By Emma Doherty
With a new coach, new season, and new outlook, goalie Jake Keeley believes that the Ole Miss Men’s Club Lacrosse team is on the rise here in Oxford.
“I believe he is going to turn our program around and make up competitive in the conference,” Keeley said. “He definitely brings a whole new level of organization and knowledge to the team which is something we need and I am very excited. I think we will do great and I am really excited to be able to work with him.”
Lacrosse is more than just an after-school activity to him. It is something he has done for years and has shaped him into who he is today. As the team started off the 2020 season, Keeley saw positive changes in the program that has the potential to turn it around in the best way.
While being hopeful for this season, the new coach has given the team reason for excitement. Coach Matt Schroeder has a tremendous lacrosse coaching background and knows how to put together a winning team. This change in coaching was much needed, and from it, the players have started to build the morale that is needed to win games.
“Before coming to Ole Miss to coach us, he coached at Briarcrest in Memphis and he won two state championships there with that team, and before Briarcrest, he coached for five years at Virginia Tech and there he took them to the national championship and won coach of the year that season and he has a wealth of experience,” Keeley said. “I believe he is going to turn our program around and make up competitive in the conference. He definitely brings a whole new level of organization and knowledge to the team which is something we need and I am very excited. I think we will do great and I am really excited to be able to work with him.”
Despite not being the starting goalie, Jake is excited to see what will come of Ole Miss lacrosse as a whole. There is potential there and that potential is centered around the new coach. Keeley has always been around the sport like many others from Northern states. While he tried out other sports, he eventually realized that lacrosse was the one he was drawn to.
“Maryland is a big hotbed for lacrosse, so all my friends played lacrosse growing up and I was a little bit late to the game,” Keeley said. “But I just felt left out so I just got into it in sixth grade. I ended up really loving it and it was a great experience from then on. I definitely don’t regret getting into it.”
Not many students here are aware that there is a club team for men’s and women’s lacrosse despite the sport growing rapidly in popularity.
“One thing I would love would be to see more support from kids here either coming out to watch the games or even see more people want to get involved in playing. It’s a cool sport and really anyone can try out.” Keeley said.
While the lacrosse team hasn’t been one of the more recognized sports here on campus, Keeley hopes to one day see it expand into something that people enjoy to watch. While luck hasn’t always been in their favor, the push for a more successful season starts now.
“A goal for the team, at least me personally, would be for by the time my senior year comes around to be successful and make the playoffs,” he said. “That’s something Ole Miss Lacrosse has not done in a really long time and it would really be a big milestone for the team. I would love to be a part of something like that happening here at Ole Miss especially with this new coach coming in and hopefully turning things around. It has probably been around eight years since Ole Miss has seen a playoff game in Lacrosse and I would love to make that happen.”
Only time will tell if these dreams will one day become a reality for Keeley and the rest of the men’s team. There are a lot of changes that the team may see in order to improve this season and seasons to come. One of the main things Keeley claimed they needed to work on was the organization of the operation. Since it is a club team, the school itself is very hands-off.
“So, the big difference between playing a club sport here and being on a varsity team is that you have to be self-sufficient in things like funding, travel, hotels, food, stuff like that, even referees, uniforms, equipment. We have tried to do fundraising but it wasn’t too successful. That’s another thing I think we should try to better organize for the future because that money could really help us out.”
As well as enjoying the sport, playing a club sport here at Ole Miss has given Jake and the hundreds of other club sport athletes the opportunity to travel and perform against other schools in and out of our conference. Keeley has specifically been looking forward to SEC play while looking at the remaining games this season.
“I am really looking forward to going to Mizzou because I have a decent number of friends up there and we are going to be playing three games in a weekend which is something we haven’t really done and we are going to be playing a ranked Minnesota team so that will be a great experience for us.”
Keeley said when asked what he looks forward to in the rest of the season. While the opportunity to play lacrosse has been granted, he now has the means to see different cities and experience what they have to offer.
“I’m also really looking forward to going to play UGA in Athens because UGA has a good team and it will also be fun to see what Athens is all about because I haven’t been there before. Lacrosse-wise, UGA is one of our conference opponents so it would be nice to get a win over them.”