The seniors at North Central couldn't ask for much more from their final collegiate home game.
The Cardinals beat conference rival and CCIW regular-season champion Illinois Wesleyan 83-73 and will advanced to the NCAA Division III quarterfinals.
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With Saturday's win the Cardinals will move further into the tournament then ever before in school history. The team will play Middlebury College (Vt.) in Salem, Va., on Friday night for the right to go to the national semifinals.
This will be the first game away from DuPage County that North Central has played in nearly a month, and Raridon knows his team will have to be prepared for a Middlebury team that will put plenty of pressure on the Cardinals. To win Cardinals coach Todd Raridon expects another impressive performance out of his team's defense, which will need to stop a Middlebury offense that is averaging nearly 80 points a game.
The team will leave Wednesday afternoon following a morning shootaround, giving them extra time to acclimate to the new arena. Raridon doesn't expect the travel to hurt his team. Senior leadership and an early-season trip to Las Vegas should give them the experience needed to be prepared, Raridon said. Despite the high stakes of Friday's game Raridon wants his team to remain calm.
"I want them to enjoy it. Just remember what got us there, it wasn't 1-on-1 basketball. It's been a team effort all the way through," Raridon said.
The Bluejays wrestling team returned from Division III nationals with enough trophies to fill up an entire case. Elmhurst finished off a historic season with two national champions, five All-Americas, a second-place team finish and both the coach of the year and assistant coach of the year awards.
Both national champions walked off the mat for their final time, as Joe Rau (184 pounds) and Mike Benefiel (197) finished their collegiate careers atop their weight class. It has been a long road to the championship for both wrestlers and to finish on top is an impressive feat, coach Steve Marianetti said.
"Two guys winning national championships is amazing. Joe has been working toward this moment for four years. Mike had a lot of pressure on him and was able to ignore it for the entire weekend and performed extremely well," Marianetti said.
With all the awards Marianetti hopes assistant coach John Jung finally gets the credit he deserves. Jung has had a strong influence on both the team and fellow coaches, Marianetti said.
The Bluejays will need both coaches to stay on top of their game when this record-setting senior class graduates. Next year the team will be without both champions, two more All-Americas and even more starters. However, it's just the challenge Marianetti wants for his wrestlers.
"We have a great group of young wrestlers, hungry for their time in the spotlight," he said. "So I guess that we'd better get to work."