Rob Zybrick knew right off the bat, that the 2nd Annual Lax for Donnie Tournament wouldn’t just be about lacrosse. He didn’t plan on letting it just be another day, either. No, this tournament was about something greater than winning. This tournament was about one special young-man, Donnie Farrell.
For those who don’t know the story, Farrell
was a student at Rowan University who was murdered back in 2007. Farrell gets credit for being one of the founding members of Rowan’s Men’s Club Lacrosse team, and eight years later, the team has put together the Lax for Donnie Tournament in his name. This year would be just one year after its debut, and players like Zybrick and Brian Mahoney, have striven once again to keep Farrell’s name alive through this great tournament.
The tournament, held Sunday, April 17th, was a major priority to the team. For months, they had been encouraging their family and friends to come remember Donnie and watch some great lacrosse. Since Rowan’s intramural fields have been under heavy construction, it was decided that the fields at Johnson Road Park in Sicklerville, NJ, would host the tournament.
It just wasn’t about them that Sunday morning. The park was beautiful and the temperature was just starting to get to the expected 75 degrees for the day. Parents had already set up a bunch of concession tables and pitched their canopy tents. Sill early, the team shook the tired feelings they had and soon, they were heading over to their first game. Rider University was up first, but elsewhere, Zybrick was a busy man, making certain that everything was working smoothly. He and everybody on the team gave great effort to create a great tournament. The turnout was pretty nice as well, with a few kids from the youth league running around.
“Overall, I am extremely happy with the teams’ effort during the tournament. i think it was a combination of two things. The first being that we didn’t bring any effort in our game the previous day against Temple. The second being that we were playing for a reason bigger than ourselves, we were playing for Donnie,” Zybrick said.
Morale was certainly more powerful than ever. Every time the team took the field, the presence felt like a team…a fierce, unified force. Everybody was energetically supportive of each other. That helped them to roll through their first game with Rider. Initially, the team found that traction would be an issue. The grass field gave way to an interesting and bumpy game. The team quickly began to cope with it though and ended the game with a 13-2 score.
Drexel University, expected to be the Profs’ second game, forfeited. Which meant that the team had two hours to wait until their next game against Monmouth University.
Luckily, they eventually got to have a small lunch break before that game. They could see clearly that a barbecue was under way. They got themselves refueled with burgers and hot dogs, and got right back into a battle-mentality. The Hawks weren’t an easy sweep at first, but this morale-driven team rallied together, and the cheering propelled them to a 10-4 win over the Hawks.
“Against Monmouth, we really looked our best. We came together as a team…never seen us so excited to play.” Zybrick said.
The team rushed off the dirt from playing Monmouth, and set up to play Philadelphia University
in the field right behind them. Philly U had some good moments, too. The game became convincing evidence of that the team has really polished its stick-skills. They surely became an indispensable edge against a team that leads with individual athleticism. Groundballs were hard-fought and almost always utilized for a super-effective offense. This is shown through the team’s ending score of 10-2.
The championship game against reigning champ, Farleigh Dickinson University, was right up next. The Devils were the only thing standing in the way of the Profs’ finishing the tournament as victors. This was a true tug-o-war kind of game, which very well could have gone either way. Offense had opportunities for shots and they took shots, but they couldn’t place a whole lot. It was an honest time in that game. It saw a lot of powerful play from everybody, including Zybrick. It was an incredible game, shown in the final score, 4-6 for the Devils. It was an intense and low-scoring game, fitting for a final. Unfortunately, the Profs were not able to claim a victory.
“It was a back-and-forth the entire game. One of those games where if a couple bounces went our way we would be holding the trophy at the end.” Zybrick said.
This tournament wasn’t about winning, though. The team kept reminding themselves that there was a more-important purpose to this day. At the end of the day, it was a tournament for Donnie Farrell. The tournament was meant to be a means to honor Farrell. It could be told from the expressions on the faces of his parents. Brian Mahoney feels glad that he could help them in any way that he could.
“[The tournament] Made me feel like I can make a difference for complete strangers. Mr. and Mrs. Farrell are extremely happy each year we do this tournament. They can rest easy knowing Donnie will not be forgotten.” Mahoney said.
According to Zybrick, it’s all that really matters. He hopes that the tournament will continue to be an annual event after he graduates.
“Lax for Donnie has shown me that not only is lacrosse an amazing sport, but it is a medium to something bigger. Lacrosse, or any team sport, brings not only athletes but also families together,” Zybrick said. “Lax for Donnie taught me that there are things more important in this world than winning a game. The most important thing in this world, I believe, is leaving a path for others to follow and I hope with the creation of the Lax for Donnie Tournament I did that.”
A path left by Donnie.