Before “LAX for Donnie” became a tournament that teams across the area flock to, the Rowan men’s club lacrosse team did not really know the story of the club co-founder, whose name marks the memorial event.
Almost 10 years ago during homecoming week, Donald “Donnie” Farrell was attacked and killed on Old Heston Road. His attackers were never caught.
This happened years before any of the current members of the team had even thought about college. They didn’t know who Farrell was. But when they found out about him and his story, they knew they had to do something.
“In 2015, Rob Zybrick and I were approached by Gary Baker, who was with SGA at the time,” said club President Brian Mahoney, a senior. “Over time, we had lost the story of Donnie Farrell. We didn’t know about him or that he was one of our founders or that he was killed until Gary told us.”
Mahoney continued on that the club thought that them not knowing about Farrell was “messed up,” as was the fact that there’s nothing to remember him by on campus.
He explained that the LAX for Donnie Memorial Tournament was their way to honor Farrell. In April, the club will be putting in a brick by Bunce Hall in commemoration.
“I talked to the President of SGA, Daniel Cardona, and we decided to make Memorial Circle like a fallen Profs kind of thing,” Mahoney said. “So you can engrave a brick, and we’re going to put a Donnie Farrell brick in there. We’re going to create a tradition where, over time, friends and family can install a brick along that.”
Mahoney also said that the team will be installing a tree and a plaque at the intramural field.
Since its inaugural running in 2015, the tournament has gained traction with teams in the area. Some programs, like Stevenson University, did not wait for an invitation—they asked to come and play.
“We played Rowan two years ago and kind of hit it off,” said Stevenson coach Mike Urgo. “We were invited last year, but had another tournament on the same day. We’ve been wanting to come here and play in LAX for Donnie and we’re glad we were able to come.”
After hosting the tournament at Johnson Road Park in Sicklerville, New Jersey, a year ago, LAX for Donnie returned to Rowan’s campus this year with games being played at Richard Wackar Stadium and the intramural field.
Eight teams took part in the competition and were divided into two conferences. The Donnie Conference consisted of Atlantic Cape Community College, Drexel University, Stevenson University and Rowan, while the Farrell Conference had Cabrini University, Dickinson College, Penn State Berks and The College of New Jersey.
The eight teams were the most that the tournament has ever had.
“In the past we told people about the story [of Donnie] and then eventually the NCLL [National College Lacrosse League] caught on and helped us find teams in the area,” Mahoney said. “Over time, other teams wanted to be a part of it. Now it’s just word of mouth and there’s a demand to be in this tournament.”
Each team would play through their conference before the top team from each side met in the championship.
Dickinson had won the tournament the previous two years. This time, however, it was Rowan defeating TCNJ, 9-2, in the final game to win the LAX for Donnie Memorial Tournament.
However, the results on the field weren’t the true focus of the tournament, and many people knew that.
“It’s a chance to play out of conference games, but most importantly it’s a charity tournament for a very good cause,” said PSU Berks Coach Fred Foose. “In the spirit of true sportsmanship and really trying to get players, young men, to understand that lacrosse is more than just themselves and the game on the field. It can be bigger if we allow it to be. Whenever we have a chance to play in tournaments like this, we try to do that.”
“If you hear about a murder, you don’t really think too much about it,” Mahoney said. “When you meet the family, it really humanizes it. The Farrell family really appreciates this. All these teams understand what this is for. Lacrosse comes second here. What comes first is Donnie and his family.”
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For more information on the Donnie Farrell story, go to thedonnieproject.com.