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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State lacrosse returns after tragic loss of teammate

The Chico State's women's lacrosse team rushes after the ball during a practice game on the stadium field. Photo credit: Sam Barker

The Chico State club lacrosse teams were suspended last year after Nick Castellanos was hit by a car and killed after leaving a team party, resulting in both teams being disbanded. The lacrosse clubs will be back on the field after being reinstated for this season.

On the night of Jan. 16, 2014, Nick Castellanos, a first-year member of the men’s lacrosse club team, was struck and killed by a motor vehicle after he had attended a gathering involving fellow club members where alcohol was present.

In early February 2014, the university announced the suspensions of the men’s and women’s club lacrosse teams, immediately ending their seasons. The women’s team had played just one game prior to the ruling while the men had yet to commence their season. Citing violations of the club sport student-athlete handbook policy on alcohol, both organizations were shut down and with the option to apply for conditional status at the end of the spring semester.

Following the conclusion of lengthy investigations by the university and local law enforcement, the clubs were granted conditional status last May, the lowest form of recognition, and will not receive any funding from the university this season. They will have least priority for field use and practice scheduling as well. There is also some disciplinary probation for individual students, said Kendall Ross, Club Sport and Program Coordinator.

Ross explained the four additional components of the lacrosse club’s sanctions imposed by the university. Peer education, community service and additional alcohol education courses are the new requirements for the newly reinstated clubs.

Evan Forayter and Veronica Boyd, presidents of the men’s and women’s lacrosse club teams, have made presentations to other club sports and will continue to do so throughout the year to share their experiences of the tumultuous nine months.

Members of both teams have also been involved in on-campus and Chico community service efforts, such as participating at Be Chico in August. Team members will also attend an upcoming alcohol awareness fair this October. Furthermore, each individual club member is mandated to complete 10 additional hours of service on their own time.

Lastly, both clubs are working closely with the Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center for further alcohol education in addition to participating in Wildcat ROAR training sessions to help prevent alcohol-related deaths from occurring in the future.

“They’ve been doing an outstanding job completing those sanctions thus far,” Ross said.

Boyd said that despite the ordeal both clubs endured these past nine months, it has not put a damper on recruiting.

Ross said she has been contacted for information regarding the lacrosse teams’ status going forward.

“I think now that we’ve had our sanctions and time to really process the whole ordeal, I think we’re ready to let people know what really happened,” Boyd said. “We didn’t want to go out there and be angry. We know we screwed up and there are things we need to fix.”

Ross said the ongoing investigation was cited for several months as the university couldn’t comment at the time.

Ross said to ensure another event of such magnitude never happens again, there have been institutional changes to how Chico State’s club sports operate. During the registration process, students are now asked if they live with teammates. Those who do receive additional information regarding what it means to share a living space with other club members.

Boyd said looking out for teammates is what her team will be doing much more of going forward.

“We may not be together over the weekends, but it’s just shooting a text that says ‘Stay safe!’ and just looking out for our members,” she said.

The group community service requirement has brought her team closer together, Boyd said.

“We’re not bad people. We made a mistake. We’re doing our part to get back into the community and get our image out there,” Boyd said. “I think a lot of people looked down on us negatively when we lost a player— a family member. It was definitely a learning experience.”

Forayter stressed the importance of educating all team members about better alcohol awareness and the rules regarding team functions as laid out in the club sports handbook.

He said he hopes the team’s conditional status is only for this upcoming season and that the club can make its way back to its previous status of Tier III, the highest ranking possible.

“The school will see our good merit and things we’ve been doing in the community,” Forayter said, “and then maybe they’ll put us to Tier I and we’ll start working our way back up.”

However, the suspension was particularly hard on last year’s batch of first-year players who never had the chance to suit up or practice, which has caused many of them to leave the club for other pursuits.

“We lost five or six kids who were going to be returning,” he said. “A lot of the people in the public were rallying behind us and trying to support us because they knew we lost a teammate and that we’d messed up.”

He also said that since the team has gotten more involved in the community, their image has become more positive.

“It’s been an incredibly tough year. Our teammates are our best friends. It’s been a great, not as in good, but as in important— a learning experience,” Forayter said. “We’re excited to be back and to represent our school again and bring a good name back to Chico State lacrosse.”

With both head coaches returning along with veteran players strengthened by the ordeal of losing a season and one of their own, Chico State lacrosse is back.

Nick Reddy can be reached at [email protected] or @NickIsReddy on Twitter.

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