Haslett/Williamston varsity boys lacrosse is only six years old, but the program is sending three more players — Graham Riley, Connor Jacobs and Noah Taylor — to play college varsity lacrosse a year from now.
And two other players, Adam Ball and Jake Gornick, plan to play at the club level.
Prior to this season, Haslett/Williamston has only sent three players to the college level.
“This sport is growing very quickly in our area, and as that happens, so has the interest in playing at a more competitive level,” Haslett/Williamston coach Brent Taylor said. “It’s a lot of fun to watch this program develop and produce players like this, that are going to play in college.”
Taylor cited the sport’s growing popularity in the area and the program’s recent success as reasons why his players chose to look to the next level.
“This is only the second class of seniors that’s played with our program from fifth grade through the high school level,” said Taylor. “As the program has grown and the level of attrition in the program has declined, the guys have shown more interest in playing in college.”
Adam Ball, who will play on Central Michigan’s club team next year, agreed that Haslett/Williamston’s success, including CAAC league and league tournament titles last year and CAAC league runner-up finish his year, persuaded him to keep playing in college.
“Our team is playing at a high level and is more committed, and I found that the harder we played and better we’ve done, the more I wanted to keep playing,” said Ball. “I didn’t care about the recruiting process as much. I just truly love the sport and wanted to find a team where I could keep playing.”
Graham Riley’s decision to commit to NCAA Division III Ithaca College in New York was also inspired by his team’s continued success.
“I wasn’t ready to give up this sport after high school, especially as the competition and dedication on our team has gotten more serious,” Riley said.
Riley chose Ithaca because of the program’s continued success in the Empire 8 league and the NCAA Division III tournament.
“I’m most excited to get the opportunity to play in an NCAA tournament,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the level of commitment and hard work at the next level.”
Connor Jacobs cited commitment of his current team as one of the many reasons he chose to play at NAIA Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.
“It seemed like most of my friends were trying to play in college, and so it really got me thinking about it,” Jacobs said. “It seemed like it was something everyone was at least thinking about.”
“The college playing experience is supposed to be on such a different level, and I wanted to see what that was like,” Jacobs added.
Taylor noted that this season offered a unique twist to the recruiting process, because he helped one player in particular, his son Noah Taylor, through the lens of both a coach and a parent.
“As a coach, I was really involved in the recruiting process for these guys,” Taylor said. “I wrote recommendation letters and spoke to coaches on behalf of the players. So I had a close look at the process that I was able to relay back to the parents.
“I learned about the process from both angles, and I think I was able to use that give some advice to the players and the parents.”
Taylor’s son, Noah Taylor, will play for Hamilton College in Hamilton, N.Y., an NCAA Division III program in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). Taylor originally committed to play Division I with Furman University in Greenville, S.C., but decommitted due to Furman’s relatively young program.
“I chose to play Division III and win rather than play Division I and lose,” Taylor said. “With a newer program, you’re going to lose all the time. I wanted to play somewhere I thought I could help win.”
Coach Taylor said that while he’s happy to see his players reach their goals, he’s also pleased with the effect it’s had on his current players and younger program.
“It’s exciting for the younger guys coming up through our program to see these kids accomplish their goals,” said Taylor. “People get to see that playing lacrosse in college does not have to be a dream scenario.
“It’s a motivator for the current kids, and I hope we can continue to develop a culture of sending guys onto the next level.”