You could have called it divine-intervention, home-field advantage, or you could have even called luck. No matter what you call it, the Profs had something on their side when they became champions of the 3rd Annual Lax for Donnie Tournament on Sunday, March 26.
Ask any of them, though. They’ll tell you exactly what this was all about. This wasn’t the normal season tournament where every goal carried the weight of a successful record. No. This tournament carried a different kind of weight. This tournament in its entirety wasn’t about anything except for Donnie Farrell. The fallen co-founder of the team, who was murdered at Rowan in 2007, is the soul of this tournament and on Sunday, he was the motivation for the Profs to burn through three games and clinch a 9-2-championship victory over TCNJ.
This was the Profs’ day to play for something bigger than themselves. They were playing for a fellow Rowan student, and somebody who they felt needed more recognition. Somebody who that even though they never physically met, they felt connected to. Brian Mahoney and last year’s president, Rob Zybrick, really believed in the seeds they were planting when they lead the creation of the first Lax for Donnie Tournament, three years ago.
Maybe it was a matter of patience, and it was a miracle in the making, but the team hadn’t had the best luck the past two years of the tournament’s existence. For the first and second tournaments, the Profs fell to Dickinson College in the finals. It came to the team’s attention that Dickinson wouldn’t be showing up this year, for the Red Devils decided last minute to drop themselves out of the tournament.
“I didn’t plan on playing in the first game because I was focused on making sure all the teams arrived on time. I’m glad I made that decision, because as I was on the sideline, I got a text from Dickinson’s president saying that they weren’t going to make it due to “unforeseen circumstances,”” Mahoney said. “I was pretty annoyed at the time, but I understood. I had to scramble to adjust the schedule, but I was able to make it work.”
This news came in just as the Profs’ took their first win of the tournament against Drexel. This year’s tournament would boast a better location for the Profs’, as the team got to utilize Rowan’s newly-renovated, intramural fields, as opposed to the Sicklerville park used last year.
“Having it at Rowan is awesome because we have two fields available to us and it encourages students, alumni, family, & friends to come,” Mahoney said. “It also brings the story of Donnie to life. Donnie was killed on campus, and we play on our campus. I would say hosting the event on campus also affects the other teams. These players from all over the northeast understand what the tournament is truly for.”
The Profs carried away a 5-1 victory over the Dragons to begin the tournament on a high-note. The tournament schedule had received some last-minute tweaks, but thanks to Dickinson drawing out, the team got a two-hour break before their next game against Atlantic Cape Community College. This would ultimately turn into a two-hour wait in the 44-degree weather that morning.
At least there was free food. A number of the team’s parents kept plenty of bagels, coffee, and eventually hot dogs and hamburgers on tap. The break dragged on but after the team fueled back up, and the football team was finished using Richard Wacker Stadium to practice, ACCC rolled around and it was time to suit up.
ACCC had a relatively small team, but that small team gave the Profs a good run for the length of the game. For what ACCC lacked in scoring, they made up for in stick skills and working clears. The Buccaneers failed to land a goal on Mahoney or Hofmann, but the Profs got to business quick with a goal from Alex Chalef. Attackmen, Ryan Gallagher, and Matt Gorzynski, had a field day, scoring back-to-back. Gorzynski came in not too long after Chalef, scoring off of an assist from Chris Deck and Gallagher off of an assist from Gorynski. Donovan Moyer spun his stick around a bit, scoring off of a classy assist from Mike Squicciarini. Will Spreen scored from the 20-mark off of an assist from Squicciarini.. Derek Hofmann even joined in at midfield, and surprised quite a few people when he, coming off of an assist from Pat Hall, ripped an underhand goal to the top-left corner. The Profs let up no goals this entire game, and came out with a 16-0 final score.
While other teams had roughly 10 minutes to transition between the two fields for their games, the Profs found another break for about an hour before their next game against Stevenson University.
During their game against Stevenson, the Profs’ spent a little bit more time on defense than against ACCC. It wasn’t crippling though. Stevenson’s midfield was especially functional, with quick legs that gave long-stick-mids like Steve Cupo and Mike Conroy some running time. Offensively, there was fun to be had, as shown by a quick game of hot-potato that ended in a goal by Gallagher. While the Profs ripped many shots, Gorzynski came in and snuck a nice goal from X. About this time was when the Profs began finding an increase in fans on the bleachers. The team received an unexpected cheering section in the form of ACCC’s players. Also, in the stands, was a small pack of lacrosse alumni from the day before, who seemed to just want to get sophomore, Ariel Zelaya pumped up, by bringing a home-made, cardboard poster reading “D-Mids are People Too.” This gaggle of alumni included Rob Zybrick, who watched on at the tournament that he helped create; this time as a college-graduate.
The Profs carried away a 9-1 win over the Mustangs, but it wasn’t long before zero-hour was upon the team. It was one thing getting there, but now, TCNJ was on the teams’ mind, and so was the possibility of the team’s first Lax for Donnie Tournament win.
This wasn’t just a championship game where the victor just walks away with a win. More than anything else, the Profs’ wanted this for everything the Lax for Donnie Tournament stands for. They wanted it for him, they wanted it for his parents in the stands, they wanted it for the message that Donnie should be remembered. That’s what they wanted to play for and that’s what they kept in their minds throughout the tournament getting to this championship. The Profs had the people in the stands who were in their corner.
Now, it was just time to leave it on the field.
This game against TCNJ wouldn’t have the quickest start, but the entertainment value was certainly present. For a good portion of the first half, the Profs and the Lions seemed to be in a back-and-forth between tying the score up. Nerves were tense as the Profs put in goals from the likes of Gorzynski and Gallagher, only to be matched by TCNJ. Yet, the momentum built up until one-by-one, the Profs sequentially got more goals in, effectively putting the Profs into a good place. This is where the fire burned a little bit brighter on the sidelines. Ryan Francisco and Zelaya kept in-character as they turned up the volume of the team and the fans watching. Mahoney wasn’t worried though, and watched on as the team placed another seven goals onto TCNJ.
“We went into the second half of the championship with a score of 2-2. But I knew we would adjust and put some goals up on TCNJ,” Mahoney said.
The clock ticked away the last two minutes of the game, and like an hourglass, the last second passed.
The final score: 9-2.
The Profs won their championship.
The team knew exactly how to react, and charged straight for Hofmann with all that fire they conjured throughout the game.
This was a win in the books, but everybody knew that this wasn’t just their championship victory. This was Donnie’s.
“We have created a tradition here at Rowan. People will know Donnie’s story, which was our main goal. Donnie’s parents are so proud and happy that their son’s legacy will live on forever at Rowan University,” Mahoney said.
This truly shined when Donnie’s parents joined the team for a team photo.
“Each year, they pull us to the side and say, “Listen, you guys are complete strangers. You never personally knew Donnie, but you went out of your way to make sure our son’s legacy lives on. You will have no idea what that means to us until you have children of your own.” Mrs. Farrell also said, “It won’t bring Donnie back but I’m proud that people remember him and that his story inspired two young men who never knew him to do this. Thanks to them and what they’ve done, Donnie will be remembered.”” Mahoney said.
As it goes, 32 happy lacrosse players left the field that night, closing the books on another Lax for Donnie Tournament.
For more information on Donnie Farrell, check out the Donnie Farrell Project.