Coming off impressive back-to-back campaigns, expectations are high for the 2015 lacrosse season. Rick Schunke is excited to lead his Hilbert Hawks into their fifthseason of Division III competition after he took both the 2013 and 2014 teams into the four-team post-season play-offs.
One season ago, Schuke and he staff guided theinjury-plagued 2014team to the NEAC semi-final game. His 8-5 (5-2) squad fell to eventual NEAC champions but placed four players on the All-Conference team, headlined by the Rookie of the Year award. The2013 Hawks battled to the NEACchampionship game with a 10-5 overall and 5-2 conference record and earned seven individual honors when All-Conference awards were announced.
After gaining associate membership in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) in the 2012 season, the Hawks challenged for a play-off spot in their first year. Schunke's squad finished 4-4 in league play (5-7 overall) but had to settle for 5th place, one shy of making the NEAC play-offs. Injuries took its toll on the 2012 team and the coaching staff and players did everything possible to fill holes and finish the season in the hunt for post-season play. That missed opportunity the 2013 Hawks as they prepared for the new season with 20 new players on the roster.
Schunke and his staff molded the new comers, refined the returner's skills and guided them to NEAC championship game. The team's overall success trickled down to individual awards with seven athletes earning a spot on an All-Conference team, headlined by Sean Purtill's 1st Team selection.
Schunke guided the Hilbert lacrosse program into Division III status during the 2010-11 academic year building a roster of returning Hilbert club players, as well as freshmen and transfers who wanted to make an immediate impact in the athletics department. That 2011 squad finished 6-6 playing an independent schedule without a post season tournament to chase. Four players garnered national attention at the conclusion of their first season. Ryan Wagner was ranked #2 in goals per game, #3 in ground balls per game and #10 in race-off percentage. Josh Baker ranked #25 in points per game and goals per game while Sean Purtill and Kory Halftown ranked #22 and #31 in assists per game.
On December 16, 2009, Schunke became the head coach of the men's inaugural lacrosse program. He arrived at Hilbert following several year of coaching at the high school level. Schunke coached 2 high school All-Americans and 9 All-League players at both West Seneca East (2000-02) and Frontier (2002-09). Coach Schunke is a volunteer youth coach with the Hamburg Knights Lacrosse Program (12U/17U) as well as an experienced NFLOA lacrosse official at the high school and indoor Box lacrosse leagues.
"Since my graduation from Hilbert (2001), I've witnessed the College improve its facilities and expand its campus footprint. These positive changes combined with the opportunity to recruit the talented athletes in our community to help establish a brand new lacrosse program gets me excited," said Schunke. "I love the fact that Hilbert has two lacrosse fields on campus, which is another plus for recruiting, and I really look forward to creating my own stamp on Hilbert lacrosse."
At Orchard Park High School Schunke was named a first team All ECIC and honorable mention All Western New York athlete after his teams won the Section VI title two years, in addition to finishing as a state semi-finalist in 1996.
His collegiate years found him competing at two Division I institutions (Canisius College - '97 & '98 and Gannon University - '99) before he returned home to join the family business. Schunke held a full time job at Schunke Insurance Agency (West Seneca, NY) and attended Hilbert College to complete his bachelor's degree in business administration. It was during this time, that Schunke began coaching at the high school level.
Schunke currently serves as vice president of Schunke Insurance Agency and resides in West Seneca, NY.