W&L to face VMI at 32nd Lee-Jackson Classic

The game on Oct. 26 supports charity and brings the two Lexington colleges together

Kaelan McCabe

The Washington and Lee Men’s lacrosse team will play the Virginia Military Institute in the 32nd annual Lee-Jackson Lacrosse Classic this weekend.

VMI will host the game on Friday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at Drill Field #2.

The Generals first competed against the VMI Keydets in 1986, and the game earned its title as a “Classic” in 1988. The Generals have lost to the Keydets only three times in game-play history.

W&L Head Lacrosse Coach Gene McCabe, who is participating in his 17th Lee-Jackson Classic, said the competition used to be a regular-season game played during the spring. The Classic was moved to the fall when the NCAA Champions Committee stated that Division I versus Division III games could no longer count in regular season records.

While played in the spring, the game was preceded by a week of celebration in the community.

“The game itself for a long time was a really popular spring event that was held typically after a week of fanfare, cocktail receptions and banquets,” McCabe said. “And we also always did a free clinic for the youth in the area.”

When the game was moved to the fall, McCabe said it lost some of its celebratory energy, but the teams continued to host a free lacrosse clinic for Lexington and Rockbridge County elementary school children to promote lacrosse in the area.

“One of the things we always have done is do the free clinic. VMI and Washington and Lee will support each other—run the free clinic on the weekend that we have the game,” McCabe said. “The original purpose of the game was to help grow the game of lacrosse in the Lexington-Rockbridge community.”

Both W&L and VMI also use the opportunity to support a charity in the area. McCabe said that in past home games, W&L has collected donations to benefit Rockbridge Area Hospice, Wounded Warrior Project, Project Horizon and the ALS Association. This year, VMI will raise money for Project Horizon.

VMI is the only team the Generals will play in their unofficial fall season. Going into the game, Captain Walker Brown, ‘19, said the team has been practicing for weeks.

“We’ve been working hard all fall, getting after it on the field [and] in the weight room, so it’s just a great chance to go over there and play the Keydets,” Brown said. “Everyone gets pretty pumped for it, since a lot of people usually show up.”

McCabe said that 2,000 to 3,000 spectators come to the Classic, making it W&L’s most-attended game of the year until post-season tournaments.

It is a rare opportunity for Division I and Division III schools to compete against each other. Brown said the Generals will approach the competition as they would for a regular game.

“We’re going to go out and play as hard as we can, whoever the opponent is,” Brown said, “but it’s definitely a unique experience since we don’t usually play [Division I] schools.”

At the end of the game, the most valuable player from each team will be presented with an award. W&L’s MVP will be presented the Fallon Award, in honor of the late Gary Fallon. Fallon was the head football coach at W&L when he passed away, as well as a lacrosse official. VMI’s MVP will win the Worrell Award in honor of Carolyn Worrell, whose husband was affiliated with VMI lacrosse and was a lacrosse official.

McCabe said he looks forward to the Classic every year because the W&L and VMI communities, as well as Lexington as a whole, enjoy the tradition.

“Mostly the game is just fun to play,” McCabe said, “so it’s something that has turned into a really neat event in the fall that the community rallies around and we’re still helping to support its original mission, which is to grow the game of lacrosse in our community.”