Every fall, the K-State lacrosse team hosts a tournament in honor of its first coach, Donnie Tillar, who was killed in the Gulf War in 1991.
Tillar and 25 students created the team in 1989 when lacrosse was not well known in the Midwest. Tillar had played lacrosse for four years at West Point Academy and was stationed at Fort Riley when the team started.
“One of the retired numbers is Donnie Tillar’s number because he was one of the founding members of the lacrosse team who died when he was shipped off to war,” senior attacker Sean Berger said. “Lacrosse is a spring sport, but every fall we host a tournament called the Tillar Tournament in honor of Donnie Tillar.”
K-State lacrosse has grown since Tillar and a few students established it nearly 20 years ago. Last season, the Wildcats made the Great Rivers Conference playoffs.
But the postseason experience left a bitter taste in their mouths.
“Last year we made it to the first round of the playoffs where we got beat by Missouri pretty handily,” Berger said. “This year our goal is to make it to the playoffs, and win a playoff game.”
The Wildcats play in the Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference with several other Big 12 Conference universities, including Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska.
Even though lacrosse might seem unusual, there are similarities to other sports.
“Anyone who is within five yards of the ball can hit somebody from the front with your stick or body, which is a lot like hockey, but also its style is similar to basketball in terms of setting picks and running plays,” Berger said.
The K-State lacrosse team is open to full-time students who want to join the team.
“We always encourage anyone who wants to play lacrosse to come play,” Berger said. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s another excuse to hit someone and not get in trouble for it.”