Every year, the team recognizes a few players who contributed in a big way to the season's success both on and off the field. Although all of our players give 110%, a few develop work ethics that go above and beyond the team's expectations. These are your 2018 Illinois State Lacrosse Award Winners.
Jason Nash Heart&Hustle Award: Nick Graf
This award is given to a player who is always working, always giving a positive attitude, and always does the things nobody else has the guts to do. The award winner is someone who pushes himself and his teammates to new levels each and every day. It is named after the late Jason Nash because his everlasting quote rings loudest in the ears of this award winner: "Play every shift like its your last."
2018 is the 2nd year the team has given this award out and no one has earned it more than Nick Graf. The midfielder from Channahon, Illinois, spent his minutes on the field this year doing everything under the sun. He was the team's Swiss Army knife that wouldn't quit during his junior 2018 season. Nick would be forcing turnovers on one side of the field and then initiate the offense on the other side; he even took faceoffs! Above all else, Nick would only leave the field once his legs were spent after running up and down the field a couple times. He truly did play every shift like it was his last.
Most Improved Player of the Year: Ryan "Cap" Cappello
The Most Improved Player of the Year always goes to the person who made the biggest jump in talent, playing time, and leadership skills in a one year period. The award winner most likely joined the team for the first time as a bench player and then later in their career, adopted a much bigger role, usually unpredicatbly.
Ryan Cappello, much like former Most Improved POYs, played competitive lacrosse for the first time in college. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, Cap struggled to get any higher in the depth chart than a line 3 midfielder. However, once Cap worked on his off hand, stepped into his shot, and demanded the ball on offense, his coaches immediately moved him to Attack. The Schaumburg native went from playing in only 6 games his 1st two years to leading the team in assists with 8 in his junior year. Ryan not only played in every game in 2018, but he was also the team treasurer, an offensive captain, and did so while maintaining a 3.2 GPA.
Rookie of the Year: Sam Kraker
Rookie of the Year is the exceptional first year player award. Past Rookies of the Year have been transfers or high school phenoms that come to the Redbird Lacrosse progam and make an immediate impact. Rookie of the Year is nothing like the "Madden Curse" though; usually people who win Rookie of the Year win MVP or Def/Off POY later in their collegiate career.
Sam Kraker is the Illinois State Lacrosse 2018 Rookie of the Year. Sam was exceptional in his first year. Due to injuries, the coaching staff was forced to pull Sam out of his comfort zone at the defensive midfielder position and bring him on as a long stick midfielder. This Lemont High school alum not only made the transition look easy, but he was one of the best defenders on the field! Later in his rookie season, Kraker was forced again to move down to close defender and once again, the kid was a leader on his team. Sam picked up 21 groundballs and scored twice in his first season.
Offensive Player of the Year: Remy Crabtree
Offensive Player of the Year is someone who led the offense most effectively. This doesn't always reflect the guy on the team with the best statistics or the athletic looking action shots. Often times, this award goes to the guy who initiated the offense or scored late in the game when the team needed a push in momentum.
Remy Crabtree put the offense on his back in his 2018 senior season. Every time he touched the ball, the "B-Town Kid" would dodge to the net. His notorious swim move captivated fans every game as he netted 10 goals on the season last year. At 23 years old, Remy beat the arch-rivals Illinois putting in a career-high 4 goals. Remy may have been our only senior this year but after being one of the very few seniors in Redbirds Lacrosse history to win their last U of I game and win a playoff game in the same year, at least he can say that he went out on top.
Defensive Player of the Year: Tony Parrilli
Defensive Player of the Year goes to the man who leads his team by example. He is usually someone who has an extensive range of leadership skills that reflects greatly on his teamwork. The Defensive Player of the Year leads the defense through understanding the situation he's put in, doing the right thing, and even making other players around him better through great communication.
Tony Parrilli was the life blood of the Redbirds success in 2018. He was calm, cool, and collected through losses, and electric to watch through wins. The opposing teams would often talk about this former Brother Rice goalie as if he was the best player on the field on either sideline. The junior goalkeeper earned his stripes this year after being the backup goalie the last two years. Tony was the one man on the field that every player would turn to when things got rough and he always found a way to put them back on track. At the end of the season, Tony saved 63.7% of his shots on cage, which might not stand out that much until you see that he amassed 198 saves! That's the most in the conference by far, the runner up having 147 saves.
Most Valuable Player: Matt Lowry
The Most Valuable Player goes to the teammate who works the hardest. He doesn't find excuses. The only time the MVP isn't at practice, is when he's in a meeting for the team. The MVP shows up early and leaves late. They strive to be the best each and every day. The Most Valuable Player is usually the guy on the team who was the obvious difference in any given game.
Matt Lowry is the 2018 Illinois State Lacrosse Most Valuable Player. The sophomore captain from Chicago, Illinois, lead his team with ease, commanding the ball, commanding respect, and commanding the opposing defense to get out of the way. Matt joined his goalie Tony Parrilli as the only Redbirds in the 1st team All-Conference selections. Make no mistake about it; the Sandburg alum earned his All-Conference honors with 31 Goals and 6 Assists. Lowry was tied for 2nd in the conference for goals scored on the season.