Connor Eschmann was playing summer league lacrosse in South Boston two summers ago when he learned that his childhood friend, Matt Allen, was looking to transfer out of Washington College in Maryland.
Eschmann and another player in the summer league, then Endicott senior Will Jennings, both wanted Allen on their college squad.
The recruitment pitches were solid.
Jennings had recently transferred to Endicott from Washington College. So, he already had a connection with Allen. In addition, the Gulls had recently made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and the program was historically competitive in the Commonwealth Coast Conference.
At the time, Springfield had just won its ninth straight NEWMAC title. With the graduation of top-line midfielders looming, Allen could have a good shot at being a first-line player on an elite team. It also didn’t hurt that he and Eschmann have known each other since they were kids growing up in Wrentham, Mass.
By the end of it, Eschmann’s pitch was too enticing to pass up.
“I knew his personality and the team’s personality (would work together well),” said Eschmann. “He hasn’t had a problem fitting in with us. Personally I thought it would be kind of cool to finally play on a team together for once. In middle school we were on a bunch of teams, but playing together at a high level (has been) a cool thing to do.”
By the end of his final season in 2016 with Washington College, Allen scored 10 goals and dished out 12 assists. Good enough to finish third on the team in total points.
The senior runs with eye-catching speed on the field. Listed at 5’8 160 pounds, he may be on the shorter end of the spectrum, but he plays with tremendous passion and grit. He’s an ideal midfielder.
On top of his mentality on the field, Allen is skilled with the ball in his stick. Although he possess superior stick skills, he doesn’t put his team’s chances of winning in jeopardy by trying to flaunt his abilities.
“He knows he is skilled but he doesn’t show it off,” said Eschmann. “They (midfielders) are kind of horses out there, and he has a motor. He is a really really hard worker. He doesn’t really make excuses.”
In Allen’s freshman year at Washington College, the program was one of the best in the country. In 2014, the team went 18-2 and made a run all the way to the national semifinals.
However, in the following seasons, Allen started to feel like the program wasn’t for him. He started looking for another option.
“Culture is such a huge thing in lacrosse,” said Allen. “At Washington College we were really good my freshman year, but after that we kind of declined because of the culture. You had kids behind you rooting for you to do poorly because they wanted to play. I think one of the special things about Springfield lacrosse is the kids pushing you to be better. They aren’t selfish. They aren’t thinking, ‘I hope he doesn’t do well so I can take his spot.’. It’s a real brotherhood. I only got here last year and everybody has my back already. It’s pretty special.”
The Pride’s coaching staff is predominantly compiled with graduates of Springfield College and former members of the lacrosse team.
Due to this, coaches are all on the same page when it comes to the messages they send to the players.
“With all the coaches having graduated from Springfield, they all have that Springfield mantra and attitude,” said Allen “When we are playing (a team like) Western New England, you keep in mind that ‘this is our rival.’ They focus on culture a lot. Especially with (head coach Keith) Bugbee. We have senior meetings and he lets the kids lead. From there it sort of takes care of itself. It’s a respect thing from the top down.”
During home games this season, the Pride set up a white flag next to the gate that the team runs through to go out to the field. The flag is white and has a drawing of a dog holding a lacrosse stick with two hands. Surrounding the dog is the words “CHIEF DAWG LACROSSE.”
45 minutes until opening faceoff and the Chief Dawg flag is already up and flapping. pic.twitter.com/7KtXff0qcM
— Gage Nutter (@GageNutter) March 24, 2018
The team has adopted “Chief Dawgs” as an alias for the program in recent years.
“(Being a Chief Dawg) is about guys who just dont take no for an answer,” said Eschmann. “(It’s about being) really hard working. The energy level is always incredibly high. Loud. Just ready to go. Just being a dog.”
Allen feels like he has tried his best to embrace the Chief Dawg mentality in his short tenure with the program.
“It’s the attitude. The blue-collar underdog (mentality) that you’re going to work harder than everyone else and at the end of the day you’re going to come out on top.”
Although this is Allen’s first season playing with the program, Eschmann feels like Allen embodies what it means to be a Chief Dawg.
“100 percent,” said Eschmann when asked if Allen represents the Chief Dawg mentality. “And to do it in (only) a year is pretty impressive to say the least.”
Featured photo courtesy of Mark Finerty