Returning to Normal
With only 14 games played over the previous two seasons, pandemic cancellations hit North Central Women’s Lacrosse hard. Given that only the senior class had previously experienced a full season, a 14-4 campaign back in 2019, the team’s graduating members can now provide perspective on how much this year meant to them.
“It’s definitely been crazy,” said junior midfielder Ellie Yonak, who is graduating this year. “My first year we only had five games, second year I could only play five games because of COVID and being in quarantine and all the craziness. So this year has been a breath of fresh air finally being able to experience as much of lacrosse as I possibly wanted because I love the game and just grateful for the opportunity to be able to have a full season this year.”
“It’s awesome to see the different talents and see who works well with other people, how we all move together and it’s cool to see it transform from our first game to the end of the season,” senior midfielder Berit Vandenbroucke said. “So things like that and watching everyone find success in their little own ways is really cool.”
The Importance of Teammates
Perhaps the biggest lesson to come out of the last two years for the team is that even when they don’t have lacrosse, they still have each other. And the bond they built over those seasons is the foundation upon which they began rebuilding the program this year.
“I think North Central in general is a special place, but especially the athletic community and our team in particular is a big part of the reason that I came here,” said senior defender Bry’Shawna Walker. “And so just seeing that my program and team culture has continued to have gotten better is really cool and makes me really proud. Just the support system of our coaching staff and being around my friends all day. I refer to practices as our scheduled hangout time so I’ll miss those a lot.
“I think the sense of community and family is what I love most about this team,” said Vandenbroucke. “Our team is so close, and just having 20 automatic best friends on the team is really cool.”
“We came in and we decided first day of freshman year that we were gonna be close and be each other’s equals and push each other to be better and not compete against each other,” senior goalkeeper Abigail Widd said. “Like yes, there’s friendly competition but it’s all healthy.”
“We were very good right when we came in, and now this is more of growing year and it’s been fun to see both sides of coming in as a freshman with a really successful team and we still see our success now, but we see it in different ways,” reflected senior defender Mary Pinkowski. “Obviously it’s not the record we want, but we see what success looks like supporting each other.”
Setting the Team Up For Success
These Cardinals in their final year had the task over the course of this season of teaching the rest of the roster who was new to the demands of a full season everything they could based on their years of experience, with no shortage of wisdom to impart.
“I think it’s finally nice to give the underclassmen the experience we all had you know?,” said Widd. “Because we’re the only class that knows the pre-pandemic schedule. So it’s nice to be like ‘guys, this is what lacrosse is; this is what college is.'”
“Relying on your support system when you need it,” Yonak emphasized. “And if you don’t have the energy within yourself to give it your all for that certain day just rely on your teammates, rely on your coaches, rely on your friends to motivate you to want to work hard for them.”
This team is best summed up in how they end things: how they ended the season, working for every senior to score a goal on Senior Day, and how they end every game, with a celebration in victory or support in defeat around Widd, who set the program records this year for both career saves and saves in a season.
Everyone was definitely trying to get everyone else to score and they would not give the ball to anyone else unless you had put the ball in the cage so it was just awesome seeing that support on the field, and that support definitely continues off the field too,” said Pinkowski.
“It really shows that we are together as one as a team and it’s not really an individual effort,” said Widd. “It is a team effort so the celebration is a tradition we have, if it’s me or it’s Cassidy in the cage that goalie will always get mobbed and it’s just a great moment to close out the game and like hey whatever happens happens but we’re coming together as a team to celebrate our success.”