As the final whistle blew late Saturday afternoon the Central Washington University (CWU) Men’s Lacrosse team walked off the field with their heads held high even though they fell to the Western Washington University Vikings 12 -7 in Bellingham.

The Men from Ellensburg have come a long way since the end of 2015 season. Central, a team who finished last season with one victory in Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League (GNCLL) play, find themselves within playoff contention for the first time since 2008 after netting ten wins this season.

Central attributes much of their success to first year head Coach Will Houck, who has a philosophy of developing structure within the program, so that the team may excel on and off the field.

“I’m not going to say that a coach is the most important thing we have on the field,” Houck said. “But if you want to really succeed in this league and start stepping up your game you need to have some kind of structure.”

Houck, a former Central player, started his collegiate lacrosse career in 2011 and recently exhausted his four years of eligibility. Houck, still feels he has something to offer Central lacrosse and, took an opportunity to become the head Coach and immediately looked to adjust and expand things he felt were lacking when he was a player.

“I have lots of years of experience watching Central men’s lacrosse teams that I have played on just struggle on offense, only using one set and one approach, so I got to learn from that,” Houck said. “We now have five different offensive sets with a multitude of plays for each, so there’s definitely more structure behind the offense, instead of the freeform one sided nature we had for quite a few years.”

Houck’s changes to the offense were not the only parts of the team he felt needed an overhaul; he added a more ridged practice schedule that the players appreciated.

“It’s definitely more structured,” Club President Cooper Hayes said. “With the addition of the two coaches it’s just more structured everyone just wants to come to practice and wants to play and wants to get better.”

Houck’s push to reshape the lacrosse program was not solely his, as assistant coach Nick Palermo came on to help revamp the defense.

“It helps a lot that, this year that we have the addition of an assistant coach whose a defensive specialist in Nick Palermo,” defenseman Ted Trimble said. “He’s really given us a lot of structure on the defensive end”.

Going forward Central’s players feel they have the ability to beat any team in the playoffs including the top seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs, who the Wildcats played close earlier in the season before losing 13-11 in Spokane.

Central Men’s Lacrosse starts their playoff run versus Southern Oregon or Western Oregon at Boise State University April 29, 2016, time to be determined.

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