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Men's Lacrosse News & Highlights

March 15, 2011

A Conversation With Aaron Benz

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Aaron Benz and his teammates have big goals for the 2011. His path to the goal at Eastern has had many twists and turns.

Starting goalie on the men's lacrosse team. Member of the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. From Kentucky. Tall. Cancer Survivor. These are the quick stats of Eastern's Aaron Benz. These facts made me interested; his interview made me smile. He couldn't be more excited for the 2011 season, and our talk pumped me up too.


RH: What led you to Eastern?

AB: At a lacrosse camp at Gettysburg College called Top Star. Coach Childs was my coach at camp and that was the first time I heard about Eastern. I really liked him and thought he was a great coach. I liked playing for him. From then on, he was always the higher standard in my mind compared to other coaches recruiting me. I narrowed it down to Eastern and a technology school. The things that were important to me were lacrosse and a strong honors program. The decision was really about if I wanted to play in college. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to play lacrosse. I also had kept in contact with some guys from my recruiting trip to Eastern and those relationships helped that decision.

RH: So academics are obviously very important to you. What are you studying here?

AB: Mathematics. I am minoring in Astronomy...honestly, I took a Cosmology class and I loved my professor. That was enough to declare it as a minor. I have a big interest in computer science as well. I wanted to go to college at a place that offered me courses in that.

RH: So you've got a lot of options. Where do you want to end up?

AB: The ultimate goal is to go to graduate school for either mathematics or computer science. I even like the idea of teaching at a college level...being a mathematics professor would be awesome. I wanna know more, I wanna keep learning - there is always more to learn, ya know?

RH: Do you consider yourself a student of the game? If so, what have you learned?

AB: As a defender, we need to have vocal leadership. As a goalie, I need to be the quarterback of the defense. I need to be extremely vocal. My defenders need be comforted. If they don't have trust in me, they won't play to the best of their potential.

RH: We will come back to lacrosse, but I know that you are a cancer survivor. Walk me through your diagnosis and treatment.

AB: On May 15th, 2009, we won our state lacrosse championship. On May 20th, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. May 22nd, I turned 18. The next six months I had chemotherapy.

RH: So that took you up until your first fall season at Eastern.

AB: Yeah, it was a miracle that I made it through my senior season. But that fall, I just had to make sure that my spleen wasn't inflamed and I could play. It was awesome because I could still play fall ball. Every other weekend, I had to miss practice for treatments, but I still played.

RH: Tell me what that summer was like leading up to your first season.

AB: My original goals were to making money and practice. And that was obviously not going to happen. So I played golf. And Super Smash Brothers.

RH: Would you say those things were therapeutic or directly related to your recovery?

AB (Laughing): Definitely. As I got better at Bros, my cancer went away. I see symmetry there.

RH: How did your battle with cancer change you as a player?

AB: In an instant, you take everything more seriously. As a player, I am so much more focused. My mistakes are that much more critical. Making the right decisions is so much more crucial. Even simple things like clearing the ball mean more to me.

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In 2010, Aaron Benz finished ranked nationally in both goals against average and save percentage.

RH: Tell me about HEADstrong.

AB: HEADstrong is a foundation close to here that was started because a college lacrosse player died from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. His family started this organization and they raise money for blood cancer patients. So when I came to Eastern, I got involved because they gave me a scholarship and then we had a fall-ball tournament sponsored by them. They asked me to do a photo shoot that will sell HEADstrong equipment.

RH: What did that day mean to you, playing in the tournament and meeting the family of the player that had passed?

AB: It was really something special. I got to meet a girl that is going through treatment for lymphoma and it really meant a lot to me. I wanted to give back to that community because it was so personal to me.

RH: OK, back to lacrosse. This season is off to an extreme start with your training day to kick things off. What do you hope to accomplish this year?

AB: The intensity and the expectations are much higher this year. Not only do we want to have a 3.0 as a team, but we also want to win the MAC Championship. These aren't goals, these are expectations. If we don't achieve them, we will consider it failing. We are playing a better off-season schedule, the intensity has picked up in practices, and the primary focus is getting Eastern on the map. We wanna make it in the NCAA.

RH: What changes have you made for yourself this year to make it even better than last year?

AB: From the moment I wake up on games day...no, the night before - I can't even sleep. Every moment is focused on game day...nothing else even matters. It's the only thing I think about, it's a whole other level compared to last year.

Benz and his teammates earned a spot in the MAC Playoffs last season. After a non-league home game against Goucher College this Saturday, they begin their pursuit of a MAC Championship with a home game against last-year's regular season winner Elizabethtown College on the 23rd.

Another highlight of the spring schedule is a HEADstrong event that will take place on April 2nd when Eastern hosts King's College. Rachel Horning is a the Sports Information Assistant at Eastern University.

Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Coaches

Kevin Wallace

Kevin Wallace

In 2012, Kevin Wallace led Eastern Men's Lacrosse to its most successful season

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