“All we want is a CCIW championship.”
“Tell you what, the goal has always been CCIW championship.”
“I think this might be the year that we pull it off and get our first CCIW championship.”
It was the year, and the North Central Men’s Lacrosse team got what they wanted: a first ever College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin Tournament championship with a narrow 11-10 victory over Transylvania University to book the team’s first trip to the NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse Championship. After a one goal loss in last year’s CCIW title game deprived them of these goals, it couldn’t be a sweeter moment for the team’s leaders.
“Over time this team has become so much more talented and gritty,” said graduate student defenseman Steven Dale. “This team’s backbone has always been grit on the field and now we’ve added a lot of talent to it. There’s a lot of guys just working for each other on the field and it’s just special what we have here”
“I transferred at a great time,” said senior midfielder Scott Allgood, who won the CCIW title last year with Illinois Wesleyan. “When Coach Farrell brought in our freshman class, there’s just a lot of talented guys I’m playing with right now so it’s been really cool to see everyone grow as a team.”
“It’s easy to step away and say ‘this isn’t fun anymore’ and to have guys like Scott and Dale and even some of our younger guys who just really love the team and the culture that we have here,” said head coach Jay Farrell. “Guys, it will be worth it. The pain and the suffering and the hard work that we need to do now will be so much more worth it when things start to click and we’ve just been waiting to hit our potential and hit our full stride.”
This Cardinals team is young, with Dale potentially the only starter who won’t return next year after his 77-game career. The group’s veteran members know the sky is the limit for the program with it’s young core, and were focused this year on trying to help the team maximize it’s potential.
“My main role is just trying to get the younger guys below me to get to the same skill level and learn what I’ve been taught and hopefully it just carries on from generation to generation,” Allgood said.
“I’m a figure to look up to and that’s not me pumping my own gas I try to be a role model for the guys,” said Dale. “I’ve been around the block a certain amount of times and as long as I keep guys at a certain level and remind guys what we’re doing here, that’s the job that’s a dream. I’m just happy to be here doing what I’m doing.”
Two prime example of the team’s young talent are sophomore attacker Tom Eberhardt, who is already the program’s fourth all-time leading goal scorer after 49 tallies this season, and freshman goalie Aidan Murphy, who was thrust into action mid-season after starter Jake Allgood (Scott’s younger brother) suffered a season-ending broken arm.
“I don’t really care about many stats, I just know that our guys we just want to win,” said Eberhardt. “I can’t do it without the other guys, honestly. I get fed the ball beautifully every time. I shouldn’t score half the times I do but they’re putting the ball in my stick. It’s honestly all on the other guys I’m just the one who gets it back there.”
“They’re young guys but they’re real hungry, they work hard every game and I’m proud to lead them,” said Dale. “We work for each other there’s no person that carries anyone, we are a unit.”
“It’s great to see those guys stepping in and doing what we know they can do, and at the same time we know that they are young guys and can make some costly mistakes at times,” Farrell said of the large amount of young players on the roster. “So it’s riding that roller coaster of the highs and the lows throughout the game and throughout the season and being able to just celebrate and focus on what the good is around us has been a really important message for our guys.”
They Cardinals might have fallen to John Carroll University in their maiden NCAA tournament, but with a conference championship, five all conference and three all-region selections, the team knows the effort they put in through the ups and downs of a season pays off. Even with this new height of achievement, they know they’ll have to keep up the hard work next year.
“You’ve gotta show up every single day,” Farrell said. “Every single play matters. It’s about winning the ground ball, it’s about winning the first faceoff, it’s about winning that next opportunity and just to focus on that. Because that’s the only thing you can control at that moment is making sure we’re doing the best we can when we have that opportunity.”