Mercyhurst lacrosse coach named Coach of the Year

As athletes get older, they love to remember the glory days of their careers. They will tell stories to anyone who will listen about how great their careers were.

Men’s lacrosse Coach Chris Ryan doesn’t have to think back too far.

After guiding the men’s lacrosse team to the 2011 National Championship, Ryan was named Division II Coach of the Year on Oct. 21. He will receive the award during the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association/ United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association luncheon Dec. 2.

“It is a terrific honor, and I was very surprised by it,” Ryan said. “Two things make this great: The first is that the award is voted on by my peers, and two is that it speaks highly of the assistants and student-athletes in the program.”

Ryan guided the Lakers to a 14-2 record, but he didn’t do it alone.

“This is a family award for us. One of the main components for our success is to be consistent, and our coaching staff has been together 10 years,” Ryan said.

Ryan became the men’s lacrosse coach in 2001 and has consistently put out winning teams. With a 123-31 record, Ryan ranks in the top five among active coaches for winning percentage.

In Ryan’s 10 seasons, his Laker teams have lost more than four games only once. In that same time period the Lakers have put together eight seasons with double-digit wins, including each of the last three.

“We have built a great foundation, built on good people,” Ryan said.

Ryan and the team have continued to celebrate a victory nearly five months after the championship game.

“All our eyes have been focused on the 2012 season, but every couple of weeks something comes up to take us back to 2011,” Ryan said.

After such a transcendent run to the title, could the Lakers have a hangover effect in 2012?

“We definitely had one in 2008, but we have learned from our mistakes,” Ryan admitted.

In 2008, the Lakers were coming off a loss in the national championship after a 13-2 season. The 2008 squad went 9-4, Ryan’s worst season since 2002.

“I thought long and hard about that season,” Ryan said. “I think fall ball was a little more stringent than in years past to help get the point across that it’s a new season.”

The 2012 season will have to compete against the heightened expectations that last year’s team didn’t have to face.

“Last year’s team was a work in progress all year, but they kept finding ways to win and hit their stride at the perfect time,” Ryan said. “It was unexpected, but well earned.”

Thankfully, the Lakers return 17 upperclassmen that helped build the foundation for the championship run and are looking for a repeat.

“Winning the award was a nice way to finally close the 2011 season, and it puts us on the path for 2012,” Ryan said.

The Lakers begin their title defense Feb. 25 at Wingate University.