Griffin Ganster is one of 27 players on the 2023-24 Cabrini roster.

27 Together: Cabrini Men's Lacrosse Rallies Ahead of Final Season

RADNOR TOWNSHIP, Pa. — It’s a Saturday morning at Cabrini University. Campus is quiet, though there’s an energy emanating from Edith Robb Dixon Field.

As persistent rain spatters the aluminum bleachers, the Cabrini men’s lacrosse team ends its practice. The Cavaliers break their huddle and rush to remove the goals from the turf. There’s a field hockey game beginning in less than two hours.

Moving equipment, carrying ball buckets and dragging water coolers around are responsibilities typically assigned to freshmen, but Cabrini doesn’t delegate to its youngsters. It can’t. There are no freshmen on this team. No class hierarchy. No ego.

There are just 27 players in it together.

In June, news broke that nearby Villanova would acquire Cabrini, which would cease operations and leave its student population of about 1,500 without a home after the 2023-24 academic year.

The news that was broken by a college basketball insider on June 23 sent shockwaves through the intimate campus. It rocked many of the campus’ teams to their core. Not men’s lacrosse. While its roster is a far cry from the 50-plus it had been accustomed to dressing during its 22 straight seasons atop its conference, the team remains steadfast in its belief that it will end things on top.

“I look down the locker room, and we only have 27 guys, so it’s easy to see everybody, and you know top to bottom that everyone is here for the same reason,” junior midfielder Jason Fridge said. “None of us are here for ourselves. If we were, we would have left.”

Leaving was most certainly an option. Why finish out a season at a school that has no future? Eligibility is valuable in college sports. Preserving it — or at the very least getting every ounce of value out of it — is often the goal.

Those who opted to remain at Cabrini have a different set of values. And that’s not to guilt or put down people who left, a sentiment everyone is quick to interject when discussing the reality of the situation. In unpredictable circumstances, life choices need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

But graduate students like midfielder PJ Hewitt get goosebumps, and maybe even a little emotional, when talking about the underclassmen who returned to campus in late August knowing it was the beginning of the end.

“Obviously, some guys did leave,” Hewitt said. “And you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. But to every kid that dug deep, especially the sophomores who came back this year, they could’ve gone to a new team somewhere. And instead of having just two years, they could have had three. For them to stick it out and truly show their colors that they’re a Cabrini Cavalier, it fired us all up.”

“None of us are here for ourselves. If we were, we would have left.”

— Jason Fridge, junior midfielder

STEVE COLFER IS AWARE of the misconception that he left Cabrini because of its sale to Villanova. That’s how it appeared, anyway. It was announced June 29 that he was stepping down after 26 years with the program, including 23 as its head coach.

Although that was publicly revealed six days after the bombshell report, Colfer said he let people within Cabrini know he was taking a position as the assistant athletics director and head boys’ lacrosse coach at Episcopal Academy (Pa.) a few days earlier.

“I had no idea that Cabrini was as close to being acquired as they were,” said Colfer, who boasts 329 career wins and led the Cavaliers to the NCAA Division III championship in 2019. “This was a personal career decision for me to pop my head up after 26 years and see what was out there in terms of a different opportunity.”

The breaking news didn’t make for a clean break from the place Colfer had called home for nearly three decades. He was inundated with calls from players, parents and other coaches — both for clarity of the present situation and for inquiries into future prospects.

Colfer called it an “around-the-clock” process. He and new head coach Tommy DeLuca, a member of the national championship team and a graduate assistant with the program prior to his promotion, first focused on re-homing the incoming freshman class. Getting them a true four-year experience was paramount.

Then they worked through individual cases as they came up. Tough, honest conversations were had.

“The guys who left, they left for the right reasons — their education, finances, whatever it was,” Colfer said. “The guys who stayed also stayed for the right reasons.”

What’s left is a group of players fundamentally bought in with no freshmen to get up to speed on culture or drills. Housed in one of the largest locker rooms in the Dixon Center, the team reassembled its locker formation in late September to pack it in and fill in the gaps of those who left.

It’s a move DeLuca hopes will continue to strengthen bonds as the Cavaliers embark on a season they know will be an uphill battle. “Together” is the word players and coaches use at every opportunity. It’s not an empty rallying cry. It’s a necessity.

Cabrini currently rosters two goalies and one faceoff specialist. Depth isn’t plentiful. While DeLuca’s hopeful this isn’t the case, the December recess could lead to more departures as other coaches attempt to bolster their spring rosters.

The deck is very much stacked against the Cavaliers.

“I don't know if this is the right or wrong way to look at it, but for me, it's not really pressure,” DeLuca said. “Because we have expectations that we set for ourselves of how successful we want to be, but we also fully understand that everyone else's expectations for us this year are just about nothing. So, if you go out and have an awful year, then nobody's surprised. But if we go out and have a pretty good year and start to surprise some people, that's huge.”


Cabrini head coach Tommy DeLuca won a national title as a player at Cabrini in 2019.

DeLuca now sits in the same office behind the same desk Colfer once inhabited. It’s strange for him to be on that side. At the same time, Cabrini has always felt like home to the 25-year-old from Apex, North Carolina, who was the 2019 IMCLA Division III Defensive Player of the Year and the 2021 USILA William C. Stiles Most Outstanding Defenseman.

“All I wanted to do was win,” DeLuca said. “There’s not a ton of places that win more than Cabrini does.”

SOPHOMORE ATTACKMAN CONNOR HERRAIZ never entered the transfer portal. Schools reached out, but the Succasunna, N.J., product never truly entertained their advances.

You could call Herraiz a Cabrini loyalist. It was the summer of his junior year, just a few months before beginning his final season at Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Ironically, schools were hardly reaching out to him at all.

Then he was discovered at the 2021 NXT Cup, a multi-day tournament with hundreds of teams and thousands of players. Many were already top recruits. Others were looking to find a home.

“I got noticed by one of Cabrini’s coaches,” Herraiz said. “I came to visit the next week and loved it. Coach Colfer sells this university very well. Coach DeLuca having that national championship hat on when I came definitely helped.”

That national championship hat speaks volumes. It was the 2017-19 Cabrini teams that sealed the deal for Hewitt. The national title team was a selling point for Fridge, as it was for Herraiz and others who remain at Cabrini today.

Earning one for themselves remains the goal this season.

“That’s an expectation that comes with being a Cabrini lacrosse player,” Colfer said. “There’s not a player in that room that expects otherwise.”

Financial struggles don’t take away from the cozy Cabrini campus. Even as the university cut 54 positions in 2021 and saw its enrollment fall from 2,300 in 2016 to 1,500 in 2023, Cabrini remained a welcoming atmosphere.

There were always rumors about the school’s potential demise due to financial strife. Cabrini didn’t hide its perils, either.

“We kept making investments that at the end of the day resulted in significant financial losses,” Cabrini president Helen Drinan said in a November 2022 interview with Inside Higher Ed. “And then, of course, the pandemic hit.”

Even transparency couldn’t discourage recruits from the allure of chasing rings.

“I still think I’d end up here [if I knew about the sale],” Herraiz said. “This is where I should have been and where I wish I could have been for four years.”

In many ways, it’s a sacrifice that players like Herraiz won’t realize they’ve made until the future plays out.

“All of those guys had opportunities to go to other schools,” Colfer said. “God willing, those opportunities are still there next summer. But if not, think about what they gave up for the benefit of their teammates.”


Current Cabrini players (in white pinnies) with alumni after Cabrini's final alumni game on Saturday, Oct. 14.

THIS WILL BE FRIDGE’S FINAL NCAA lacrosse season. He’s the most sought-after sports broadcaster on campus, with coaches of other teams pleading that he does not schedule evening classes so he can be available for their games.

Had none of this happened, Fridge would happily play a senior season at Cabrini. The Lynwood, Wash., native is choosing to think positively about how the school’s closure could lead to a boost toward his dream.

“There were people in my circle telling me that this was my chance to get out of a small school,” Fridge said. “I’ve got some big broadcasting goals. But my immediate thought was, ‘I can’t do this to these guys.’ I have an entire family out here now. I just kept thinking that I couldn’t do this to them.”

A self-proclaimed “be where your feet are guy,” Fridge is all-in when he commits to something. Cabrini has been his home away from home, a far cry from the Seattle area he grew up in. He’s a tour guide, campus reporter for the student newspaper “The Loquitor” and helps in the school’s communications department.

Forgoing one last season of lacrosse was a tough conversation with his family, specifically with his father, Tom. He grew up playing in Canada and then played four years at Whittier College from 1986-90. Losing a program, though, was a shared feeling. In November 2022, Whittier announced it would sunset its men’s lacrosse program due to cost considerations.

“Realistically, in my 10-year plan, I don’t think lacrosse is in the picture,” Fridge said. “I would love to cover the sport. That’s my lifetime dream. I think the best option for me is to hang up my cleats, stay ready for men’s league, play some box lacrosse here and there and focus on my career.”

The upcoming spring is far from an afterthought, however. Instead of chasing his dreams of attending a high-profile journalism school like Syracuse or Northwestern, Fridge is back on the tranquil, tree-lined campus of Cabrini. It’s home.

That’s why the rainy practices don’t bother him or the Cavaliers. Nor does the responsibility of doing the jobs of freshmen. Twenty-seven guys? Hardly an issue for a team with more buy-in than any other DeLuca has coached or been on himself.

It’s Cabrini men’s lacrosse versus the world.

“We’re actually doing way better than we should,” Fridge said. “I had my doubts, too. It’s different, but there’s just something about it. There’s something about this place. There’s something in the air. It’s something special.”

Cabrini has yet to reveal its 2024 schedule. It will, almost assuredly, be a gauntlet of Division III’s top teams. Some games won’t feel like the Cavaliers are operating with a small roster and possibly smaller expectations. Other games might.

But 2024 is all about representing what the Cavaliers have been about since the program’s inception in 1994.

“We all want the same thing, to go out with a bang,” Fridge said. “To represent what 65 years of a school and 29-plus of a program have built for us. We don’t just want to leave it dry. We want to leave it with something that’s prideful.”


Get the best and latest from delivered weekly straight to your inbox: