title since 2006 and fifth overall, setting a tournament record for goals allowed per game at 3.5.
“Over the course of the four games in six days our defense got better and better. One of the things we liked about our defense all year is that we were so deep there,” Smith said. “We needed everybody.”
Disc golf, on the other hand, won their title largely on the strength of two players. Jarrod Roan and Austin Montgomery were named first team All-Americans for their first and fourth place finishes.
“We knew we were both the best two guys on the team, and if we were going to win a national title it was going to have to come through both of us playing well,” Montgomery said. “It wasn’t just me and Jarrod though, Ezequiel [(Delatorre]) and Ryan [(Knuth]) both stepped up when we needed them to.”
The team shot a 789 for the tournament, 10 strokes in front of second-place South Alabama, a feat made more impressive by the fact that it was the CSU disc golf team’s first year in existence.
“It was a good feeling to put us on the map. That performance solidified us as a club sport now and hopefully forever,” Montgomery said. “It was awesome because we came in under the radar. The other teams had no idea what was coming.”
In addition, to the two teams that won national championships, CSU’s baseball team and women’s lacrosse team both finished second in their respective national tournaments.
CSU has so many successful sports clubs primarily due to the type of students that attend the university, according to Sport Clubs Assistant Director Aaron Harris.
“[They’re] people who want to go outdoors and be physically active, go skiing, go mountain biking,” he said, “and those are the types of students who are in shape and want to participate in those things, so stuff like sport clubs are very successful.”
Harris provides an important organizational structure that allows sports clubs to flourish.
“He does a great job giving us the opportunity to structure ourselves in the way we need to,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of flexibility that allows the students to decide what kind of club they want to have.”
Having such a strong structural backbone in place allows the students to focus more on competition, which often leads to success.
“I’m not the most organized person, but any question I had was answered in minutes,” Montgomery said. “That really helped take the stress off of me and let me focus more as a player.
Once the clubs are able to find success, that begins to breed more success.
“As teams do better, traditionally, students from out of state will come to CSU to play those sports,” Harris said. “There’s no recruiting for clubs for the most part. These are people who want to participate.”
Just because the teams lack Division-I funding, does not necessarily mean they are bereft of Division-I talent. One parent told Harris that nearly every member of the women’s lacrosse team had an NCAA offer, but they decided to play at CSU to have the college experience.
“There are people out there who don’t want to play NCAA sports,” Harris said. “You want to do it for fun, and without a doubt every single person in the sports club program is doing it because they want to have fun.”