By: Zach Kime, ’22, Special Contributor
The player who takes the opening draw on the lacrosse field is known as the faceoff man; it’s who starts the game, gets the ground balls and sets the tone for his teammates. They play both ends of the field, defending their goal and occasionally scoring on the oppositions’. It’s a high-pressure job, not every player is up for the task of taking on.
The faceoff man of LVC for the last four years has been Courtland Hackel.
Hackel is one of the many NCAA student athlete seniors losing the remainder of their senior season to COVID-19.
“I was heartbroken that the season ended,” Hackel said. “I knew I would leave so many friends and brothers that I made along the way, and I think that’s what truly got to me.”
It’s a reality that he didn’t see coming, and neither did many others.
He played soccer and football growing up, which helped him to get familiar with field sports while building up his conditioning. Then in high school he wrestled, allowing him to work on his core strength and center of balance, two key areas when one is a faceoff man.
Most of the time these days, one can often catch Hackel drawing or listening to music, both activities he’s explored since arriving at college. Besides that, he’s usually surfing, snowboarding or skating weather permitting.
When track and baseball couldn’t catch his interest, lacrosse came across his radar. He started playing the game at age seven but quickly had to give it up when his hometown of Point Pleasant, NJ didn’t offer any further opportunities to play.
Then, in his sophomore year of high school, the familiar game would come back into his life. The school put together a motley crew of baseball players, football players and even some of his wrestling friends. Together they bonded over the highs and lows, appreciating what one another brought to the team from their prospective sports.
Although he had the support of his teammates, he lacked it from the head coach. In fact, one day the coach exclaimed that Court would “never have the skillset to play in college,” a remark that would stick with him for years to follow.
Looking elsewhere, the assistant coach of the team stepped in and showed a genuine interest in Hackel and his success. Had it not been for him, he probably wouldn’t have had the same opportunity to play in college as he does now.
Playing time wasn’t the first thing on his mind when arriving at LVC. Instead, like most freshmen, he was more concerned about getting to know some people and getting acclimated to life as an exercise science major. Things quickly changed though as it became apparent that the team needed a new faceoff man and he was going to be it.
Having played as a midfielder through high school, he didn’t expect to take faceoffs fulltime but decided to face the challenge head on. Amongst the other freshmen was one named Trevor Holak. The two quickly took a liking to each other’s relentless work ethic, creating a comradery on and off the field. Hackel would go on that year to score his first goal against Lycoming, a moment that he described as exciting.
“I couldn’t help but hear my high school coach in the back of my mind tell me I wasn’t good enough,” he said.
As the next few years passed by, he felt the responsibilities piling up too.
“Each year brought in new faces and fresh names that I had to step up and show what it takes to play here,” he said. “I felt it was my responsibility to show each incoming class what it takes to win and what hard work really is.”
Through the years, he battled hand injuries, as well as the loss of his grandfather and the loss of his cousin. He considers it a big honor to continue playing for them both, even though at the time it was difficult to keep his emotions from affecting his on-field performance. Although he faced these major issues, and a long list of additional minor injuries, Hackel adapted his off the field preparation and knew what he needed to do to get through them.
Preparing for his senior year meant a new approach, focusing mostly on leadership and team wellbeing. As senior year came fast, Court and Trevor were the only two members to emerge from their original class of five. The pair were excited to finally be what he called the “top dogs” but just six games into the season, their expectations were cut brutally short.
On March 17, the Mid Atlantic Conference decided to suspend the seasons of all spring sports team in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With that, it brought the cancellation of senior sports seasons across the east coast. That meant no senior night, no graduation and no final practice with the team or time in the locker room. There was simply no time to get closure on the investment one has made for the last four years.
The first person he called was his dad, a major driving force for Hackel’s on field play. Having his season cut 12 games short and hearing that he’d have to leave campus within a few days was quite a shock. He realized he had to move on and close this chapter of his life and to make the most of every day because tomorrow is never guaranteed.
There’s no forgetting Hackel; he took it upon himself to be LVC’s faceoff man. He faced setbacks along the way and sacrificed for his teammates. He’s appreciative of his teammates who were along for some of his life’s biggest moments.
“Don’t undervalue those who are close to you because they’ll be the ones to help you out of the toughest of times,” he said.