Chance Williams | Staff Writer
As the 2022 men’s lacrosse season approaches, the Hampton Pirates are getting into gear. In February, the Southern Conference announced that the Hampton University lacrosse team would be joining as an associate member.
After previously making history as the first HBCU with a Division I lacrosse program, the Pirates will again make history as the first male HBCU program to join the Southern Conference, according to Watch the Yard.
The Southern Conference is home to schools such as the University of Richmond and High Point University. After being an independent team since its creation, joining an athletic conference is big news for the program.
“It means that we’re stepping in the right direction,” HU lacrosse player Aris Brown said. “We’re playing really good and competitive teams, programs that have been good for a long time. As we’re a new program, it’s good to start playing at the level of those teams.”
Hampton is looking to dethrone the previous champions, the High Point Panthers, this spring. In addition to being newly inducted members of the Southern Conference, the Hampton Pirates also will be playing their first game under new head coach Chazz Woodson, a former two-time All-Ivy League selection and Major League Lacrosse player.
“I think he’s a great coach,” HU lacrosse player Steele Downing. “He keeps us humble. He tells us what we need to work on, and compares us to the top schools in the country to show us how we need to grow. He keeps it 100 with you and tells you how he sees it.”
The Pirates also recently started practicing for the upcoming 2022 season.
“Starting day one, we all started with the mile, and we’re doing breakout sessions at certain times,” HU player Demarieh Wesley said. “It is going pretty well so far, and I just can’t wait for the season.”
HU players said they are excited to be back after the pandemic prevented them from playing last year.
“What I missed the most was the crowds,” Downing said. “When you’d score, they’d cheer for you. I missed the competition, too. It makes the game fun.”
Due to the shutdown caused by the pandemic, this will be the first time a lot of players will take the field for the Pirates. A significant aspect of every sports team is team chemistry, and the team has had no trouble building their own.
“I think COVID did affect us,” Brown said. “However, I also think that it made us closer. Before we even got to campus, we were already talking every day, playing video games together. So I’d say we’re a close group.”
Although players bonded before coming to campus, the work didn’t stop there.
“When we got to campus, we bonded very quickly because we already knew each other,” Downing said. “We’ve learned more about each other as we’ve gone along, and it helps us play better.”
After missing out on their chance to compete last year, players are ready for the opportunity to play again.
“I’m excited to play our first game in the Southern Conference and hopefully compete for a championship,” Wesley said.
Every team member is working hard, day in and day out, so fans can look forward to seeing all of their hard work pay off this season.