Tim Folliard – Sports Editor
In a hard-fought game, the men’s lacrosse team defeated rival Aurora 10-8 to win the NACC Championship. This sends them to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in the team’s seventh full season.
After starting the year 2-2, they have won the last 11 games. They did not lose a conference game and did not drop a game at home either. Their two wins over Aurora were the first in program history. Senior Tommy Tillet attributes the turnaround because of a change in mentality.
“As a team, our biggest improvement was with our mindset. There plenty of times during the beginning of the season when one little thing didn’t go our way and we would not play to our full potential. With the help of Coach Button and the rest of the team, we have kept our focus on the bigger picture which was winning the conference championship.”
This was the first NACC Championship held for men’s lacrosse. Benedictine previously competed in the Midwest Lacrosse League along with other NACC schools before this season. Statistically, the Eagles have dominated the conference. Tillet led the conference in assists, Domek in goals, Evan Kilbane in goals against average and Mateo Salceda in ground balls.
Last season, the season was cut short after they started off the year 5-1. Because of that, Salceda, Tillet and the 9 other seniors were not going to take this season for granted.
“This season really means a lot to me as we have a great group of guys this year.” Salceda said. “After losing last year’s season to COVID, we knew heading into this year that nothing was guaranteed. Everyone on the team had something to bring to the table, which led to our success this season. We knew as a team that winning the conference and making it to the NCAA was in reach.”
“We have guys that have been together for the past three to four years that have built such amazing bonds.” Tillet said. “Those bonds are what hold the team together and are our program’s strength. I could not be happier with the way this season turned out and I’m not ready for it to be over.”
While this will be the team’s first trip to the big stage, their head coach is no stranger to it. Chris Button won the Division II National Championship as a player in 2013. This is Button’s first full season as a head coach.
The 31-team field will be announced Sunday night and will begin on May 15th. The NCAA tournament has taken place since 1980 with no Midwest team making the finals since Ohio Wesleyan in 1993. The championship will be held May 30th at the University of Connecticut.