By Will Conerly
In the Spring of 2020, Quincy University will be featuring another NCAA varsity sport: lacrosse.
Eric Ruppel, who was hired to be the head men’s lacrosse coach on Memorial Day weekend in 2018, saw an opportunity when initially applying to be the lacrosse coach at Quincy. Ruppel comes from Adam’s State University where he was the associate head coach. Prior to his time at Adams, Ruppel coached at the University of Dallas, Texas where he was named 2017 Lone Star Alliance conference coach of the year as his team finished 25th in the country.
Ruppel was born in Chicago, so he said it feels as if he is coming home upon his arrival at Quincy University. Ruppel has spent most of his life involved with lacrosse on the West Coast. Ruppel has coached in California, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas. Many athletes in these areas do not have many opportunities to play collegiate lacrosse, and the addition of a lacrosse program at Quincy University could be a potential home for many lacrosse athletes.
“When I started playing, there were only five NCAA schools west of the Mississippi,” Ruppel said.
The Great Lakes Valley Conference, which is the only Division II lacrosse conference in the Midwest, had its inaugural last year in 2018. Other true GLVC schools in the conference Lindenwood (will formally join in 2019), Rockhurst, Maryville, Lewis University (will be added in 2020), and University of Indianapolis.
In 2017, QU tried to launch a men’s and women’s lacrosse program but discontinued the project after the school had financial troubles.
Ruppel has been preparing for the 2019-2020 school year since he arrived on campus in May. His team will arrive on campus in time for the 2019-2020 season. Over twenty students have visited campus for the men’s lacrosse team, many of whom are from the West Coast.
“It’s why I took the job. I had a couple different job offers and this is the one that appealed most to me because it is completely from scratch. Which has made some long nights already, but it is all completely organic, I’m not coming into ‘this is how we did it before’ and that was a big thing for me. I started the UNLV club team, and so a lot of those traditions those guys still have today were started with us which was huge for me because everywhere else I have been, regardless of the success or lack thereof, you always hear that ‘this is how we did it in the past,’ Ruppel said.
This will be the same pitch prospective student-athletes will hear as well.
“They (future players) are going to feel very empowered, they get to create this team from scratch, create the traditions from scratch, they get to make it how they want to, they don’t have to come in with this overwhelming sense of fear,” Ruppel said.
Ruppel’s office is below the cafeteria, near the football offices. However, for the next several months, Ruppel may not be found in his office often because of the travel required to recruit.
“We will be very ready come August 24th when the kids come on campus because we have already had a whole year to prepare,” Ruppel explain.
Just being ready and having a functioning team is not what Ruppel envisions in the future for this program.
“The best part about Division II lacrosse is you can go very far with juniors. So, I plan to go very very far with juniors. The national champions last year, Merrimack, out of their ten starters I think seven of them were sophomores and juniors. So, you have an opportunity to be successful very quickly,” Ruppel said.
Ruppel’s assistant coach will be Brendan McCrudden, who is a student success coach in the student success center.
McCrudden played goalie at King’s college, a prominent Division III in Pennsylvania for four years.
McCrudden went into Ruppel’s office and expressed interest in the assistant coaching job and will specialize in working with the goalies.
“I am really excited that lacrosse is coming to Quincy. It is something that has been a big part of my life for a while, so it felt weird not being involved with it,” McCrudden said.
Some skills that McCruddenn utilizes with students during his day job will translate to the field as well.
“At the end of the day, I think both are extensions of each other. I have chances to help college students be successful whether that’s learning lessons in here through time management and stress management and some of those things that we talk about in here or out on the lacrosse field just talking about discipline I think that there is a lot of overlap,” McCrudden said.
Finding 25 people to come to campus is not a typical year for an NCAA college athletic team. The next month is the national letter of intent day, which is important for the program to get some official commits to the team.
“Right place, right time, I think I am really lucky to come in and be apart of a program. Especially building one from scratch, we’re not going to worry about old traditions or old stereotypes on campus when bringing guys in. We can create a culture and I think that’s going to be a big piece for us recruiting too,” McCrudden said.
Creating a tradition of lacrosse at Quincy University is the vision for Ruppel and McCrudden. The tradition will be created from scratch, and the team will set its own history.