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SOUTHWESTERN WINS HISTORIC GAME AGAINST STONEHILL COLLEGE 8-5

[5/14/09] It is hard to describe things when they come to an end. How do you describe that one of the best players in the history of Southwestern Lacrosse is sitting in a hospital in intensive care when he should be out on the field suited up playing his last game ever. How does a senior suit up for a last game knowing this will be the last time he will ever play with this team and in this uniform, and probably play organized lacrosse for the rest of his life. How does a team approach a game knowing it is the last game ever to be played this season, for this program, in this league, and more?

How does someone who has been with the program since its inception 26 years ago deal with "the last time"? Is the book done differently? Do you have special words to say to the team in timeouts? Do you simply take it all in and savor every last second?

It doesn't really matter if many cared about the game early in the morning against Stonehill College (MA) in what was to be a consolation game at the 2009 MCLA D 2 National Tournament. The only ones who would even care about the result would be the players and those involved with the two teams playing the game. But to them, specifically the guys wearing the Black and Gold, it meant so much more.

All year the Bucs had known that this would be the last year of the 26 year history of the Southwestern Club Lacrosse Team. Next year, the Bucs will be Varsity effectively ending the history of the club program. While several returners would make the leap to Varsity Lacrosse next year, so much would be different. From opponents, to funding, to experience, the move to varsity and falling under the realm of Athletics would present a different atmosphere by necessity.

So when the guys hit the field, and the coaches roamed it aimlessly (at least some of us did), there was so much to be valued, so much to be remembered, and so much to play for one last time.

Without Webb even on the sidelines, the Bucs knew they had a mental block they had to overcome. Someone who we were able to rely on at anytime, and who really opened so much up for us through the years, was not available. This meant the Bucs had to do something they were very good at. They had to come together and play as a team and find a way to use their individual strengths to win.

The game started with both teams "feeling each other out" in the first quarter before Titus, who never came off the field with his tank on anything but empty, shot a change-up past the goalie for the first Buc goal of the game. Stonehill had drawn first blood a little earlier until the Bucs went on a scoring spree through the second and third to take a several goal lead.

This was accented by the stellar defensive play of the Bucs as they continually pressured Stonehill everywhere they went once they got the ball down on offense. The pressure worked and did not allow them to get into any type of rhythm or get many shots, much less ones that were dangerous. The team played great, and were able to take a 7-2 lead late into the third.

Stonehill did not stop fighting, however, and was able to crawl back into the game with three goals that made it a 7-5 game with a lot of time left in the fourth before the Bucs, on sheer grit and determination refused to give this lead away. Thompson, who refused to let the game get any closer, took things into his own hands and placed a rocket wormburner shot past an exceptional goalie with several minutes remaining to give the Bucs the separation they needed, and to ultimately break Stonehills' back and end any hopes it had of stealing the victory.

A few short minutes later, the Bucs saw the final seconds tick of the game clock and realized they had left it all on the field each for his own reasons, and had won the last game EVER played by the Southwestern Lacrosse Club team 8-5.

Everyone stepped up and played with an intensity that really was the calling card of Southwestern Lacrosse for so many years. Thompson stepped up in Webb's absence and not only did face-offs, but ran x at attack. Irish, who was still working his way back from a very tough injury, played more than he should have, and ran more than he had since before the injury. He was all over the field and no one was going to keep him off the field in his last game ever. Lange showed signs of great hustle and skill, something the Varsity Squad will hope to see continue to develop as next year rolls around. Marsh did as well. Howe contributed to the shut down defense with his quick feet and good on ball stick work all day as well.

Although Lex Luther did not hit the scoreboard, he did what he has come to be known for by me all year, make the plays that don't show up in the book, but that without them, you don't have a chance at winning the game. Mock sprinted everywhere and Carney moved so well all day to fill the gap left by Webb.

Then there was Connor, who was playing his last game for the Bucs, and whose family, for the first time ever, had the chance to see their son play the game of lacrosse. Tomasz, transferring next year, and thrust into the starting role after only one year under his belt, played on a banged up ankle and every time was able to step up the intensity, especially today when the defense clamped down and allowed the big lead to happen. I won't mention that he made the third team LSA in Defense.

Fletch, the stoic senior anchor of the defense really managed the game and the young ones as he always did. He made plays when needed, jump started transitions, and kept the opponent at bay all game. McDonough played one of his best games in his last game. The best goalie I have ever had the honor of coaching, was not going to allow Stonehill to win.

Sample also ran all over the field in transition, on defense, and made the other team tired just watching him. Like Luther, his stats were never a big part of the game he played or what he contributed to the team. However, without a doubt, he did so many things on the field between the boxes that allowed us to win. The same can be said for Walker, doing anything and everything we ask of him. He stepped in at attack and his presence was recognized immediately, giving other members of the team openings to move around.

Parker and Jesus, both first years were able to get in and really show that there is so much potential for next year with these two. For everyone, the tiredness of the game before did not phase the Bucs on this day. Somehow it was different knowing that this was it.

You never, ( or at least I couldn't) script how this last game should turn out. I simply hoped for these guys to play their best, for a win, and for everyone to many years down the road remember (with stories that get bigger and better with distance) this game and this team and this program.

Having the chance to meet Connor's family, and seeing Mr. Webb make it out to the last couple of minutes of the game to tell us that Webb was getting out of the ICU and getting to go home was icing on the cake. Each person will take away their own memories, their own take, if you will, of this game and season.

As for me, I know we did "it" right. We were always a classy team on and off the field. We were always a team that never stopped learning or playing. Most importantly, we always found a way to have fun, often at times when not expected, but was definitely needed or warranted.

The stability of Monty and Stacy behind the scenes and on the sidelines has been unfathomable. They are truly synonymous with everything that is Southwestern Lacrosse. The time, effort, heart and soul they have left with the team over the years, has single handedly made a difference in the lives of so many young men. To say that Southwestern Lacrosse is and has been special without understanding where they fall in its glorious history, is to acknowledge the program but not its heart and soul.

Southwestern Lacrosse took the field for its first ever game against the Baylor Bears in a loss. Twenty-six years later, however, the Bucs walked off a field in Denver with the majestic Rockies in the background with a win in their final game ever.

In between, the script was written, and the roles were cast, and lacrosse in numerous forms was played. Perhaps most importantly, a good time was had by all and memories that will last a lifetime were created, as were friendships, records and lessons about life and everything in between.

In its final season, Southwestern finished 12-6, with an undefeated conference record. They played 4 out of conference games and won 2 during the season, played three LSA D1 teams and won 1, and played an NCAA DIII Varsity team. The Bucs also went to their 5 consecutive National Tournament and went 1-1. The 18 games played were one of the highest totals ever. All in all, a fitting way to go out.

- Bill Bowman