Journey of a First Year Program
We’ve been talking lots about expansion. We’ve talked about SEC and Big 12 lacrosse. Everyone wants that sexy addition. That said, we aren’t seeing expansion at the division one level. It’s coming from D2, D3, and NAIA schools.
If you were given the keys to a brand-new program, what would you do? Would you fold under the pressure? What would you worry about? There’s a lot of work put into building a program.
East Oregon University (EOU) is embarking on a journey. The Mountaineers are adding NAIA women’s lacrosse. They begin play in 2021. I’ve had the pleasure to meet EOU’s inaugural head coach (more on her later). We’ve been discussing lacrosse for a couple days. I told her I run Logical Lacrosse and would love to provide insight to you (the readers) on the innerworkings of building a new program. She said yes. Today, we’ll be covering the journey of EOU women’s lacrosse. Hop on the bandwagon and let’s get started.
East Oregon University
We’ll talk about the university first. EOU is located in La Grande, Oregon. The university tags itself as “Oregon’s rural university”. If you love hiking, skiing, and mountains, EOU is the place for you. The surrounding area is gorgeous. It reminds me of Colorado. La Grande is a cozy Oregon village. Need something to do for the weekend? Take a short drive to Morgan Lake. Go for a swim. Go fishing. La Grande is a nature lover’s personal heaven. Sick of the small-town vibe? Take a moderate drive to Portland, Oregon and enjoy all of its amenities.
EOU has a student population of 2,744. The school costs $8,679 per year for in-state students. “But Luke… I live in Washington. This doesn’t apply to me”. Don’t fret! EOU offers in-state tuition to Idaho and Washington residents. A nice perk! Out-of-state students pay $18,936 per year. This can be mitigated by utilizing the school’s Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program. Basically, all students from western America get discounts.
Academically, EOU offers anything you’d want. There’s business. There’s psychology. There are science programs. There are pre-professional programs too (law, medicine). EOU has the program for you (unless you are an eSports management major… who majors in that?).
EOU is an NAIA school. NAIA schools are comparable to division three programs. There’s one major difference. NAIA schools offer athletic scholarships (D3 doesn’t). NAIA schools are small. They’re typically located in non-lacrosse areas (Midwest, West, South). They’re a great opportunity for lacrosse players living in these areas. It’s tough to get noticed by eastern schools in Oregon. A lot of great players slip through the cracks and play NAIA.
Traditionally, SCAD Savannah (GA) and Cumberlands (KY) dominate women’s NAIA lacrosse. Both finished 7-0 before 2020’s cancellation. EOU plans to catch them one day.
East Oregon Lacrosse
Who’s responsible for leading EOU to the promised land? Monica Clarke Plut is the program’s inaugural head coach. Some basics on Plut. She’s from Toronto. Growing lacrosse is in her blood. Plut attended Georgia Southern University. She’s responsible for founding GSU’s women’s club lacrosse team (as a student). Before EOU, Plut led Adams State for one season. That’s a tough place to coach! If you can sign recruits at Adams State, you can sign them anywhere. Alamosa is in the middle of nowhere (trust me, I know).
Plut is a true ambassador of the game. After moving in, she immediately began instructing locals on lacrosse (youth and high school). She’s already hosted a four-week lacrosse segment at Elgin High School. She plans to do this at every local high school. Her ultimate goal is to create a high school lacrosse league. She will use the money to fundraise Oregon lacrosse growth. I love this. For Monica, it’s not just about EOU lacrosse. She truly cares about growing the game. She wants lacrosse growing at every level. It’s a good long-term plan too. In three years, she’ll have a solid pipeline of Oregon recruits.
So, what kind of coach is Plut? What’s her philosophy? Spoiler. She’s the kind of coach you want. With her, players and culture come first. No one is above the program. She emphasizes building relationships with every player. She prides herself on putting people in position to succeed.
Think you have what it takes? You might. If you have heart and never quit, Plut wants you. If you have heart and have a blue-collared attitude, you’ll thrive. She wants people who lift the program, not tear it down. That’s imperative! A first-year program can’t afford emotional vampires. Plut’s hoping to sign seventeen recruits. You or your daughter can be one of them.
Rewards and Adversity
While talking, I asked Plut what the best and toughest parts of building a program are. She’s confident and optimistic, while realistic. She sees the program becoming successful in five years. She needs girls who can set that foundation now. Even better, EOU’s athletic department is supportive. This is huge! A program won’t succeed with an apathetic athletics department. Plut prefers EOU being new. They’re no problems to fix. She’s not inheriting issues from a previous coaching staff. She isn’t leading players that didn’t pick her. Every player at EOU chose her. She can build the program in her image immediately (a dream for any coach).
Like any coach, Plut faces adversity. Her toughest task is spreading the word. EOU is a new program. Not many folks know about them. She’s utilized her connections at US Lacrosse and social media to spread the news; however, EOU is still relatively unknown. Building a following is difficult. Year one is always tough. Once games begin, EOU’s brand will grow.
Following a new program is fascinating. There’s so much work put into it. If you’re a women’s lacrosse player, I highly recommend submitting a prospective student-athlete form. I promise, Coach Plut will succeed. Don’t be surprised to see EOU’s name in the NAIA top twenty in a couple years.
Did you enjoy this article? Will you follow EOU? Did you like getting insight on a new program? Want more content like this? More expansion articles are coming too! Whatever your thoughts, air them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can comment directly onto this article by subscribing. By subscribing, you’ll be notified whenever I publish a new article. Any and all support is appreciated. Regardless, thank you for reading. Go East Oregon!