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Lacrosse - Tue, Oct. 22, 2013
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The 26th Annual NIU Fall Lacrosse Classic kicked off early Saturday, Oct. 19 as players and fans made their way to the brand new NIU Outdoor Recreation Complex for the fall's most anticipated lacrosse event.


The 2013 Fall Lacrosse Classic – sponsored by STX and Nike – featured several new programs in a new 10-team format. The decade of teams ventured in from all across the Midwest according to NIU Lacrosse founder, Mark Wagner.


"This year we have programs from the MCLA (Men's Colligate Lacrosse Association) both Division I and II, several teams from the GLLL (Great Lakes Lacrosse League) and a pair of the most competitive post-collegiate men's teams in the Midwest," said Wagner.


"So it's quite a diverse group. Many of our teams and players have been here for many years. We're very fortunate that very few teams don't come back. So, it's become a collection of friends and people who share a love for the sport and this great area.


"The Fall Lacrosse Classic has become a real family event," Wagner continued. "If you look around here, you'll see many, many families. They spend their weekend here because the Chicagoland area has become such a hotbed for the sport at the high school level. This tournament allows for them to see their kids play college lacrosse at a venue close to home." 


Product reps from sponsors STX and Nike were be on hand with their latest products and even went as far as to let several teams – including Judson – use some their new prototype heads and shafts for the tournament. Eagles' head coach, A.J. Collier II was pleased his team was filled with ecstatic guinea pigs.


"The guys were very excited about the opportunity to play a part in the research and development of some prototype equipment," the 4th year head coach said. A [representative] came by practice earlier in the week and gave us heads and shafts so we could fine tune the pockets and practice with them leading up to the tournament.


"In addition we had a chance to try several of the new styles of gloves and were asked to provide feedback and even have their palms photographed with a grid for proper sizing metrics" Collier II said.  


This opportunity was afforded to Judson because of the relationship of Collier, a former NIU Huskie lacrosse player and 1995 graduate of the university with STX rep Brandon Eble who is also a former NIU player and graduate.


Based on the success that Judson saw in the 2012 Fall Lacrosse Classic garnered them a first round bye and set up a match up with tournament host Northern Illinois.


The Eagles jumped out to an early three goal lead before the Huskies were able to rip some rope. But NIU could not develop anything more offensively as the Eagles routed the host in a 13-5 final.


With the victory the Eagles swooped their way into a semi final show down with a deep Northern Michigan team that had posted victories against Western Illinois and UW-Milwaukee on Saturday.


Bright and early Sunday morning after some prayers, fellowship and a brief warm up, the Eagles found themselves trailing by three before waking up their offense and battling back and forth with Northern Michigan. As the weather began to warm up so did the Eagle offense. The defensive unit – not to be outdone – stiffened up and held off a Wildcat squad that seemed to have a never-ending bench.


"They had more players on the bench than we have in our program," quipped Collier. "They never seemed to tire because of the size of the bench. Our guys did a great job of keeping pace and holding off their numbers."


The Eagles held on to win by a final score of 10-7.


Following the two victories, Eagles squared off against a familiar foe: UW-Whitewater. The Warhawks defeated UW-Platteville prior to upsetting the defending Fall Classic champions, the Naperville Apaches – a post-collegiate men's club team.


The Judson offense jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and held their foot on the gas to roll away with a 9-5 victory and claim the title of 2013 NIU Fall Lacrosse Classic Champions.


"We knew that Whitewater had some very talented players as we faced them a few weeks ago at a Fall Play Day hosted by MSOE (Milwaukee School of Engineering)" stated Collier. "We were lucky to come away with a victory against them at MSOE but we knew we would need to step up our game to beat them again.


"That game made them well aware of our tendencies and we knew we needed to make some adjustments and jump out early and make them chase us down."


The win over UW-Whitewater and the claiming the 2013 NIU Fall Lacrosse Classic crown, the Judson Eagles can enter the winter with momentum as they concentrate on their studies and prepare for the 2014 spring lacrosse season.