Here come the Bulldogs: Barton plays inaugural men’s lacrosse match Saturday

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Now it’s the men’s turn.

Two years after starting lacrosse as a women’s sport, Barton College will send its first men’s lacrosse team onto the field Saturday for the first match in school history. The Bulldogs will host Lincoln Memorial on the field at Cardinal Gibbons High in Raleigh. Barton’s new turf-field stadium is still under construction so the season opener was moved to the turf field at Cardinal Gibbons.

No matter if the historic match is played here or in Raleigh, Bulldogs head coach Warren Shumate has been waiting for this day since he was hired in June 2017.

“Now that it’s just about 40 hours away, it’s pretty awesome,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday night. “Everyone knows that it’s  going to be a process but I think we were able to pull in a group of talented young men.”

Twenty-nine players from 12 states and Canada comprise the inaugural Bulldogs men’s lacrosse roster representing the recruiting efforts of Shumate and assistant coach Jeff Handman.

“It took a lot of work, that’s for sure,” Shumate said.

But the fruits of that labor are starting to become evident.

“It’s been getting easier and easier to cast a vision because you’re starting to see the pieces fall into place,” Shumate said.

While there are players from the traditional hot spots such as Maryland and New York, five of the Bulldogs are from North Carolina, which has seen lacrosse explode in popularity in bigger cities or even places like Greenville, Wilmington and Fayetteville in recent years. 

Shumate hopes that Wilson will join the ranks of high school lacrosse and he wants to help make it happen.

“I would love my guys to be a part of that and help start lacrosse in Wilson,” he said.

One of those homegrown players is sophomore Davis Stone, who played soccer at Community Christian School. Shumate said that Stone, who had never played lacrosse, approached him about joining the team as a walk-on.

“Davis walked on, sold me on his work ethic and just the type of kid he is, he’s been a heck of a teammate,” Shumate said.

Shumate, a Maryland native, also recruited four players from his hometown, Dunkirk, including freshman attackman Mason Chaney, who scored more than 100 goals in his high school career.

Sophomore midfielder Jake Copio comes from Delaware Tech Community College, where he ranked among the national leaders in the National Junior College Athletic Association with 57 goals. Sophomore attackman Jake Soroko, Copio’s teammate at Delaware Tech, was fourth in the NJCAA in assists with 39 last spring.

Goalkeeper Matt Stocks, who transferred from Florida Southern University, drew praise from Shumate.

“He’s probably going to see a good number of shots this year but, at the same time, he’s a top-notch goalie,” the Bulldogs coach said.

Shane Dodge, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound freshman defenseman from Delray Beach, Florida, brings a physical component to the Bulldogs defense.

For those unfamiliar with men’s lacrosse, it’s a bit different than the version of the women play. For one thing, Shumate said, it’s a lot more physical.

“You’re going to see more of a football contact, body checks, stick checks,” he said. 

The action, however, might look more like a basketball game with “lots of picks, rolls, presses, zone defense,” he said.

Barton, predictably, was the preseason choice of Conference Carolinas coaches to finish last, just behind Emmanuel, which was winless in 15 games. But Shumate isn’t concerned with the team’s final record this season.

“My goal is that this team develops and matures and if each guy is focused on being a great teammate and doing their part, we’re going to be happy with where we are at the end of the season,” he said.