The Grizzlies will open its divisional schedule this weekend against Central Washington and Gonzaga. The contest with Central Washington in Ellensburg has more meaning for one Montana sophomore.
Midfielder Parker Swank was the Wildcats’ top-point scorer as a freshman last season. He tallied 17 goals and three assists in ten games. Central Washington finished with a record of 3-7. Swank’s frustration slowly grew all season and felt a change was needed.
“The speed of lacrosse there wasn't what I wanted to settle on. I knew there were other opportunities,” Swank said. “When Tuck (Sargent) came to me it just seemed like a perfect fit.”
Swank learned about the reputation Montana has built over the years. He knew that student-athletes who went to Montana to play lacrosse went because they wanted to win. Head coach Tucker Sargent approached Swank after the two teams faced each other last season and talked to him about Swank’s growing frustrations with his current situation.
Being with new players and a new team can be challenging, especially when finding where to fit on the field. Swank is meshing nicely with six goals and an assist in Montana’s five games.
Swank didn’t pick up a lacrosse stick until he was in the eighth grade. Lacrosse in his hometown of Maple Valley, Wash., wasn’t that popular compared to other areas. Most kids he’s played with started anywhere from third to sixth grade. He spent a lot of his time throwing the ball against a wall on the playground of his local elementary school.
His ability on the field and high lacrosse knowledge doesn’t reflect on him being two to five years late to the game compared to his teammates. Not only has he produced offensively this season, he’s stepped up big on the defensive end when needed.
In Montana’s home opener goalkeeper Drew Moesel left his net to try and pick up a loose ball, but an Idaho Vandal player quickly scooped it up and in a split-second the Vandals took a shot on an open net. Swank saw the shooter, dove in front of the shot and got a piece of it with his stick, shutting down a key scoring opportunity.
“When we played against him I noticed he was a good player and thought he’d fit in well here,” Sargent said. “The good thing about Parker is he’s only a sophomore. I see a much bigger role down the road for him.”
Montana’s strength of schedule is rigorous compared to what Swank’s used to. The top two teams he faced while at Central Washington was College of Idaho and Montana. So far this season Montana has already faced three-top ten teams in St. John’s (4), North Dakota State (6) and College of Idaho (9).
“It's been a level I've never played at before, just the amount of quickness and how the game doesn't really stop,” Swank said. “There’s not a lot of bad passes or errors, just a lot faster and I love the competition.”
Swank started out as an attack man for Montana, the position he played as a Wildcat. However, after a few games he’s transitioned to a midfielder. Sargent said it’s the best move for the team and thinks Swank is adjusting well at the position. .
Sargent wants Swank to do what he does best and put points on the board. Swank’s used to running around with his head cut-off at Central Washington with the different roles that he was used to playing. While at Montana he’ll be able to take a breath and focus on his role rather than having to be the guy everyone looks for.
He’s been transitioning well to the new level of speed. Swank’s been using his five-foot-eleven-inch, 160-pound frame to swiftly maneuver around opponents. His slim physique and quick feet are why he got into lacrosse in the first place.
Swank had his recruiting trip last July. Mark, Swank’s father takes him fly-fishing every summer about 30 miles north of Helena, along the Missouri River. They’ve gone every year since 2010, and always made a stop in Missoula. Swank loves the outdoors and feels like there’s always something to do outside in Montana.
“There is one river that goes through Ellensburg, and it’s very flat over there. It's like an older town with nothing really going on,” Swank said. “Out here you have natural hot springs and it's just a good place for a college kid to go to.”
Lucas Ailport—Media Relations