Friday 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.