North Central Women’s Lacrosse begins a new era with a new coach
This spring began a new chapter for North Central women’s lacrosse, the beginning of what they hope will be a climb back to former prominence. New head coach Vasiliki Barakos-Berkman witnessed the team’s glory days as an opponent, and in her first year focused on partnering with the team’s veteran members to begin building a culture which she hopes will be the foundation for a return to that previous success.
“North Central had been on my radar since I was actually a graduate assistant at Aurora,” said Barakos-Berkman, for whom this is her first college head-coaching job after most recently coaching the University of Colorado women’s club lacrosse team. “There was something special about the school, the location. The program was a powerhouse when I was competing against them, so I wanted to be working with some of the best.”
“Coach Vas has just made that transition so easily and so seamless for us,” said senior attacker Abbey Triebe. “Everyone was on board with what she wanted to do, where she wanted to take this team, and we didn’t have to do any convincing because everyone was down. Everyone wants to, you know, play in May. And I think that it just was such an easy transition, that being last year to where we are now, it’s just been so easy for us as captains and we just got to enjoy the ride.”
“First initial goals are for me to build relationships with the current players, see what the program’s all about,” Barakos-Berkman said. “So then I can recruit and bring in strong players that want to help turn the program into the powerhouse that I know it can be. But it starts with building a culture of buy-in, and I think that this current team has a lot of hard workers. So I need to build up those relationships and make sure I have a strong foundation to build off of moving forward.”
“It’s been tremendous because Coach Vas has really been able to take our input from the last three years and utilize it to combine with her mentality,” said senior midfielder Tanya Czosek. “And I think that we kind of all got on the same page from the beginning and we knew that we wanted to build a strong team culture. And that’s something that me and Triebe have always believed in.”
“We focused on ourselves a lot this season,” said Barakos-Berkman. “We had stats that we would look back on and goals that we would set for each game that were focused on seeing our progress so we could see what we’re focusing on, the practice leading up to it translated into the game. So I’d call those small wins. We might not have gotten the big win on game day, but this team has grown instrumentally from our first game to our last game of the season. And the big win that I’m looking at is that I get to build out the schedule for next year. We’re going to have more ‘compete games’, games where we can see that translation from practice leading to a big W on the game day.”
Super seasons for North Central Women’s Lacrosse’s seniors
As the team’s only seniors, Czosek and Triebe were not only important off the field but on it as well. Czosek led the team in goals with her most prolific season to date, scoring 39 goals. Triebe also set a career high with 27 goals, third best on the team as she stepped into a much more significant role in the Cardinals’ attack.
“I think that I found a lot of confidence that I didn’t know I had and just brought new energy and a new coaching staff,” said Czosek of her strong final collegiate lacrosse season. “Mentally, it was a rewarding year for me and I think that I finally learned how to play the game, not thinking so hard about things and just playing the game that I know how to play. So overall I think it was just losing the mindset on the past mistakes and just focusing on what’s next and just making sure that I was pushing the limit and pushing my teammates to do the same.”
“I felt like I was learning so many new things that I could easily apply to my game and I think I just found success through that,” Triebe said. “And I mean, not to mention all my teammates, you know, they’ve done so much to help me along the way and, you know, those goals wouldn’t have been goals without them and their hard work and determination. So [it’s just really exciting because last year I didn’t really have the year I wanted. I had surgery and so I didn’t really get to play a lot. And freshman sophomore year cut short and whatnot. So it’s just been really fun and really refreshing.”
Hope for the future of Cardinals’ Women’s Lacrosse
Both coach and players have certainly seen the progress made this season, and the seniors have been happy to be a part of it even if they won’t be around for whatever comes next. But they leave confident that their teammates are on the right track and hope they’ve helped push them to strive for even greater growth.
“Having someone who was built in and bought into the mission really helped with us wanting to push that and knowing that we’re leaving our team in good hands and leaving them with a coach who does believe the same things that we believe and wants to fight the good fight and play to win is just really empowering,” said Czosek. “And I think that we feed off of that and we use that to continue to build the team culture. And now I can confidently say like, I know that they’re just going to progress and grow in the years to come, and that just makes me really happy.”
“We progressed in lots of ways,” said Barakos-Berkman. “I think our clearing game got a lot stronger. Our team bonding actually I think was a huge shift because yes, I only have two seniors, but I have something like eight juniors or something kind of wild like that. So there were a lot of people who were inherently leaders on the team. But finding everyone their role, I think, really started to come together in the spring and is exciting going into next season.”
“I think our teammates are the most coachable people that I know,” said Triebe of why she’s confident in the team’s future. “They are always willing and wanting to get better in any aspect of the game as possible. And so I think with our new coaching staff and their perspectives that they’re going to go so far and be able to apply everything that they’ve learned to their game. And I’m just excited to see next year.”
Seniors reflect on what they’ll miss
While they may not be worried about what their younger teammates will achieve, Czosek and Triebe will certainly miss the day-to-day of being part of Cardinals lacrosse. They may have given the program plenty in their four years, particularly this season, but they feel it’s given them so much more.
“I truly have formed such a tight knit family here,” said Triebe. “And you know, every day I look forward to seeing all my teammates at practice, no matter what mood I’m in, you know, it boosts my mood and just the environment of it all. It’s just so much fun. I feel free. I can be me. I’m not nervous, you know? I can just have fun, play the sport that I love, surrounded by the people that I love.”
“It’s one of the things I know no matter what else is going on outside of my life and outside of lacrosse, I can come to practice every day and be in that zone, be with people I love and get to do something I love,” Czosek said. “And I don’t have to overthink all the schoolwork going on, all the other things going on in my life by I can really just be present and be in the moment and it’s just been something that I’ve grown to love even more now that I get to do it with people who I’m super close with. But it really is just an escape. It’s something that truly has been a way to get my mind off of everything else going on in life and just tune in to what’s right in front of me.”