Noah Arneson still remembers it to this day as if it happened yesterday, and with the way he tells it, it was a certain moment during his freshman year that unwittingly set the tone for his path to a Division I future.
"I realized early in my high school career that I was going to have to put in a lot of work to play high-end Division I lacrosse," Arneson said. "In eighth grade, I was pretty big and slow - fat, for sure - with no stick skills, but after that day, it was everything to me. It meant running five miles a day, doing wall ball all the time, and getting better in every aspect of the game. It's been my dream to play Division I lacrosse since I first started playing the game in second grade, and that just made me get on there and just grind to get better."
As it turns out, Arneson's dedication and obsessiveness with improving his game were stronger than his former coach's crystal ball ability. Arneson got in better shape and worked hard at improving his craft, and unsurprisingly, results followed the labor. Playing for Team 91 Carolina 2020 helped elevate his game, too.
"I got a couple letters from Marist on Sept. 1, but then I didn't have much contact with them until a month or so after," said Arneson, a junior at Holly Springs. "After that, (Marist assistant coach Dave) Coach Scarcello told me how they watched me at every Maverik Showtime game and again over the fall. Once I got up on campus and I got the offer, I knew it was the right place for me."
Arneson made the call to commit to the Red Foxes, becoming the second Carolina '20 to choose a Division I school after Ryan Levy (East Chapel Hill) opted for UNC. When it boiled down to it, Marist had the combination of everything that Arneson valued, and he didn't see a reason to hold off on becoming a Red Fox.
"It's everything that I've always wanted in a college," Arneson said. "The campus is small, but pristine, and it was one of the best campuses that I've been to. The culture was phenomenal, and the brotherhood aspect to it was a big thing to me, especially with me being an older brother to a freshman on the team. Playing together is a huge thing for me."
"The coaches were amazing when I toured there, and since they're all young coaches, they're so easy to talk to," Arneson continued. "Everyone I met was fun and energetic and nobody bad anything bad to say about the place. It's a 40-minute train ride from New York City, which is cool, and they have great academics. I want to be a sports agent, and their business program would help me do that."
"We couldn't be more excited for Noah," Team 91 Carolina director Nick Holota said. "Marist is getting a kid that just loves playing the game and putting in the time that's necessary to getting better. He even led our Team 91 box teams this winter. Noah does a great job of causing problems for teams between the boxes, and he has the stick skills to create offense in the transition game with his nonstop motor. We're fired up to see him play at Marist and we know he'll do great things."
A 5-10, 160-pounder on the back end, Arneson plays with the mindset, physicality and aggressiveness of a much bigger defenseman. He's carved out a niche for himself as a pest to go up against, and his mentality is perfectly emblematic of the team's. His unselfishness doesn't go unnoticed, either. When he committed, he called every coach that he's played for to thank them for their influence on him as a player and person, and some of the coaches were so overwhelmed and surprised that he'd do that that they couldn't speak.
"Our coaches tell us that we won't get looked at if we don't play rugged and tough, so you just have to go all out and tough it out," Arneson said. "91 plays against the best teams in the country and at the best tournaments, so you know that you have to grind to get as far as possible."
"We told him that he better never forget where he came from," Arneson's father, Derek, said. "We're so happy that he ended up committing to Marist, but we also reminded him that it took a lot of hard work and great coaching. That's what got him here after he was the fat kid that some people didn't think could play."