Illinois State’s oldest club sport spiced up its long-standing tradition of alumni weekend by inviting lacrosse teams from across the state to join in the weekend’s festivities.
The tradition of ISU lacrosse alumni weekend has been around for 22 years and is still going strong. This year, organizers decided to invite the lacrosse teams from Eastern Illinois University and Bradley University to play in a tournament-style weekend of games.
“We wanted to start a new fall tradition and get some competition going with other in-state schools,” Chris Tolomeo, defensive captain and team treasurer, said.
The round-robin style tournament took place at 11 a.m. last Saturday at Rosa Parks Commons in Normal. The Illinois State team defeated Bradley University 14-2 and Eastern Illinois University 13-2.
“Having more games over the weekend gives the younger alumni more activity and more opportunity to play,” former Redbird Tim Schubert said.
The team plans to continue inviting more in-state teams to Alumni Weekend in the hopes of creating a new tradition for future Redbirds to keep up with.
“It’s great to have everyone together for a whole day of lacrosse,” Tolomeo said. “Hopefully it will grow to a whole weekend event.”
In addition to the out-of-town guests, the team kept the standing tradition alive by hosting Redbird alumni and facing off against them in the last game of the day.
“Even though we are out there competing, we get nothing but encouragement from the alumni and strong tips for improving our team,” Tolomeo said. “It gets us all really excited for the season.”
When former players like Schubert were still competing for ISU, the strong support from alumni fueled their desire to continue giving back to the team.
“Knowing how involved the alumni are with the team kind of tells the incoming freshman, ‘this is for real, this is a family,’ and it reassures them that they are not alone,” Schubert said.
As does Homecoming in general, alumni weekend gives former Redbirds the unique opportunity to come back to campus and see how things have changed. For lacrosse alumni, it is a chance to see how the team has grown and evolved over the years.
“The level the team is at now is so much more serious than ever before,” Schubert said. “There are more kids and more skill.”
In the final game of the weekend, the alumni team defeated the Illinois State team 11-10 and, as always, ended the day with handshakes and pats on the back.
“What I will miss the most about being on the team is the camaraderie,” Tolomeo said. “When you are with the same guys for your whole college career, you become more than teammates. You become family.”