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The instant Eric Oberst first grasped a lacrosse stick, slid on pads and donned a helmet, he knew the sport would become his passion.
Oberst, a human nutrition senior, initially had aspirations of emerging as a star lacrosse player after being a stranger to the sport only eight years before.
He began his lacrosse career playing for the club team at Trinity High School in Louisville. Although nobody told him to play, he found the sport and developed the desire to play it on his own time.
“I really wanted to be involved in a contact sport,” Oberst said. “I was looking for something to occupy my time, and lacrosse just seemed like something I could get into. I instantly fell in love.”
After taking a year off from lacrosse during his freshman year in college, Oberst quickly found himself yearning to be part of the sport once again.
In his sophomore year, Oberst joined the UK lacrosse team and began evolving into his current role as the Cats’ team leader. He now serves as the men’s lacrosse club president in addition to his playing duties.
In his time, he has seen a tremendous re-structuring of both the league and the subdivision in which the team competes. For years, the team performed extremely well in the National Collegiate Lacrosse League.
At the beginning of the 2008 season though, the Cats became part of the Southeastern Lacrosse Conference of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. The team struggled with the switch initially but has high aspirations this season.
The team describes the new conference to be a more challenging environment where they must come together to succeed.
In the past, practices and workouts seemed trivial, somewhat unmotivated and unproductive, Oberst said. But Oberst spoke highly of the talent and maturation the club has developed this off-season.
“Maturity has been much more of a factor because of the competitive conference we are now playing in,” Oberst said. “Everybody has been stepping up and putting in their best efforts. Now the competition is there. So the drive within us is there.”
The noticeable boost in team morale can be credited in part to fourth-year head coach Jacob Knight and the positive influence he provides the 27-man roster. Knight, a former UK lacrosse player from Louisville, presents his team with new strategies, training routines and motivational techniques that keep the athletes interested and eager to succeed.
“Seeing the team mature from what it used to be when I was a member to what it is now in the more competitive league is great,” Knight said. “I am proud to say that I was part of the change.”
The club boasts a unit comprised of three senior members, and an abundance of talented first-year players, Oberst said. As the young Cats gain experience and knowledge of the new conference layout, they hope to become increasingly more dangerous come tournament time.
UK starts its season this weekend with back-to-back competitions against Clemson and Tennessee. Both games will be played in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The club is keeping their poor preseason ranking in mind when the season begins.
“We have our motivation,” Knight said. “We are out for respect and we are out to show the rest of the league that we are to be taken seriously.”