When talking about successful lacrosse regions around the country, not many people would expect to see Minnesota on a list of "lax hot beds."
Traditionally, the game was mastered by prep schools in New England but in recent years it has expanded into such places such as the Carolinas, Colorado and California.
A group of local teams has been working to change that stereotype by competing for the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) championship for the past five years.
The MCLA is a league comprised of over 300 collegiate teams across nine conferences in two divisions. Schools are divided into the two divisions primarily based on size of enrollment, with Division I being generally made up of state schools and large private universities and Division II consisting of smaller private colleges and universities.
The 2012 MCLA Tournament in Greenville, S.C., hosted four teams from the local Upper Midwest Lacrosse Conference -- the University of Minnesota-Duluth (Division I), North Dakota State University (Division II), St. John's University (Division II) and the University of St. Thomas (Division II).
Minnesota-Duluth, St. John's and St. Thomas have been perennial members of the national playoff scene since 2006. During that time, all three teams have enjoyed varying success, with Minnesota-Duluth making a push into the quarterfinals in 2007, St. John's earning two championship appearances in 2006 and 2007 and St. Thomas winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. North Dakota State is a relative newcomer having earned its first at-large invitation in 2011.
All four teams made good showings in this year's MCLA tournament.
Minnesota-Duluth faced off against top-seeded and top-ranked California Polytechnic (Cal Poly), which ended in double overtime in favor of Cal Poly. North Dakota State upset higher-seeded Briarcliffe squad before falling to St. Thomas in the quarterfinals in a close game. St. John's defeated first-round opponent Elon University before falling to University of Dayton in the quarterfinals.
St. Thomas proves to be the big story as the Tommies advanced to their fourth consecutive national title game with a win over Dayton on Thursday, May 17.
After winning titles in 2009 and 2010, St. Thomas fought its way back to the 2011 championship game but was defeated by Davenport University (Michigan).
At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, the Tommies will look to make MCLA history by being the first team to ever win three national titles as they face off against Grand Valley State University from Michigan. The championship game will be aired on national television courtesy of Fox College Sports.
The University of San Diego in 2005 and 2006 is the only other team in MCLA Division II history to have won two national championships.
Alumni, family, friends and fans of all kinds of the Tommie lacrosse program will be gathering at Tiffany’s Sports Lounge just a mile south of the University of St. Thomas campus to cheer on the squad. All are invited to come out to enjoy some great food, the exciting atmosphere and the strong tradition of Minnesota lacrosse.