Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Considered one of the top college coaches in the country, Mike Pressler is in his 16th year as head men’s lacrosse coach at Duke University.
With over 200 career coaching victories to his credit, Pressler has applied his knowledge and experience to a Duke program that was lost in obscurity and has quickly vaulted it into national prominence. In 2005, he guided the Blue Devils to an NCAA-record 17 victories against just three defeats, the ACC regular season title and a berth in the national championship game. For his efforts, he was named the USILA National Coach of the Year.
Pressler owns an overall head coaching ledger of 223-100 including a 147-80 mark at Duke.
In January of 2001, the respect Pressler has earned in the coaching ranks came to the forefront as the veteran coach was named one of three assistant coaches for the Team USA squad which captured the gold medal at the 2002 Lacrosse World Championships in Perth, Australia. Pressler also serves on the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Committee.
Pressler wasted no time in building the Blue Devil program to where it is today. In just his second season, 1992, Duke earned its first bid to the NCAA Tournament and upset No. 4 Loyola and No. 6 Virginia – Duke’s first ACC win since the 1987 season.
In 1993, the Blue Devils finished with a 9-5 record – Duke’s first season with over seven wins since 1989, including an upset over seventh-ranked Maryland.
Pressler’s program reached new milestones in 1994, as the Blue Devils enjoyed their first NCAA Tournament win, hosted their first NCAA Tournament game, defeated the nation’s No. 2 team, and beat ACC rival Maryland at home for the first time since 1954. This season of firsts earned the Blue Devils a trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals.
Duke accomplished even greater feats in 1995. It finished the season with the most wins in school history, charting a 12-4 record, and achieved its highest ranking of the Pressler era to that point, reaching No. 4. Most notably, Duke won the school’s second ACC Championship. Duke garnered five All-America accolades, including Matt Ogelsby, who was Duke’s first first-teamer since 1954. Under Pressler’s guidance, Ogelsby also became Duke’s first-ever ACC Player of the Year.
Duke was left with a rather young squad heading into the 1996 season, but came away with an even 6-6 record, and several individuals earned impressive accolades. Tyler Hardy was named William F. Schmeisser Division I Defensive Player of the Year and Scott Diggs garnered ACC Rookie of the Year honors – both the first awards of their kind at Duke. Hardy was also a first team All-America, only the fifth player at Duke to receive the award.
However, none of the preceding seasons can compare to 1997. That squad advanced to the NCAA Final Four for the first time in school history, tied 1995’s record of 12-4, won the most ACC games in school history (3), and finished the season ranked No. 5. A school-record seven players garnered All-America honors, while five were named All-ACC. Jim Gonnella was also bestowed with the Lt. Donald McLaughlin Midfielder of the Year award for the first time in Duke history.
Pressler’s 1998 squad nearly made a repeat trip to the Final Four. The Blue Devils tied the school record for highest ranking, reaching No. 3, went undefeated against non-conference opponents, and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals, falling to eventual national champions Princeton by just two goals.
In 1999, the Blue Devils set numerous school records, including season wins (13), best start (9-0), first-ever NCAA Tournament first-round bye and highest ranking in program history, holding the No. 2 spot for four weeks.
In 2000, Duke went 11-5 overall while posting an undefeated home record with eight wins including three victories over teams ranked among the nation’s top 10. In addition, the Blue Devils advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals .
The 2001 campaign saw Pressler’s squad head to Orlando, Fla., for the ACC Tournament as the number two seed following a 2-1 regular season showing. The Blue Devils responded with outstanding games to defeat North Carolina and Maryland in three days, giving Duke its third ACC title and second under Pressler. Duke finished the year with an 11-6 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in the Pressler Era. For his efforts, Pressler was named the ACC Coach of the Year.
In 2002, the Blue Devils repeated as ACC Champions by defeating then number one-ranked Virginia, 14-13, in the finals. Duke finished the year at 8-7 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament before suffering a 10-9 loss to evenutal national champion Syracuse. Last year’s club advanced to the league title game for the third consecutive season, but fell to eventual national champion Virginia, 12-6. The 2003 Blue Devils posted the program’s seventh straight winning season at 8-7. Duke's 2004 club went just 5-8, but produced the program’s second ACC Rookie of the Year in Matt Danowski and boasted the lone freshman on the All-ACC team in Peter Lamade.
How has Pressler turned Duke into such a success so quickly? Certainly it stems from knowing what it takes to win at a high level, and Pressler’s background has provided him with that.
Pressler came to Duke as one of the most successful NCAA Division III lacrosse coaches in the country. In five seasons at Ohio Wesleyan, Pressler led the Battling Bishops to the NCAA finals three straight times and the semifinals twice. He was named the USILA’s Division III Coach of the Year in 1987 and the North Coast Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year three times.
Pressler served as an assistant at Army under Jack Emmer in 1984-85. Before that, he guided VMI to a 7-4 record in his only season as head coach.
A 1982 graduate of Washington & Lee, Pressler was an outstanding lacrosse and football player. He served as team captain in both sports and helped the Generals compile a 34-17 lacrosse record during his four years. In 1980 he led W&L to a No.5 ranking. Pressler played attack for three seasons before switching to defense his senior year. He also played four years of football at Washington & Lee, earning All-America honors as a noseguard his senior year. Pressler was inducted into the Wilton (Conn.) High School Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Washington & Lee Hall of Fame in 2001.