The College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) is gearing up to begin the 2023 Men’s Lacrosse season. The league is home to seven DIII universities.
The 2022 season was highly competitive with six of the seven teams winning at least nine games. Illinois Wesleyan finished the regular season undefeated, but was knocked off in the confernce tournament by North Central. The No. 3 seeded Cardinals defeated the No. 4 seeded Transylvania to capture the the program’s first confernce championship.
The 2023 season looks again to be highly competitve. We caught with the head coaches from five of the programs to learn more about how their fall seasons went.
Zach Iannucci was hired in November 2012 as the programs first head lacorsse coach. During that time, Coach Iannucci has an 111-37 (.750) overall record and is 35-4 (.897) record in conference play. He has led the Titans to five regular season titles and four tournament championships. The Titans have made four NCAA Tournament appearances, including a 2021 run that saw them make the Elite Eight. We sat down with Coach Iannuci to learn more about his program.
What did your fall ball look like this year?
We started fall ball really late this year, we finished up the Friday before Thanksgiving. I don’t know how that’s gonna affect things. It doesn’t feel like we’ve had that much time off, which ultimately is a good thing. We wanted to give our guys a more consistent time in the weight room. We started really early two years ago and hated it. So we figured, let’s try the other end of it. And so far, we love it.
Did you have a particular area that you focused on this fall? Development? Scheme? Culture?
The focus has been on skill development and building team culture. We don’t play any outside competition in the fall, allowing us to focus a little bit more on our individual development. We don’t have to worry so much about getting prepared to play somebody else. We have plenty of time to do that in the spring.
We do a fall League, which we started at COVID. It’s a keepers league, with a seven-game series. They get to draft the teams and have press releases. We’re able to get a full squads with shorter benches. It allows 44, 45, and 46 on the bench a chance to play as a starter which is really beneficial. It’s more team culture than it is X’s and O’s and it allows them to have some fun, try some different things, and play with different guys they normally are going to play with this spring.
You’ve found great success at IWU, what gave you confidenec you would be successful when you first took the job?
I always go back to when I visited campus during my interview. The commitment to athletics is impressive. You see championship banners in women’s basketball, men’s basketball, soccer, and golf. It’s not one sport here that has success. All of the sports are having success. If it was just football that was having the success here like I’ve seen it other schools, that doesn’t tell me that the schools having the success that tells me that one sport is having success like, across the board.
Athletics is great, but especially at the d3 level kids are coming for education. Lacrosse isn’t going to be their career, they’re playing because they love it. Our job placement rate is 7th in the country at like, 98.2%? So our kids are coming here and getting great opportunities once they leave here.
You were the first and only head coach IWU has known. Do you have any advice that you could share with other coahces that are starting their own program?
I have a good buddy of mine starting a new program. And I don’t envy it at all. It was tough, to get that thing off the ground. But the one thing I did tell him was, was to be genuine.
Players and families and everybody around you have the ability to see through any kind of BS. Try to be as authentic and genuine as possible. That’s been a key of mine.
I don’t know how to be anybody other than myself: good, bad, indifferent. That’s what I tried to do from the beginning. I go back to my earliest recruits: Mike Julius and Nick Winter. These guys bought into what I was selling and because of that, we were able to have a lot of success.
If you care, your players will see that you care, and they’ll run through a brick wall for you. I’ve been lucky enough to have guys that are willing to give me everything they have for the four years that they’re here and because of that, we’ve been able to have a lot of success.
You guys are located within a four-hour radius of Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Cincinatti. Your staff also has players sprinkled in from Texas, California, Oregon, and Washington. What is you and your staff’s recruiting strategy?
We want to recruit the best players from the Midwest and West Coast. We feel like those players are undervalued and we want to build our program with guys from the non-traditional hotbed areas.
One of my best players is a guy from Dunlap, Illinois, not a traditional hotbed. That’s exactly the type of player that I want. Go back to our Elite Eight run, our faceoff guy who was an All-American. He never played varsity lacrosse in high school, because the school didn’t have it.
We want to win with guys that want to win that are from the Midwest and the West Coast and that are proud of that fact. That’s been a philosophy of ours and as we continue to recruit the best players out here that are looking D3.
Any insights you would like to share with us about the 2023 season?
This year for us is a little bit of a redemption year. Last year was a little bit of a hangover from the year prior and our guys are super motivated. Our guys are excited about the season, which is critical not just talking about it, they’ve been putting in the work. So we’re fired up.
Fall Ball Recap
I was able to get a hold of four other coaches in the league to check in on their progress and highlight some of the names and faces that will be leading them in 2023. Here are a few snipnets of our conversations.
We feel really good about our season. We were the youngest team in the conference last year and have everyone back. That said, we know the conference is strong and five to six teams have an opportunity to win this year.
We will rely heavily on our top two scorers, Andrew Johnson and George Burchfield, as well as our senior captain defenseman Jameson Stahl. Our freshmen class will bring additional firepower and we should be a better team at X as well as on the defensive side.-David Neff
Coming out of the fall season, we accomplished many of our team goals. We wanted to take stock of who we were going to be this year and what new tools our returners and new players are bringing to the table to make another run at the CCIW Championship.Overall, we have a team that just enjoys being around each other, so we try to maximize the opportunities we have together. We’re fortunate to be returning the majority of our team from last season.
Senior goaltender Jake Allgood returns healthy after being injured before conference play, along with five of six starting close defensemen, including All-American Trenton Herubin. Our offense is once again powered by guys like Nick Rubino and Jack Moran, now seniors, who have been a consistent presence on the field for us for four years now.-Jay Farrell
I am excited to continue our development as a team after our fall. Our group is a tremendous group of young men and I am looking forward to seeing them compete. I know this team can compete at a high level and they play connected.
We have some returning pieces that will look to continue their leadership into a strong spring. Dalton Hubbs and Will Warner are outstanding in the midfield with some new additions looking to provide offensive firepower. We return a defense led by starters AJ Teague, Benjamin Marcum, and Evan Deskins.-Logan Otto
We are incredibly happy with how our fall went. It was one of growth and discovering who we are as a program. With it being our second year at Carroll getting our guys on campus and starting to build the culture has been paramount. I could not be prouder of these young men and we are very excited to compete this season.-Jacob Acevedo
Players to Watch
Here are some of the players to watch in the CCIW this season. All of these players earned First or Second Team honors during the 2022 season.
|Seattle, Wash./Bishop Blanchet
|Oak Park, Ill./Oak Park-River Forest
|Prior Lake, Minn./H.S.
|Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North
|Mokena, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central
|Elgin, Ill./St. Edward
|Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater Area
|Arlington Heights, Ill./St. Viator
|North Bend, Wash./O’Dea
|Castle Rock, Colo./Castle View