Swarm rookie Corbyn Tao was the best ping-pong player among the players who lived in 'Neverland'. Photo Credit: Scott Pierson
If you listen to coaches in the National Lacrosse League, you often hear them discuss the lack of familiarity among their players. Between practices and games, some teams can meet as little as twice a week.
While this can lead to problems with bonding and team chemistry on the field, it’s clear that the Minnesota Swarm have no such issues.
A large part of that can be attributed to the nine teammates all living in the same building in West St. Paul.
Andrew Suitor, Ryan Benesch, Corbyn Tao, Evan Kirk, Nik Bilic, Pat Smith, Jay Card, Jordan MacIntosh, and Joel Henry occupy three apartments and refer to their place of residence as Neverland – the fictional land where most people cease to age.
Benesch described the living situation with five words.
“Insane, exciting, and constant fun.”
Added MacIntosh: “It’s been a lot of fun this season. Just always hanging out with the guys, it’s nice.”
The Swarm’s roster is filled with youth, and Neverland is certainly no different. The 27-year-old Benesch is easily the oldest among group followed by Kirk at 24.
Suitor poked fun at the “old man”, saying Benesch can be “a ghost at times.”
“’Suits’ thinks we all need to stick together every second every day. I like to have my own space once in awhile,” Benesch said. “I’m 27 years old and these guys are 22. I can’t keep up with them.”
With Suitor as the Swarm’s captain and Benesch being the eldest among the roomies, there is plenty of leadership to go around in the apartments.
“(Ryan) is making sure we’re doing things right during the week. Andrew as well. He is the captain so he has to be looking out for us everyday,” said MacIntosh.
Given his age, Benesch appears to be the most responsible, but he is capable of causing some mischief.
“Right now, I think I am going to take the crown of prank king. I have yet to be pranked. But I have laid a few out,” said Benesch.
Included in his list of pranks, Benesch has dumped water on his teammates while they were playing cards, Saran-wrapped Suitor’s toilet, and is the master of flipping other people’s furniture.
Pranking is only the beginning of the fun. These nine athletes are constantly competing with each other at anything and everything.
“Lots of competitions. Whether it be cards, Playstation, Xbox, ping-pong, we have everything. There is always competitions going on,” said Suitor.
When asking for winners in these events, it seemed as though everyone came up with a different answer with the exception of one category.
“Corbyn Tao is far and away the best ping-pong player,” said Suitor.
In between the fun and games, the Neverland residents take advantage of their living situation to get a lot of extra lacrosse work in during the week.
“We bought mini sticks, so we’re always working on our hands and our loose balls,” said Suitor.
Benesch joked of the constant beating the sofas take from the repeated shots. However, the guys also partake in a more formal mode of practice.
“Every Wednesday we did a shoot-around. Seven of us shooting on Evan,” said MacIntosh.
The Swarm earned the No. 3 seed in the West Division this season, and defeated a tough Mammoth squad in Colorado for the first playoff victory in franchise history. Minnesota’s dream of a Champion’s Cup berth ended with a loss to the Edmonton Rush in the divisional final.
However, the camaraderie gained during the week translated to wins throughout the season.
“We’ve got a chance to grow together, really gel together. There’s nine of us living in Neverland. We get to see each other every day, pretty much for every minute of every day. We know what each other likes and what each other doesn’t like. It comes in handy on and off the floor,” said Benesch.
“You know that you can trust them and they got your back when it comes down to it, whatever you need it for,” Suitor added.
Neverland is not always such a cheerful place to be as there aren’t many smiles on players’ faces early in the week following losses.
“If we had a game Saturday and lost, then Sunday would be a pretty gloomy day (and) on Monday as well. For the most part though, we just kind of shake that stuff off. If we win we celebrate and if we lose we sit back and think about it, but then we move onto the next game,” said Benesch.
There were not many dreary days this season for a team that finished 10-8. Neverland would undoubtedly be all smiles if the Swarm could advance to next season’s Champion’s Cup.