The past two years have been quite the turnaround for Prairie Ridge boys lacrosse. The Wolves went from not winning a game for two seasons to the top of the Fox Valley Conference. Helping lead the way through that transition was Cole Naumovski.
As a senior this season, Naumovski scored 41 goals, assisted on 16 others, picked up 125 ground balls and won two-thirds of his faceoffs as the Wolves' primary man on those draws. The Wolves went 16-1 in the regular season, including 9-0 in conference play. They earned the No. 7 seed in the IHSLA Class B playoffs and advanced to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by the eventual champions. Naumovski was named all-conference and was selected as the team's MVP for the second consecutive season.
For those accomplishments, Naumovski was named the 2017 Northwest Herald Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year, as voted on by the sports staff with input from local coaches.
"In addition to his obvious value as a scorer and faceoff man, he is a savvy and extremely athletic defender," coach Josh Cole said. "Above all, his ability to get ground balls and win possessions for our team is at an elite level. There are numerous players in our area who do a few things very well, but Cole is the only player who does so many things at such a high level."
Naumovski recently spoke with the Northwest Herald about learning the sport, his mom's spaghetti and more.
What was it about your senior year that made it special and helped you have a strong season?
Naumovski: All of our players really connected as a team. We were able to be successful because we came together as a team instead of a bunch of individuals who happened to be good at lacrosse.
How would your teammates describe you?
Naumovski: A player who likes to lead that also likes to better the players to create a bigger and better team.
How did you first get into lacrosse?
Naumovski: I was going to high school orientation, I was in eighth grade going into freshman year, and one of my friends just kind of asked me if I wanted to play because there were a bunch of booths with sports and kind of a sign-up deal. I just decided why not try it and I started to love the sport right when I started playing it.
What was the hardest thing for you to pick up about the sport?
Naumovski: I would just say the rules of the game, because there’s a few small rules that some people don’t really know until they play a few years. I just kind of had a tough time with those small rules and what I could and couldn’t do to different players.
If they put you in charge of high school lacrosse for a year, what would you change?
Naumovski: I would change the face-off rules. Me being a face-off midfielder, they have restricted the rules a lot to it being in the referee’s control a lot more than in the players’ control, which I believe it should be.
What are you looking forward to most this summer?
Naumovski: I hope to pick up coaching soon. I will be coaching kids that are around 11 to 13 years old. I’m looking forward to that.
What was your favorite and least favorite subject in school?
Naumovski: Math and definitely history class, like U.S. History.
When you look back on your career, what’s a highlight that stands out for you?
Naumovski: We were playing versus [Crystal Lake] Central and we were both undefeated and I had eight goals that game. It’s pretty unusual for a player to score eight goals, but that was a pretty big moment of my senior year.
What teammate makes you laugh the most?
Naumovski: Cooper Tomlin. He is one of our long poles, and he is just one of the funniest kids. He says some of the weirdest stuff at practice and even during the game, like in the heat of the moment he’ll just say something super weird that kind of makes you look at him twice and laugh.
Have you thought about what you want to do for a career when you get older?
Naumovski: Yeah, I’m going to college for drafting or engineering design. I want to mechanically design different types of things ... an engine or something like that. That would be cool.
If you could go on vacation anywhere this summer, where would you go?
Naumovski: I would probably go to New Mexico. I went to a lacrosse camp there last year, and it was quite an experience. It was pretty hot, but the game of lacrosse is growing there, and I'd like to see that evolve in that state.
What is your favorite food?
Naumovski: My mom’s spaghetti, meatballs and garlic bread. I probably eat that about once a week to be honest with you.
What is the best piece of coaching advice you’ve ever gotten?
Naumovski: Always keep your head up. Even though if you’re getting beat by a lot in any game or something’s not really going your way in anything, you always have to keep your head up and just keep going through the bad times and wait till some good times come up in your life or the game.
Who is someone you look up to?
Naumovski: This kind of goes back New Mexico. There is an MLL lacrosse player I met right as I got there. His name is Thomas Muldoon. He was just one of the coolest guys that I met there. He was really inspirational because instead of lacrosse just being a sport and something you play around with, to him it was more than a game, and I thought he had a really good philosophy on life.
What is your favorite TV show or movie?
Naumovski: My favorite TV show would be “Prison Break.” They just came out with a new season. It’s pretty good.
The program has had these two great years after some rough times. What made the biggest difference in the turnaround?
Naumovski: My freshman and sophomore year we had a total of about 45 underclassmen and, I don’t know, maybe 10 older players. We just didn’t have the experience, you know. We couldn’t play at that level and that pace yet. I think that was the biggest difference.
How would you describe your strengths and weaknesses?
Naumovski: I would say my strengths in lacrosse would be the groundball game. I’m always playing around with my stick and messing around, so I’d say I have pretty good eye-hand coordination, so I’m able to pick up the ball pretty quick and run down the field and get the ball to my teammates on offense. I’d say a weakness is I wish my stamina was a little bit better. During the end of the fourth quarter, if we’re grinding in a game, I find myself tired at times, so that’d be something I’d improve on.
If you didn’t play lacrosse, what other sport do you wish you had been good at?
Naumovski: Probably basketball. I feel like basketball would be a fun sport to play.
What’s something that most people wouldn’t know about you?
Naumovski: Most people don’t know that I don’t eat too healthy. I’m always eating candy or eating something that I could definitely make a better choice on. I feel like I could eat a little better.
Then I’ve got to ask, what’s your favorite candy?
Naumovski: I’d say the Cookies ’n’ Creme Hershey’s bar. I always have those all the time.