Coaches' local roots help Lazers stay on top
In his 10th year as Onondaga Community College's head men's lacrosse coach, Chuck Wilbur and his coaching staff have quietly assembled one of the country's best junior college lacrosse programs.
The Lazers' third consecutive NJCAA national championship came this month when it defeated Baltimore-area's CCBC-Essex, 12-9, at Herkimer County Community College. There, the Lazers were faced with an unfamiliar test - playing from behind. Before that, OCC's closest game of the season came against the United States Military Academy Prep School when the Lazers edged the Black Knights 13-12.
"It's special because it's a new group of kids winning," Wilbur said. "Fifty to 60 percent of our team was not on last year's team. To see their expressions, to see them win at the end of the game when they are throwing up their helmets and gloves and going crazy - that's what it's all about. You watch them win and celebrate. It's emotional. I tear up thinking about it."
Accolades are fruitful: 11-time Mid-State Athletic Conference champions (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011), seven-time NJCAA Region III champions (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011) and five-time NJCAA national champions (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011).
Enduring rewarding seasons, year-in-and-year-out, Wilbur and his coaching staff of six, brothers Mike and Joe Villano, Chris Brim, Nick Gatto, Brooks Robinson and Stefan Schroder don't reinvent the wheel, but rather evolve as times goes on.
"We try and keep what works," Wilbur said. "Seventy-five percent of the stuff we do carries over to the next year because we have been successful. As the game changes, we have to evolve as coaches. Ten years ago, compared to now, even the players are different - the way they play, the way they handle themselves."