March 8, 2012

Augustana Program-Building in the Midwest

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Midfielder Taylor Maduro (22), from Naperville, Ill., is one of 19 freshmen on Augustana's first-year roster.
© Augustana 

Hilary Kargl was the top women's lacrosse recruit in Kentucky. She was named the Blue Grass State's Miss Lacrosse in 2011, made its All-Star team twice and was invited to try out for the U.S. U19 women's team.

Last week, as a college freshman, she tied an NCAA All-Division single-game scoring record. It already seems crazy that Kargl was prepared to not play NCAA lacrosse.

"Her heart was set all along on Kentucky [which has a club team, but no NCAA team]," said Sarah Tisdale, the first-year coach at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., where Kargl ultimately ended up. "She's a huge fan, it's a huge part of her family. Her mind was set. She was going to UK."

So how did Kargl end up playing attack for a brand new program for 2011-12 on the Mississippi River, hours from the nearest lacrosse civilization and 500 miles from Lexington?

"It was just a matter of her coming to campus," Tisdale said. "She really saw herself at Augustana. She fit. I presented it to her as, she's come so far, so many people have given her knowledge. For her to continue playing is important, because that's how it will grow in areas like Kentucky."

That decision has paid off for everyone. Last week, Kargl matched an NCAA record of 14 goals in Augustana's 25-24 overtime victory over Berry. She's put up 35 goals and four assists in her first five collegiate games.

"She's very unselfish," Tisdale said. "She wants to do what's best for the team. We have a group of freshman who are here because they wanted to be a part of this inaugural season. They're not here because they want to win individual awards. They want to represent the school. Even though Hilary scored 14 goals, we've had games where she's not even the leading scorer."

Indeed, Augustana's entire freshman class is making an impact. Even during Kargl's record-setting game, another freshman, Allie Roehrenbeck, provided the heroics by scoring the game-winner in triple overtime. Earlier that week, in Augustana's first-ever win, 20-9 at Birmingham-Southern, Hannah Dickman led the team with five goals.

Five first-year players, Kargl, Roehrenbeck, Dickman, Kelly Stelzer and Christina Letmanski, have already reached double-digit scoring for the Vikings (3-2).

That's no surprise. Tisdale was hired in 2010 and had a year and a half to recruit a first class that could compete from day one. She drew players from six states, mostly in the Midwest, who found Augustana a perfect fit. Many came from newer high school programs and are used to building programs.

Augustana is the first women's lacrosse team in the Quad Cities area of Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa. The Vikings are the only Division III team for miles in any direction and the closest high school lacrosse is in the Chicago area, three hours to the East.

Next year the Vikings will join the Midwest Lacrosse Conference, which currently has eight teams, but this season they compete as independents. As a result, they'll put in plenty of miles.

Augustana opened up on a five-game road trip through Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky. Later in the season it will be on to Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. The Vikings finally play their home-opener Friday against Fontbonne.

"I was fortunate enough to be a product of the Midwest," Tisdale said. "I'm kind of an odd ball in the world of lacrosse. I had relationships with these coaches. [The schedule]'s pieced together. We had some challenges that test our skills and some that will really show what we're capable of."

The Vikings were tested in losses against tough competition like Sewanee (3-1) and Centre (3-1). That mixed schedule adds up to a perfect start for a Midwest team looking to make an impact.

"My big goal with the program is just to put us in the national spotlight and get rid of that myth that Midwest teams aren't as strong as East Coast teams," Tisdale said. "We're on this island where people don't know what lacrosse is. But that was what attracted me. Bringing lacrosse to a growing area like the Quad Cities, showing them what lacrosse is really all about."


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