Whether you’re nearing retirement or graduating from college, hanging up your cleats for good can be tough. Stepping away from the game you love cold-turkey doesn’t seem fair. That’s why for some, like senior Forrest Lambert, it only seems fit to exchange his cleats for a clipboard.
After coming off a successful 2016 club lacrosse season, Lambert will take his talents to the sideline as the teams’ defensive coordinator for the upcoming year. He was the Roadrunners’ team captain last season also earning second team All-American honors and Defensive Player of the Year in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association.
“I think it will be a really awesome transition since I’m staying with a program that I have lots of great relationships already,” Lambert said. “I don’t have to do anything crazy to get the teams’ respect, and that’s going to make the whole thing a lot easier.”
Although Lambert is going into his senior year at MSU Denver, he has already had four years of eligibility making him ineligible to be a player. The six-foot-three former defensive middle spent two seasons with the Roadrunners after transferring from Wells College in Aurora, New York. He and a few other players transferred to MSU Denver at the same time as what Lambert called “NCAA refugees.”
“Me and a couple other transfers all showed up as sort of NCAA refugees from different programs and was the perfect storm,” Lambert said. “We all showed up on the same day and said ‘hey, let’s try Metro’ and now it’s crazy how far we’ve come.”
In 2014 the Roadrunners were ranked at the bottom of their conference. In just two years, with the lead of Lambert and sophomore attacker Logan Russ, they closed out the 2016 season ranked No. 18 in MCLA Division II. MSU Denver finished with a 10-3 regular season record losing to Montana State in their final tournament game.
Despite the moderately successful season, issues that plague club sports still exist. Each player is required to meet a certain criteria to play including taking a specific amount of classes. Because a bench player dropped a class, he technically was below eligibility causing the team to forfeit two games. Even though the Roadrunners won those games, because they had to forfeit MSU Denver was disqualified from going to playoffs ending their season with the tournament games.
Once the season was over, head coach Aaron Meyers stepped down and the team then hired former Roadrunner lacrosse player Daniel Hunter. The 38-year old has an extensive coaching record and also is the one who decided to put Lambert on the coaching staff.
“Lambert was excellent on the defensive side of the ball and contributed on offense as well,” Coach Hunter said. “He is a multisport athlete with an excellent lacrosse IQ. On top of all that he has a great personality and he’s a natural leader on and off the field. I’m looking to him to bring a quiet confidence to the defensive half of the field.”
That silent confidence is something that Lambert’s teammates took notice of as well. To be a team captain, not only is it voted on by coaches but players also. The spring season votes for their team captain entirely by the players so Lambert’s leadership, although not blatant is still very prominent.
“That gave me an awesome feeling that all the guys supported me but also put a lot of pressure on me to make tough calls,” Lambert said. “It was good for me though, because part of growing up is learning how to advocate for a bigger group.”
With a good coaching staff in order and the MCLA field wide open for someone to make a statement, the Roadrunners are primed to lead the conference.
“My mantra for each senior class is to leave the program better than you found it. Be the first class to accomplish something not accomplished prior by being first class,” Hunter said. “That said, my hope is that as a result of our efforts we will win our first ever conference championship and compete in the national tournament next May in southern California.”
In order to make it to the national tournament, it always helps to have the support of your school and community. Usually, teams who have an obvious following are more successful.
“This next year one thing I want to help out with as part of the coaching staff is better promotion,” Lambert said. “I just want us to get more recognized.”