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The first two games have now been completed for the Illinois State lacrosse club. Traveling to Memphis, Tennessee to take on two highly talented competitors in the likes of Texas A&M and University of Tennessee. These two games proved to be tough contests for the Birds as these were our first two real games on a full size field and also against two out of conference teams who had already had 6-7 games under their belts.

This was also our spring break trip as we began our week long school hiatus on Friday. These are the type of trips that club lacrosse players live and die for. Hoping into 12 passenger vans, we hit the open road for a 7 and a half hour drive. Arriving in Memphis at around 5 PM we had time to kill before our 8:00 pm game time against Texas A&M. Beautiful weather awaited us when we arrived in Memphis. We came out slow against A&M and their attack picked apart our defense. Set back 7-2 at half time we once again dug ourselves a hole seems to be a reoccurring theme. The Redbirds were able to mount a slight comeback, winning the second half 6 to 5 but falling short in the end 12-8. A&M was able to capitalize on a penalty plagued Illinois State defense. It is hard to win games when you are playing man-down for half the game.

Our second game was not until 1:00 PM the next day but everyone was conked from the car ride and playing a game that it was an early night for the team. We woke up to 60 degree weather which is paradise coming from central Illinois. We got up big against Tennessee after the first half 6-2, but apparently Tennessee was not playing their starters in the first half? That made absolutely no sense but whatever floats their boat. They mounted a comeback when they inserted their starters into the game. It was also a test of a 45 man roster against our meager 28 man roster. They out ran us in the end. I am still very confused as to why a nationally noticed team does not start their starters, from what we were told their starters never start, so doesn’t that mean those players are not real starters? I guess they do it different in Tennessee. But if they continue that game plan they will get smoked at nationals. Thank you to Tennessee and Memphis University High school for hosting these games. It was a great experience and great exposure to go out and play these two teams.

If anyone ever gets a chance to travel to Memphis I would highly recommend eating at Central Barbeque right off the Memphis University campus. Too die for pulled pork sandwiches and primo ribs.

Time to relax for spring break and begin to prepare for our next tough opponent in Western Michigan on March 20th. Last year proved to be a very good game with Western Michigan winning by one goal in the final seconds of the game.

If anyone caught the UNC Duke lacrosse game yesterday (March 10th) Billy Bitter is one step below God, that kid is unreal… Go Tar Heels

Until next time, later lax world

One love…

isu_playerIt was another season that came down to the wire for Illinois State lacrosse.  We were put in the same position as last year, having to win our last game to qualify for a spot in the conference tournament. We just did not come to play against Missouri and they took full advantage of that. Missouri took a commanding lead at halftime (6-1) and put us against the wall. The Redbirds were able to battle back but landing short of a playoff spot by two goals. The final score was 10-9 and I really believe that we should have won that game, but Missouri wanted it more. Nothing against our players and each player played their hearts out, it is just always disappointing to work hard all season and come so close to making the playoffs. Especially given the magnitude of what we were playing for this year, dedicating our season to our fallen teammate.

This year proved to be a very great year for a young Redbird team. We are only losing 6 seniors, all who made a huge impact on our team but we have a young team to look forward to next year. It proves to be an eye-opener for the younger guys to work harder in the off-season to come out and be a better team next year. We were able to get some great games in but I think to make the push to become a more potent team more out of conference games against higher powered teams should be in the future scheduling.

I am very interested to see how the MCLA national tournament plays out given that there is a lot of talk about how teams were seeded. Most of which stems from wins and losses but obviously there was some method to the MCLA selection committee on why they seeded how they did. There is never going to be a collective agreement to seeding for teams and I think that teams just need to go out and worry about winning their match ups.

First round match ups are up for grabs and I strongly believe there will be a few upsets that will take place.

Another year has ended and the Illinois State lacrosse team looks to pick up where they left off next year. Thanks to e-Lacrosse for allowing me to post my nonsense thoughts, even though our head coach believes I wrote all of this with a crayon. Also thanks to all the supporters for the Illinois State team it is greatly appreciated. As always look for updates on our team through our website: www.redbirdlacrosse.com.

Have a great summer and we will see you next year.

April 18th:

Illinois State knew that these two games this weekend were very important and a playoff run was in our sights. Friday night we had a game against Indiana a newly joined team to the Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference. Indiana had a very successful season last year and knew they were going to be a very tough opponent. However, this was our first game in our football stadium, and this stadium brings a whole new meaning to home field advantage. A sense of being in the football stadium and being the only club that has the opportunity to play there is amazing. We knew that this game had playoff implications and knew that we needed to capture a win to stay in the playoff run. I would say that our conference is one of the most competitive conferences now with great teams from seed #1 to seed #6. Midwest lacrosse is on the map even if we are not NCAA associated. Lindenwood always brews greatness as well as the University of Illinois. The teams in D1 AA are also looking to make a knock on the conference playoffs door. Revamped programs such as Nebraska, Iowa, Creighton, Ole Miss and the rest alike are making a solid dent in the conference playoffs.

Illinois State pulled off a barn burner in Normal, Illinois on Friday night. Friday night Lights we decided to call this game. It was a game filled with back and forth lacrosse with very talented Indiana midfielders capitalizing against Illinois State midfielders. Illinois State was able to pull off one of the best lacrosse games I have been a part of in a long time, and we have to credit our win to our solid defensive unit and unreal play by a freshman goalie Emmanuel Nuno. The Redbirds captured a win 7-6 in overtime play.

Saturday brought a long day, being Springfest in Bloomington, IL. A great day with cheap drinks and a wonderful time, however our team keeps to the strict policy of no drinking before a game. A long day of trying to stay busy around my house and getting everything organized for the game the next day. We got ready Sunday morning to a steady rain and a wet field. Purdue was ready to play early as they always our. I tip my hat to Purdue lacrosse; they are always the first team to show up at a field. Even during the fall tournament in Madison, Wisconsin they were always the first team to be at the field and the last to leave. We had nothing less than a promising field to play on as it rained all night and all day. The game started with Illinois State getting out to a quick 3-1 lead. Purdue came back and the first half ended Illinois State 6 Purdue 5. It was a second half full of sloppy lacrosse, given the field, and the score went back and forth. Purdue looked to seal the victory late in the 4th quarter with a huge goal by midfielder # 45 notching the score 9-8. Illinois State tried to make a run and tied the score up 9-9 with a little less than 3 minutes remaining.

Overtime proved to not be the same for Illinois State than the night before. Illinois State went man-up following the overtime face- off, but Purdue’s defense, quarterbacked by a very talented goalie was able to shut down any efforts by the Redbirds. On a very well executed clear, Purdue came down and put in the game winning goal. Props given to a Purdue team that never gave up. Illinois State looks to pursue its goal of making a playoff run this weekend with two big games coming up against #9 nationally ranked Lindewood team on Friday and a very important game against Missouri, Sunday that could be the decisions maker for the 4th seed in the playoffs.

isu_playerFriday April 3rd proved to be a long and tiring day. Running around left and right trying to put everything in place to make sure that our game on Saturday April 4th goes off with a bang. From getting timers to air-horns to even locating a working scored board from the oh-so wonderful Recreation Department here at Illinois State. Also, making sure that the field was lined properly was no easy task. The Redbirds had a walk thru around 5 o’clock on Friday to get mentally prepared to take on Western Michigan the following day.

This was our Alumni and Family Weekend for the lacrosse team so there was even more riding on this game than just a W. There was also the shear fact that we wanted to play well and win to give our alumni and fans a good showing. There was also another part of Saturday that was wearing on our hearts as well. This was our first home game, and we were paying respect to our teammate who we lost earlier this year. We were retiring his jersey, #21 and invited most of his immediate family to attend the game. Preparing to speak in front of a large crowd is not my forte and I was extremely nervous for this.

We met as a team around 7:00 PM to get our jerseys that just came back from the sew shop, because we had memorial #21 patches stitched on our home jerseys and also one of the alumni brought us a Navy flag to sign and present to his family at our ceremony.

That night most of the team just hung out and a bunch of us went bowling to only leave us knowing that we were only meant to play lacrosse and not to bowl. Bowling is an older man’s game and should allow for numerous amounts of alcoholic beverages, but we keep the team on a strict policy of no drinking the night before games.

Saturday morning came way too quickly. I did not end up falling asleep until around 3:30 AM after exchanging text messages from a teammate about how pissed he was that his roommate had a band over and the noise was outrageous. This is what happens when you stay sober on a Friday night and it seems as if the whole world around you is out having a jolly ole time sipping on some spirits.

The team met at one of the houses and prepared for the field around 12:45 to already find a very fired up Western Michigan team already preparing for the game that was slated to start at 2:00 PM. It seems as if our team, when we arrive at a field, put on their equipment and are so excited to play way too early for a game, just as if they were 5 year olds waking up at the crack of dawn to open presents on Christmas (trust me I was there as a kid).

Around 1:45 we brought the team up at the midfield line and had Jason Nash’s family gather around. I had prepared a speech a couple days before on what I wanted to say to the family. I thank Western Michigan for the class that they showed during this ceremony. Their coach had them all take off their helmets and line up at the restraining line. It was a very emotional time for me amidst trying to hold back the emotions and having to read the speech that I wrote. Later on after the game I was informed that ABC and NBC were set to record the speech for a documentary they are doing on Veterans of the war (Jason was enlisted in the Navy) but went to the wrong field. That would have been incredible had they have come and seen our ceremony. There were the most fans at this game that I have ever seen.

The game started and Illinois State came out to a quick 3-0 lead. The lead changes went back and forth until Western Michigan put in the go ahead goal with 2 minutes remaining. It was a great day to be playing lacrosse and it was a humble experience to retire Jason’s jersey. Unfortunately we did lose the game, but winning and losing meant nothing on this day, what mattered was what we were doing for Jason and his family who have shown nothing less than amazing character and support during these hard times.

I believe that even though we lost, this was a great game to be a part of and it was also an eye opener to our team, that winning every game in the season is an incredible feat and that sooner or later a loss was going to be experienced. It was better to loss to a non-conference team than loss late in the season to a potential conference team that could knock us out of the playoffs.

Illinois State takes on University of Illinois Tuesday April 7th at 6:30 PM. Stay tuned for updates.

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Another weekend another two wins in the books for the Illinois State Redbirds. This time it was in very frigid temperatures in Milwaukee Wisconsin. We were slated to play 3 games in 3 days however given a freak snow storm that decided to dump around a foot of snow in Milwaukee forced us to cancel our game Sunday against Marquette. We were able to hold off a very tough University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee team Friday night, with temperatures nearing the 20’s. Defensively we did not play very disciplined but with a great effort in cage by Emmanuel “Mannie Fresh” Nuno we were able to hold UWM to 6 goals. As a team I felt we came out very flat but was able to pick it up in the third quarter.

It did not help whatsoever that there was a casino directly across the street from the fields. And when I say directly, I mean I could have spit into the parking lot from the field we played on. All I could think about was playing some roulette and blackjack but realized the real reason we had traveled to Milwaukee, to win games. That we did and we were able to notch our record at 4-0.

Saturday proved to be a colder game as the storm started to roll in. This time we were up against a very dangerous team, Minnesota-Mankato State. We kept a lead early but Mankato was able to almost come back with a very great performance in the 4th quarter.

The field was old school turf which sucks to play on; because anytime you fall you are going to pay for it when you water hits the turf burn. There was a lot of down time for our team this weekend and most of it consisted of making trips to the restaurant/bar that was connected to our hotel and also relaxing in the hot tub. We decided to name this hotel Hogwarts as it seemed to have tunnels to everything that was offered. There was a tunnel to the arcade, there was a tunnel to the pool, and there was a tunnel to the office. It was nice to be able to give our guys the opportunity to go hang out in the pool/hot-tub and also the restaurant and bar to get away from having 7 lacrosse guys in a hotel room that should only accommodate 4-5 people comfortably. I do not wish that upon anyone but I know many teams face these kinds of accommodations week in and week out. But let me tell you by the end of the weekend those rooms smelled like a pigpen. 7 lacrosse guys in a room on top of all the equipment did not make for a very promising smell.

These trips prove to be my favorite because of all the nonsense and shenanigans that arises from being in such tight quarters with each other for 3 days and 2 nights. The team bonding is incredible to see and at the end of the weekend instead of wanting to fight each other, we are that much closer. It feels great being 4-0 right now but we have definitely not played up to our potential yet. The second half of our season is quickly approaching and we have do not have an easy game by any means. We take on Western Michigan this weekend for our home opener and then travel to University of Illinois to take on what proves to be our biggest rival game.

I am very happy in the way the season has been progressing given all the nonsense we have dealt with to get here. We have overcame a lot of adversity so far and it would have been easy to go belly up and not fight through it, but we have, and right now it feels good to say the Illinois State Redbirds are undefeated.

vs_kansas2Illinois State Lacrosse preparing for a long weekend. The Redbirds will be traveling to wonderful Milwaukee Wisconsin where the weather will be chilly and the scenery will be nothing but cornfields. Nothing against Wisconsin, I love the state but the drive from Bloomington-Normal to Wisconsin consists of nothing but cows and cornfields.

There is nothing new that is happening with our program, oh wait yes there is. This weekend we will be taking our own vehicles to the games (university certified) because the university vans that we were supposed to have were double-booked leaving us to find another means of transportation. This is not my first choice of transportation but given the little time period to find alternative travel means we had to resort to our own cars. We will be packing up in 7 vehicles to travel 3 and half hours away to play some very tough teams. We will be up against University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Friday night, Minnesota-Mankato State Saturday afternoon and end the weekend at 9:45 AM on Sunday against Marquette. These are three out of conference games for our team and should prove to be some very good competition. It has been a rocky week having to cancel practice Tuesday due to weather, leaving us with only two days of full practice to prepare.

I have instilled in our team that we need to put aside the issues that have come about with not being able to take vans and have tried to keep a sense of fun during practice. This is a very competitive sport but with any sport there has to be a level of fun to keep everyone enjoying what they are doing. If it is all work and no play that would not make for an enjoyable season. I think keeping the practices very intense with a sense of fun makes for a very tight nit group of guys. Of course nothing can ever be perfect but we have always strived to be the best of friends on this team. I am a firm believer in the fact that if you enjoy the people you are around that is going to make for a better team.

I think everything that is attached with being a club sport makes you realize just how much each and every other team’s administrators work at making sure the season goes off without a hitch. I salute all administrators present and past on each club team and varsity level team because I have experienced first hand the ups and downs that are associated with running a team. Most of the time it is a grueling task of making sure all the little details are filed out but in the end you see the product that has become and the way that everyone meshes together.

Wish us luck this weekend and we hope to bring back 3 wins to Bloomington- Normal and get ready for our conference games in the month of April. Look for an update on this weekend when we arrive back home. Good luck to other teams that are competing this weekend.

As spring break quickly comes to an end it will be back to being a student and having to stay on top of classes. Being a college student I was unable to get away for a week and go on a 7 day drinking excursion with friends. I sat at home and browsed the Internet between breaks of watching Sports Center and college basketball.

What really caught my attention were these forums that our out there especially for college lacrosse. I guess because I am not on the forums I don’t get why everyone needs to post about random topics. From why a team beat up on another team 27-0, or how players are still eligible. I guess if your 24 years old and having nothing better to do then forums are where it is at. And maybe I am being hypocritical because I am writing in a blog, who knows. I do know that these forums are what are ruining good old competition.

There seems to be many individuals that just complain about every little detail they can find, the ball wasn’t right, there was too much wind on the field, there goalie had a cooler stick then ours… It gets to a point where I do not even want to read the forums anymore but they are one of the only ways to keep up on what is going on in the league. It used to be that the forums were a way to post the upcoming games for the week and have people make predictions but now it’s whether or not there is going to be a cook out after every playoff game.

I don’t mean to offend anyone but I just think as adults there shouldn’t be all this bickering back and forth on a college lacrosse forum. Don’t get me wrong competitiveness is what makes this game so great but when it comes down to complaining about certain issues, those issues should be brought to the commissioner or the president of each league not air dried on a forum.

If a topic is posted, great, go nuts, but don’t bring up ideas of this team shouldn’t be in this league and that team shouldn’t even be allowed to play. It gets to a point where it is really just childish.

On a lighter note, through the boredom of having nothing to do this week I put together a list of players to watch this year. By no means am I a professional or connoisseur at this but I felt these players really bring their “A” game day in and day out and are really exciting to watch. These players are a great impact on their programs and will do great things in the rest of the season. For most programs, the season is half way over but look out for these players to “do it big” in Denver.

Attackmen:
Casey Mithun #4, University of Minnesota- Duluth (Senior)
Ben Towner #7, Simon Fraser University (Junior)
Corey Noonan # 3, Florida State University (Senior)
Chris Jehling #12, Lindenwood University (Graduate Senior)
Connor Martin #99, Chapman University (Junior)
Mark Manning #2, Brigham Young University (Sophomore)
Marcus Wooden #23, Chapman University (Senior)

Midfielders:
Dan Pitzl #9, University of Minnesota- Duluth (Junior)
Mike Clayton #9, Chapman University (Senior)
Mike Coursault #13, Lindenwood University (Senior)
Elliot Grow #32, Brigham Young University (Junior)
Steven Black #35, University of Illinois (Senior)
Peter Vasher #40, University of Michigan (Senior)

Defenders:
Zach Elyachar #30, University of Michigan (Senior)
Phil Keebler #24, Sonoma State University (Senior)

Long Stick Midfield:
Chris Schaible #33, University of California- Santa Barbara (Senior)
Curtis Manning #16, Simon Fraser University (Senior)
Britton Cone #10, Brigham Young University (Junior)

Face-Of Specialist:
Eric Chang #13, Claremont College (Senior)

Goalie:
Kevin Moriarty #13, University of Colorado (Senior)

If anyone has any other opinions or thoughts of players that should be on here feel free to comment. Like I said by no means is this going to be a perfect Top 20 to watch but I think it is relatively close.

posterIllinois State traveled to Iowa City this past weekend to play in our first two contests of the season. Personally I was very nervous about playing, more nervous then I have ever been playing this game. It wasn’t that I was nervous about playing lacrosse it was just butterflies from seeing what the end product would be from our hard work and dedication this past fall. At first we could barely make the trip out to Iowa City because some complications arose with the university vans that we had to secure for the trip. It is awesome being a club team in the sense that 26 college students packed up in three vans and took off for a 3 hour drive the day of a game. If it was a NCAA program they most likely would have been already at their destination the night before a game. This was my first trip out to Iowa and let me tell you that drive from Bloomington- Normal to Iowa City has to be one of the most boring drives.

Before we even left for Iowa, one of the vans would not start due to a dead battery. I thought to myself that this was not the start we needed for a long weekend. We left Illinois State around noon to make sure we had enough time to get to the hotel and get the “bus legs” out. Seeing as this was going to be our first time on a full field since the fall I wanted to make sure the players had enough time to get acclimated to a full lacrosse field. Let me tell you that Iowa’s Bubble is probably the nicest facility that I have played at. The lighting was hard to get used to but the field was beautiful with the dome above your head. However, there was a lift machine that was in play on one of the end lines. We got to the field around 6:45 PM to start preparing for the game.

I got a sense of anxiousness coming from the team and most players were suited and ready to play by 7:00 PM. I had to let everyone know we still had an hour before we played and not to wear themselves out. I knew everyone was ready to play and seeing that sense of anxiousness was very settling for me. Being the organizer for the team I feel that however the team plays is a reflection on the administrative board. We went through some clears and then suited up for our pre-game around 7:15. Once on that field I really started to get the butterflies and I do not know why. I have been playing this game for so long but a part of me was almost in a sense questioning how I was going to play. I knew this was not a good way to start the season so I had to get a hold of myself and calm down.

8:00 PM, the first face-off of the 2009 season for Illinois State lacrosse against the Iowa Hawkeyes. I have to give it to Iowa, they have dramatically improved since I played them two years ago. They got out to a quick 4-1 lead. By half time Iowa was leading 4-3. We had a lot of little mistakes and penalties that stemmed from not being disciplined. I gathered up the team at half time and our coach really brought us together saying that we needed to come out hot in the third quarter. We ended up scoring 8 goals in the third quarter to take the lead. We really did not turn back from there and won our first game against Iowa 14-8.

vs_kansas

After a night of 6 people to a room and a lack of a good night sleep it was up in the morning to get to the field by 1:00 PM to start preparing for our next game at 2:00 PM. This game was a must win for us because we were playing Kansas who is a conference team. This game was a nail biter through and through and it came down to the wire. We ended up pulling out the win 7-6 to a very talented and hard hitting Kansas team. Both games had many penalties and we were playing most of each game man down. The freshman class for Illinois State stepped up big and we have to give the credit to our defense unit for the win in the Kansas game.

Overall this was a very promising weekend for the Illinois State Lacrosse Club. We had 8 different scorers for the weekend and many freshmen scoring their first collegiate goals. Personally I was ready to head back to Illinois State after the second game, and I could barely walk up the stairs of the hotel. But it was the start of our spring break and I decided to give the guys a night out on the town, after all we deserved it coming out of this weekend 2-0. I figured it didn’t hurt for a night out with some buddies and some cold beer. I believe that is what makes this game so great, is that you can go out and play your heart out and lay a few hits but then go out later and be able to have some fun with the team you just played. I am very proud of our team and believe this is just the start of a special year for the Redbirds. We have a lot of little details to file out but it is easier to work on when you have won two games instead of losing two games. Now its time for a whole week of no homework and relaxing, I am very anxious to get back and start practicing outside. Hopefully the weather will allow this and we are going to start preparing for our next game which is March 27th in Milwaukee. Illinois State is on spring break this week and will return to the field next week weather permitting. Adios from rainy Northbrook, IL.

team-picFirst off let me just come clean and say this is my first time ever blogging. I could not even tell you what goes into a blog or what the term blogging even means.

I’ll start off introducing myself. My name is Mike Synek and I am currently the President for the Illinois State Club Lacrosse team. We are associated with the Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference a part of the MCLA. We are strictly a club team that funds our entire program from individual dues. The school gives us minimal support financially which makes it quite hard to not be in the red at the end of the year. We have been around since 1988 and are still the oldest standing club here at the university. Illinois State is located in central Illinois in the wonderful city of Bloomington-Normal. Bloomington-Normal is the usual college town with our local drinking holes and house parties, usually ending up in poor decisions and a headache in the morning.

Back to the lacrosse though, this year we are really re-building as we lost a lot of seniors last year, most of which had been with the club for all 4 years of their college career. We took a hard blow late last year when we lost one of our closest and hardest working teammate. Jason Nash, our teammate, brother and friend passed away at the early age of 22. It really hit us older guys hard because we have been through thick and thin with Jason, and we are still trying to pick up the pieces. Our team is just like any other club team in the United States you come together more as brothers which makes you a stronger club, and losing a brother never comes without the emotional anguish. We will never forget Jason and if you knew him you would not either. We will be playing this year dedicated to him and will display a memorial patch for his remembrance on our jerseys this year.

Our club team has been working very hard this winter, working in the facilities that we can get. We were given the graces of having a very talented freshman class, and many of them will be filling the shoes of starters who graduated. I really enjoy playing club ball more than anything because it gives me the opportunity to see what it takes to run a team while also being able to be a “college” student. My brother plays division 3 lacrosse in Michigan and I know his schedule is brutal. As much as I love the game of lacrosse, and I have been playing since I was in 5th grade, I enjoy being a college student as well. I came from a high school where there was not much showcasing for our players and we did not have the opportunities to get noticed by colleges as much as my high school does now. I would have loved to be given the opportunity to play at a divisional level but by the time I was getting recruited it was too late.

mcla

Illinois State lacrosse has brought great joy to my life given the individuals that I get to step on the field with day in and day out. Those individuals are going to be the ones that I will forever be in contact with, and I can’t wait to come back in 5 years and get to play with them again. Illinois State really puts a lot of emphasis on getting to know one another through social events and those are the times you will never forget. More soon to come stay tuned…

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