Central Michigan Players 'Leveling Up,' Challenging Each Other to Be Great


Maggie Diebold leads Central Michigan with 60 goals (she ranks 26th nationally in goals per game).

When Central Michigan took on Robert Morris for the MAC championship on Sunday, the first half was anyone’s game.

The programs traded leads multiple times and entered the half tied.

But in the locker room during the break, coach Sara Tisdale had little to say. She went over some adjustments on the clear before walking out with five minutes left, telling her players that it was their team and their second half.

Alone in the locker room, players rallied together and talked about what was at stake.

“I was like, ‘This is our last 30 minutes together [at home] as a team,’” senior midfielder Maggie Diebold said. “‘Let’s go prove it and take what we deserve.’ We went out with big energy knowing this was our last time playing together on our home field and how lucky we were to do that together.”

This energy proved potent for the Chippewas. Central Michigan opened the half with five straight goals, outscoring the Colonials 13-3 in final 30 minutes en route to its first-ever MAC title.

The game’s last few minutes were especially overwhelming for Diebold. As the Chippewas extended their lead, she took it all in: the chants from the stands, the screaming sidelines, her teammate Courtney Burke saying, “Let’s go again” after each goal. When the clock hit zero and Central Michigan emerged victorious, it was an “unbelievable feeling,” she said.

For Tisdale, the conference championship was a long time coming. The only coach in the Chippewas’ young history, Tisdale built the program from scratch upon her arrival in 2014.

She found some success early on, winning the SoCon regular season title in 2018. But COVID-19 and the end of the 2020 season proved a defining moment for Tisdale. It gave her a new perspective.

“After COVID, I knew that every year I was going to empty my tank for the young women that said yes to CMU and give them my best and not leave anything on the table,” Tisdale said.

Now, Tisdale has accomplished a pair of firsts at Central Michigan: winning the conference championship and punching a ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time ever — achievements “seven years in the making,” she said. With the tournament berth, the Chippewas will head to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern on Friday.

Central Michigan went 10-7 through the regular season, earning a share of the MAC title ahead of the conference tournament. “Incredible chemistry” has formed as the season has progressed, Tisdale said. She said the team has gotten better at responding to adversity and “being intentional” with their energy as time has gone on, which helped in the MAC tournament.

A group of core upperclassmen on attack have also been key to Central Michigan’s success. Diebold leads the team with 60 goals (she ranks 26th nationally in goals per game), and junior midfielders Kelly Hoyt, Kendall Hoyt and Audrey Whiteside all have 30-plus goals. Behind their efforts, the Chippewas rank in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense.

Diebold credited off-the-field friendships and chemistry as fueling Central Michigan’s excellence on the offensive end. She’s best friends with her fellow attackers, which she said “makes being on the field together that much easier.”

The level of time and effort put into succeeding has set this team apart as well, Tisdale said. They’ve grown this season and pushed her to grow, too.

“This team continues to challenge each other and challenge me,” Tisdale said. “I think I’m coaching my best lacrosse right now because they keep leveling up and setting a higher expectation, and it makes me dig in and level up as well.”


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