“Goon Squad” is No Joke: Women’s Lacrosse improves 6-0 on season

womenslacrosse2021

Justin Bjorseth

Women’s Lacrosse team huddles up before their game against Cornell College on March 8th, 2020, (Photo Credits/ Justin Bjorseth)

Carter Gledhill

When you think of college athletics, what are the first sports that come to mind? Most would say football, followed by basketball, baseball, or whatever else their university is known for. While all those are offered at Concordia University Chicago (CUC), other programs have made their case for being the premier program on campus. There may never be a clear answer, one CUC team is making noise that is hard to ignore: women’s lacrosse.

The women’s lacrosse team, nicknamed the “Goon Squad,” is off to a hot 6-0 start, picking up right where they left off last season. Before COVID-19 cancelled the rest of their 2020 season, the team was 5-0 with a 2-0 record in the Midwest Lacrosse Conference (MWLC). Even more impressive, the team is still riding a 14-game win streak dating back to April 13, 2019. “The team has worked really hard to accomplish that,” said Coach Russell Allen. “They’ve definitely put in relentless effort on the field, but I think beyond that, they’ve really grown in their knowledge of the game.”

Relentless is an understatement about how well this team is performing. This season, the team has amassed an astonishing 85 goals compared to their opponents’ 26. In addition, they have attempted a whopping 196 shots. “I think we play a very physical, very aggressive style of lacrosse,” said Allen. “We want to get out and pressure our opponents everywhere on the field to take them out of their comfort zone.”

A major component of a team’s success on the field comes from the connection between athletes and the coaches. “Coach Allen has made such a great impact on the lacrosse program here,” said sophomore Bailey Steinkamp. “He is so good at knowing our individual strengths and putting us in a place to succeed. However, he is also always challenging us to go out of our comfort zone to help us grow as players.”

“Coach has set this tone of intensity to be the best versions of ourselves we can be,” said senior Elizabeth Cywrus. “He sees the potential in us and we use that to strive for greatness on and off the field. We want to make sure we leave an impression on everyone we encounter and have them remember us as a team who doesn’t quit.”

 The team is relatively small with only fourteen athletes on the roster, but their bond makes them a very tight-knit group. “Not only do we have a team chemistry on the field, but we also have loyal friendships off of it,” said Cywrus. “We support and fight like sisters, but most importantly, we are proud of each other. We are proud of each other’s personal accomplishments, academic successes, and lacrosse stats. All this positivity strengthens our mentality of teamwork.”

“We pretty much do everything together, especially since we have a lot of classes together,” said sophomore Ryan McGee. “We are always helping each other out whether that’s on the field, in the classroom, or in life.” 

Coach Allen took over the women’s lacrosse team in the summer of 2018. In the previous three seasons, the program went 12-39 overall, with a 0-17 record in their inaugural 2016 season. Coach Allen came to CUC after four years of coaching at Medaille College in Buffalo, New York. There, he had led the Mavericks to back-to-back conference championships in 2017 and 2018.

Coach Allen knew from day one a new mindset was needed to turn the program around. “When I took over the program, the goal was to build a conference championship program,” said Allen. “I wanted to instill in the program the most was a relentless desire to win. I think the team thought I was a bit crazy for talking about winning a conference championship and playing in the national tournament when I first got here. I felt like I had to instill a sense of belief in the team.”

 Last year seemed like the year the program would take the next step towards achieving their goal. Like all other college sports, the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. “The cancellation was surreal,” said Allen. “At first, we were crushed about having our momentum halted so abruptly – but we tried to focus on the positive. We knew we were returning almost our entire starting lineup and we wanted to use that as motivation to work towards the future.” 

“We felt robbed because no one really got to see why we were undefeated,” said Cywrus. “Using that heartbreak, our team is pushing each other harder than we were last year so that we can bring home a conference championship. We are motivated to break school records, have the school know about us, and have other teams fear us.”

 This season’s revenge tour can be summarized in one word: determined. “Our number one goal still remains to win a conference championship,” said Allen. “We learned last year to not take anything for granted so we just want to get better each day and fight every game like it is our last.”

This is the first year the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) started a women’s lacrosse conference. With a team full of experienced veterans and battle-tested underclassmen, they are set up to be a top contender for the conference title. Currently, they are the only undefeated team entering the conference portion of their schedule.