The Indiana Tech men's and women's lacrosse teams have had mirror-image seasons – and that has been great news for both.
Each secured regular-season Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference championships, and both beat Lawrence Tech on April 27 to claim the conference tournament title.
Both have multiple wins against top 10 teams, and each has just two losses. All four of those combined losses have come against teams ranked in the top 3 in the country.
And both drew Keiser in the first round of the NAIA National Invitational, which is being held this week at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The men beat the Seahawks 9-7 in the quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon. The women, who have been included in the national tournament in all four seasons that it has been held, will play Keiser at 7 tonight.
The women reached the national finals last season, losing 18-11 to SCAD-Savannah, but came into the spring knowing that this year's team would look entirely different after losing six seniors and bringing in first-year coach Alexis DiGiovanni, a 2015 grad and former Warriors assistant.
“From fall to spring, our team has done a total transition,” DiGiovanni said. “They took it and ran with it. Myself and my assistant, Tayler (Campbell), we talk every day about how far they've come and how determined and strong their will to win has been.”
The women lost two of their first three games of the season, falling to No. 3 Benedictine (Kansas) and No. 1 SCAD-Savannah.
“We went to the finals last year in Nashville, (Tennessee), so to have those two losses off the bat at the start of the season were tough,” senior Sabrina Foest said. “And instead of pushing each other away, pulling together and relying on each other going forward have been the biggest moments for us. And that's really the catalyst of what got us to where we are now, deciding that we were going to be bigger than this and that we're going to win.”
The Indiana Tech women have not lost since March 16, beating then-No. 3 University of the Cumberlands (Kentucky) and then-No. 2 Lawrence Tech.
“We've built a lot more chemistry, as well,” said senior Jennifer Banks, who was named an NAIA first-team All-American on Tuesday. “Like on the attack line, it was very difficult at the start of the year with so many new faces in the starting lineup, but now you really know how everyone plays, and we all fit together much better. So I think we're really going to show up when we go to nationals.”
The men's team also took an early-season loss to No. 3 Reinhardt in March but rebounded to beat No. 1 Cumberlands 12-11 in overtime the next day.
“We were getting ready to play Cumberlands the next day, and we had a meeting scheduled in the hotel the next night after losing to Reinhardt,” coach Bryan Seaman recounted. “We were all sitting there, and we didn't really talk about game plans at all.
“We sat in the room and talked to each other and talked about what's important to us and why we do this. Really a lot of heart-to-heart talks last night and came out and played one of the best games of the year the next day.”
Seaman said the Warriors have an edge over other teams in their conditioning.
“We work all year to be the best conditioned team in the country, so that we can play fast for four quarters and wear teams down,” he said. “I think it's something that helps us separate late in games, especially when we're down, it is our commitment to our pace.”
Seaman said that conditioning has allowed the Warriors to be a come-from-behind team much of the year, but they've come to rely on the comeback less and less, and led 6-4 over Lawrence Tech at halftime of the conference title game. The tournament championship was the first for the men in the program's history.
“It's a big deal; we've been working on that for a long time,” Seaman said. “Before I was the head coach, I was an assistant here for three years. ... It's something everyone in this program has been working toward for the past 10 years. So to do it in our 10th anniversary season was really special.”
And the chance for the men to celebrate such an accomplishment alongside the women's team, which claimed its second conference tournament title and its first since its inaugural season, was icing on an already sweet season.
“It's extremely unique that we had the same opponent in the finals, and we open the national tournament with the same opponent,” Seaman said. “The past few years, we've both been at nationals, and we get the chance to support each other. It's nice to have that support on the road, from the men's team for them and they cheer for us (as well). We're excited to be on the same stage this week, and advancing to the next round together would be fantastic.”