NCAA Men’s Lacrosse: The rise of Mount Olive

Wayne Cavadi |
Last Updated – May 13, 2016 09:11 EDT

It’s hard to believe that five years ago, the University of Mount Olive didn’t even have a men’s lacrosse team. It’s even harder to believe that in the four years since the team’s inception, they are a combined 44-19 and have quickly embedded themselves in the nation’s elite of DII men’s lacrosse.

Head coach Mike Murphy came to UMO four years ago with no head coaching experience. He was the top assistant at Catawba, and was instrumental in leading that team to its best season in the program’s history. Four years later, he has established the lacrosse program at UMO as one of the finest in the country, having never seen a losing record. UMO debuted in 2013 behind a 7-7 record. Since then, he has led the Trojans to three consecutive double-digit win seasons all culminating in three straight trips the the Conference Carolinas Championship game.

They never had reached the NCAA postseason, however. That is until now.

“It has been a tremendous experience watching this team grow from a brand new program to one participating in the NCAA tourney,” Murphy said. “This senior class reflects our program’s journey. Each year they matured and developed on and off the field and have been able to instill hard work to each of the classes coming in after them. It is incredibly rewarding to have these men become leaders right before my eyes. The level of pride and dedication they have shown the past four years has culminated in the NCAA tourney. In a way, they understand that this is their program and they built it from a new team to a nationally ranked one, and they will be able to say they accomplished what very few have done.”

Murphy has a bond like no other with his team, especially the seniors. Names like Ross “Rocky” Bowman — UMO’s goal keeper and first All-American — and Matt Shields — UMO’s all-time leading scorer — along with ten other seniors, have grown from nothing to something together. That something is a Top Ten team in the country.

“Personally, I care very much for my team and this group of seniors,” Murphy said. “When I started here at Mount Olive I was a first time head coach so I grew with them and it makes me very happy when I think of what we have accomplished together. This is my first four-year class anywhere, so hopefully I remain in contact with all of them throughout their lives.”

Shields — the All-Conference Carolina First Team attackman — was amongst the first to become part of Trojan lore. He’s averaged 36.5 goals over his illustrious career as one of the conference’s premier scorers. Shields knew that he had an opportunity to start his second family at UMO when considering where he would play.

“What originally attracted me to Mount Olive was the small campus,” Shields said. “I liked the sense of small community like a family. Also the fact that they never had team was a big attraction because it was a chance to help start the program and do big things in the program’s early years.”

In his four years since, he has not only grown as an individual, but has been able to grow with a close knit group of seniors, reaching new heights seemingly every season.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey for us seniors as this team has improved each year and achieving what we had set out to do,” Shields said. “We were lucky enough though as freshman and sophomores to have some upper classmen that were transfers that were great leaders, guys that really helped pave the way for us and teach us how to be leaders in our own right as well as how to be a great teammate.

For more on their remarkable story, head on over to NCAA DII’s official website for the full interview by clicking on the link below:

College lacrosse: Mount Olive primed for its 1st NCAA tournament appearance

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