The Michigan Intercollegiate Conference is the nation’s first conference. It is also home to some of the top D3 Men’s Lacrosse teams in the Midwest. During the 2022 season, Hope and Albion challenged each other for conference supremacy.
**MIAA Conference Tournament Champion
Hope had an undefeated regular season and won the regular season conference crown. Albion avenged an April loss to Hope in the Conference Championship game. The win secured Albion a birth into the NCAA Tournament. The Brits hosted their opening round tournament game, defeating Dubuque 11-8 before falling in the second round to the RIT Tigers, the eventual D3 National Champions.
2023 welcomes a new face to the MIAA, Casey Hogan takes over as the head coach of Alma College. To get you ready for the season, we had a conversation with Hope’s Head Coach Michale Schanhals and also checked in with each of the coaches for a Fall Ball update.
Interview: Michael Schanhals Hope Lacrosse
How are you feeling coming out of fall ball?
For us, it’s just about that continual improvement process, and we’re just trying to get a little bit better, a little bit better every, every year. The way that season ended last year, was disappointing. And, and it gave us an awful lot of motivation and had us take a hard look at things.
We sort of piqued peaked a little earlier than we wanted to, and we were a bit by the injury bug pretty hard toward the end of the season and, and we lost one that we’ve we felt like we should have won a game.
To be honest, it was a tough way to end it for our seniors. Those guys had quite a run. So I think the book on us, is that we lost all our guys. But the guys that we have coming back have a ton of experience and motivation. We’ve got a heck of a class of, of upperclassmen this year that are very experienced, and they’ve done a nice job of helping each other rally. We are very pleased with what we saw and love our new guys. Just a fantastic young, excited crew of dudes. This is a really good group of people. And they’re, they’re excellent at taking care of one another. So we’re very happy with the way that the fall went. And we’re super, super excited to get to this fall.
Hope and Albion have battled it out the last few years to be the top team in the MIAA. Can you talk about the overall competiion in the MIAA and how your prepare for league play?
A little bit of history for me, coaching at Hope pre-MIAA and pre-NCAA, it’s a dream come true to have the conference that we have. We’ve really had to work and earn and scrap to get competitive in the conference. It’s always been that way, and I think it’s going to be maybe the most competitive year that we’ve ever had, top to bottom.
So if you look at the talent and returning talent, you know, Trine’s bringing in a lot of young talented guys and they’ve got a new coach who’s got them really super fired up down there. Adrian is working hard to get back to the standard that they set as really the first MIAA chamipons and even prior to that, when they were in the Midwest Conference with Albion before the MIAA. n the head coaching positions at each spot. So I think it’s going to be another great year. I have a ton of respect for what Jake has done at Albion and that has` developed into a pretty good rivalry.
There’s a lot of fight and scrap in every single program in the league right now. Everyone just keeps getting a little better, a little better, a little better. So it’s been really fun to be in the mix. I have a ton of respect for my colleagues.
We’re seeing the game grow quite a bit and you have a great history. You played at Hope, coached locally at East Grand Rapids before returning to Hope and helping them transition from a club program to an NCAA program. What did you learn about that process?
I was having a conversation with my father, the other day, and, and he’s like, boy, you remember when you started, and you had 15 Guys, and you had to go find them in the dorm, you know, on game day to get him to the field on time. And, and I’m like, Yes, I do.
Super, super happy to be where we are right now. But also, you know, pretty humble, because, you know, exactly, how this how this whole thing could be and so I’m always grateful for the support we have now and, and the facilities we have, and the just a great group of men that we get to work with, and awesome coaching staff.
I feel super lucky to be, you know, where we are, right now, for sure. So, I think, you know, it takes more than just, you know, a dedicated group of people who want it to happen, it also takes administrative support and that was something that, you know, there had to be a certain level of trust built over many years with our administration, and they really have our back now and the campus is rallied behind us in a super fired up for us and the athletic department is especially supportive, and, and fired up for our success. And so it’s, it’s been really cool. been really fun process.
Let’s chat about recruiting, what does your recruiting footprint look like? Does it expand and extend beyond Michigan?
Oh, I think we naturally draw as far as our student body a proportion like that. But we’ve got a guy from San Diego rooming with the guy from New Jersey this year. Yeah, there’s, there’s some pretty cool, there’s some pretty cool combinations.
We’re fortunate that Hope has really strong academic programs that they can hang their hat on nationally, the pre med program, the engineering program, some of the business tracks that we have, and in the pre professional programs, and so, it’s, it’s not a stretch for a kid to come from far away to study, which is the most important thing, right? It’s like, Why would you come? Why would you come from Texas? To study? Well, we’ve got an engineer, and he’s from Texas, and he’s crushing it in the classroom and, and a great kid and a great player, you know, so, we’ve got little stories like that, but that’s not the norm.
The bulk of our guys are, you know, are from the Midwest, the Metro Detroit area, Grand Rapids, or Chicago, typically. They play physically, run their tails off, and are willing to work together.
How have you seen the MIAA benefited from the growth of the game in Michigan and the midwest?
I think that’s probably the biggest thing, in the MIAA there’s so many more talented players in Michigan now. Now they have a place to go play varsity lacrosse at each MIAA institution. If UofD or Michigan or if one of the D1 schools dont snap them up, there’s plenty of really talented players left for us.
Our league is continuing to grow, you know, its depth, basically. We’ve always had some talented guys, but now there’s a lot, across every single roster, there’s much more depth. We’re starting to compete in Region Five and in the Midwest in general at a higher level. I think that that’s promising and I look for that, trend to continue.
Fall Ball Recap
“The story about Adrian College lacrosse for the 2023 season is going to be about how do we respond to the loss of the Class of 2022. With fiive starters graduating, the common narrative will be that we cannot do what we did last year and will slip up. The nice thing is we had SO many freshmen contributors last season at every position that we feel very confident that the experience they got last year is only going to benefit us in the long run. This season will prove to be a big test for us with a tougher schedule out of the MIAA and knowing that many of our MIAA opponents brought in some great recruiting classes.” -Brett Wetzel
“It is easy for us to feel great coming off our 2022 Spring tournament championship, and being the only team in the league that has played for all nine Championships and winning five out of nice obviously is rewarding. However, for us, Fall is a great time for us to try things out.
Mainly, what we do is spend the time teaching principles and fundamentals rather than working on schemes or installing offense. We always have such awesome young players, and we spend time really focusing on what we are looking for at Albion as a college player, and that takes time to develop. We did have some solid First-years do well over the course of our fall season and it was a pleasure to see them continue to develop! In addition to the frosh, we had a few pleasant surprises in the sophomore class as well; guys with all the potential in the world really took the off-season to develop and shape their game after their frosh years. Professionally, this is why we choose to coach, and when you see this in the fall on Day 1 with some of the most talented kids working so hard in the off-season to help their team it is incredibly rewarding.” -Jake DeCola
“We are feeling extremely confident. The boys on the team have adapted to a lot of change this off-season. In that change has been incredible growth and belief in our new direction.” -Casey Hogan
“Coming out of fall ball we are feeling great about where we are at. Calvin has continued to invest in our program, adding a strength and conditioning coach this year who the guys have been working with all off-season. We have a great group of young talent coupled with fantastic senior leadership. We are excited and have never been more motivated to put in the work required to be successful on and off the field this upcoming spring.” -Dave Hoger
“We are feeling confident coming out of fall ball. We graduated four key players last year, but return the majority of our starters from 2022 and have a freshman class who will help us.” -Vincent Redko
“We definitely feel we took a step forward as a program this fall. We are still figuring out who we are and what our identity is in year two, but the guys really have been buying into what we’re trying to accomplish. With it being our second year here the challenge this fall was to add layers on to what we did last year while getting our new players acclimated to the college lifestyle.” -Ryan Kuhn
MIAA Preview Courtesy of the Coaches
Rather than looking at scouting reports for an opposing team, we took a different approach. This year we asked the coaches what they respect most about one of their fellow coaches and their teams in the MIAA.
“Overall I think as a conference the level of play has grown tremendously over the last few years and that’s a testament to what all the coaches are doing at their respective schools. The level of play and coaching is tremendous and forces us all to lose a lot of sleep over the conference season and we expect to see that again this year.” – Ryan Kuhn, Trine
“I think all the guys in the league do a solid job, and it is good to see the improvement overall of the MIAA on the lacrosse side. However, since you asked specifically, I really admire the rebuilding work that Coach Wetzel has done over at Adrian in the last few years since taking over. The program he inherited was at the bottom of the league and last season they finished top three. I think if you look at that timeline, it is impressive and it is easy to understand why young men want to play so hard for Wetzel. They bring back a really good group and will always be tough.” -Jake DeCola, Albion
“I obviously have to give a nod to Albion here and my mentor Jake DeCola. The way that they have been able to have this sustained success over the last 7 years has been very impressive, even with the challenges from Hope. Knowing the way that Jake does things and seeing how they have continued to operate is something that we are striving for with our program here at Adrian.” -Brett Wetzel, Adrian
“Albion runs a 10-man ride that’s tough to imitate and beat. Turns a lot of turnovers into good offensive opportunities.” -Casey Hogan, Alma
“I admire Hope’s energy and competitive level. They are fun to play against – they play hard, with class, and keep a level head throughout the ups and downs of a game.” -Vincent Redko, Kalamazoo
“I admire all of the coaches in the MIAA for different reasons. They are a great group of coaches and men who I have the utmost respect for. I really appreciate what Vince Redko is doing down at Kalamazoo with his program. He has continued to build it from nothing and has recruited some really talented players over the last few years. I believe he cares deeply about his guys not only as players, but as young men, and is someone doing it the right way. We have had a lot of great conversations about ways to enhance the player experience and have bounced ideas off of each other. I know we are competitors, but I’m excited to see how they take another step forward this spring.” -Dave Hoger, Calvin
Returning 2022 All-MIAA Players
Midfield – Sam Puzevic, Albion
Attack – Michael Mann, Hope
Attack – Ethan Rottell, Albion
Midfield – Brock Yabs, Albion
Defense – Cameron Reed, Adrian
Goalkeeper – Sam Spangler, Adrian
Defense- Will Tessin, Albion (2022 Rookie of the Year)
Attack – Jace Conley, Albion