When Kevin Iwanusa was finishing his college lacrosse career at Pfeiffer University, he was looking for an opportunity to keep playing.
At the same time Iwanusa was searching for a job in the Charlotte area, he was introduced to the Charlotte Lacrosse Club by a fellow Pfeiffer alum who ran the program at the time.
Twelve years later, Iwanusa, now 40, is still playing for the Charlotte Lacrosse Club. He also coaches and has run the club for the last 12 years. He is one of many former and current area, college lacrosse stars who make up the club team, like fellow player and coach, Greg Watterson, who also helps run the league.
Iwanusa met Watterson when Iwanusa was an assistant coach on the Wingate lacrosse team that Watterson played on.
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“When we all started out, this was just a way for us to keep playing lacrosse after work,” said Iwanusa, who is a project manager for the Lash Group. “But it’s turned into something we do almost year round and travel to tournaments.…Everyone who plays on our team either played lacrosse in college or is playing college lacrosse now, so we play a pretty high level, and we all have the same passion for the game.”
Watterson said, “We’ve been able to keep this club team strong by adding some great local players in every year. It’s fun to go out and play lacrosse hard and physical, but still have a great time just playing the game.”
Watterson, 34, is Charlotte Latin’s lacrosse assistant coach, but has had stints at Wingate, Lake Norman and Myers Park.
The Charlotte Lacrosse club team wins regularly. The most recent triumph came when they won the gold medal at the PowerAde State Games in Raleigh on June 27-28. The victory was the club team’s eighth gold medal at the State Games in the last nine years.
“It was a great feeling to win the State Games again, especially after not winning it for the first time last year,” said Iwanusa, whose team’s only loss in the nine-year history of the State Games’ play was in 2014. “Playing five games in two days is grueling. By Sunday, after you play basically three straight games, it’s a battle of wills. It’s about who wants it the most.”
The Charlotte Lacrosse club’s run to a State Games’ title was no fluke as they have a team stocked with talent.
In addition to past college stars like Iwanusa and Watterson, the State Games’ roster also boasted former collegiate standouts: Dane Blodgett (Queens University), Alex Carnathan (Pfeiffer), Kyle Costello (Wingate), Corey Geroy (Queens University), Nate Howitt (Queens University), Michael Italiano (Ohio State/former Charlotte Catholic standout), Corey Rich (Limestone), Justin Rose (Pfeiffer), Scott Schenzer (Western Maryland), Derek Watts (Wingate), Spencer Wims (Limestone), Jake Chandler (Bryant College/former Providence Day standout), Devon Cruz (Belmont Abbey), Eric Dolan (Queens University), Jacob Kaplan (Berry College/former Charlotte Christian standout), and Stephen Wierzbicki (Furman/former Weddington standout).
Carson Song of Charlotte Latin, and a two-time Charlotte Observer boys’ lacrosse player of the year, also played on the team for the State Games. Song is headed to Brown University.
The majority of the Charlotte Lacrosse club team will compete in the Blue Ridge Classic in Asheville on July 25-26, where they are the two-time defending champions.
From there, the older players will compete Aug. 8-9 in the Summit Classic in Lake Placid, N.Y. in the masters’ field (age 35 and older).
While the highlight of each season is usually their tournament trips, the Charlotte Lacrosse Club players still enjoy their weekly Wednesday night battles in summer league play and pick-up games in the fall and winter. Most of those games are at the Rugby Athletic Center on South Tryon Street.
The passion for lacrosse is what continues to drive them.
“When you get out on the field, you don’t think about how old you are or how tired you are, you just want to play,” Iwanusa said. “We all just want to be out there competing and playing the game we love.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.