Tag Archives: Magazine
February 2011 “Inside Lacrosse” Issue Features Virginia Men’s Lacrosse Brothers Shamel And Rhamel Bratton And Their Quest For A National Championship
With the NLL celebrating its 25th anniversary, ILIndoor.com‘s Paul Tutka looks at the top 25 players of all time and the top 40 by position.
Some talented NCAA transfers are making a new home in the MCLA and are expected to play a big role for their respective teams in 2011. IL looks at this developing trend as well as the top midfielders at the DII and DIII levels.
“Inside Lacrosse January 2011 Issue” Features National Lacrosse League (NLL) Boston Blazers’ Big Three Josh Sanderson, Casey Powell And Dan Dawson
Lacrosse In The 1970’s: Hobart Men’s Lacrosse Captured The 1972 USILA National Championship For Small Colleges And Highlighted The Emergence Of Central New York Lacrosse Programs (Sports Illustrated April 22 1974)
The idea of Hobart College (enrollment 1,000) beating Syracuse University in anything other than Scrabble would appear to be ludicrous. Why, Hobart‘s very nickname, the Statesmen, suggests as much. The aims of the college, to quote its catalog, are simply “to civilize…to humanize…to liberate intellectually.” Well, last week on tiny Boswell Field, Hobart‘s lacrosse team civilized, humanized and intellectually liberated the Orangemen of Syracuse by the incredible score of 23-1.
Not that Hobart is a newcomer to the game of lacrosse. The college has been playing the sport since 1898 and prior to this season had won over 58% of its games. In 1972 the Statesmen won the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association tournament, the first national championship held for small colleges. This year they are 3-0, including a 28-3 rout of Clarkson that broke the Hobart scoring record, and are once again a strong contender for the title.
Hobart‘s eminence in lacrosse is further proof that the Finger Lakes region of central New York state is beginning to rank with Baltimore and Long Island as a hotbed of the sport. In 1971 Cornell, which is, of course, high above Cayuga’s waters, won the NCAA lacrosse title. Close by, on Seneca Lake in Geneva, N.Y., Hobart was, as noted, the small-college champion the next year while nearby Cortland State won the same title last year. Now recruiters from the even more traditional Southern powers are beginning to scout the area’s high schools for talent.
For 37 seasons the lacrosse coach at Hobart was a legendary gentleman named Francis L. (Babe) Kraus, who won 208 games and is now in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. He was succeeded in 1967 by Buddy Beardmore, who stayed only one year before moving on to Virginia and then to Maryland, where last year he coached the Terrapins to the NCAA championship. Beardmore in turn was followed by the current coach, Jerry Schmidt, who seems determined to outdo both his predecessors. In seven years Schmidt‘s teams have won 75% of their games and have yet to lose in their league, the Independent College Athletic Conference.
Hobart‘s frenetic style of play, on the other hand, might best be compared to that of a fast-breaking basketball team. It is built around creating unsettled situations—anything less than the standard six-on-six—for Statesmen’s offense.
Schmidt was an All-America attackman at Johns Hopkins University in the early ’60s (SI cover, April 23, 1962), and at Hobart he has fostered a style of play that makes Baltimore traditionalists look askance. Lacrosse is generally divided into Northern and Southern styles of play, although the differences are rapidly merging. Southern lacrosse, epitomized by the play at Hopkins, emphasizes polished stickwork, maneuvering for the percentage shot and conservative defense in which the defenseman primarily concerns himself with maintaining position between his opponent and the goal. The Northern brand of the game lacks the finesse of the Southern but makes up for it in aggressiveness and contact, with a lot of body checking similar to that in hockey. Without sacrificing stickwork Hobart has carried aggressiveness and contact to new extremes.
Lacrosse teams are composed of three attackmen, three midfielders, three defensemen and a goalie. Attackmen almost always stay at their opponents’ end of the field while the defensemen and the goalie remain at their end. Normally a game consists of three attackmen and three midfielders maneuvering the ball for a score against three midfielders, three defensemen and the goalie. This is known as a settled situation.
To accomplish his aims Schmidt has introduced a pressing, double-teaming defense designed to steal the ball. In a Johns Hopkins-Virginia game two years ago Hopkins Attackman Jack Thomas stood near the corner with the ball for five minutes and the Cavaliers politely let him be. At Hobart, players would have been after him like Doberman pinschers sicced on a burglar. Instead of merely trying to stay between their opponent and the goal, Hobart defensemen constantly harass the opponent, double-teaming to get at the ball whenever possible. If it were as easy to pass a lacrosse ball under pressure from one stick to another as it is to diagram plays on paper, a double team would be an easy situation to beat, and in fact some of the goals scored off Hobart look embarrassingly easy. As Schmidt concedes, “Basketball teams that press get a lot of layups scored against them.” But more often than not Hobart ends up with the ball in an unsettled situation. And then what Schmidt calls his “well-legged kids” take off.
Unless they have a man advantage, as in a four-on-three, most teams slow the ball down and wait for their six-man offense to set up. Not so with Hobart, where Schmidt urges his team to rush the net. “We made a rule,” he says. “If a guy takes a shot, we never criticize him. We never say ‘bad shot.’ It’s easier to score in a three-on-three than in a six-on-six because there are fewer sticks to knock the ball down, there are fewer backup defenders if you get by your man and you can see an open man more clearly.” Schmidt also sees a distinct psychological advantage. “If you’re going to catch your breath in sports,” he points out, “you should do it on offense. Most players tend to do it on defense because they want to score. Hobart takes advantage of tired midfielders.”
Pity the opposing goaltender. Last year the Statesmen took 917 shots to their opponents’ 550. In the three games this year they have already outgunned opponents 178-69. Schmidt will admit that they were not all great shots but “what you lose in quality, you make up in volume.” This is particularly true in lacrosse because the ball can sometimes take awfully crazy bounces off the chewed up turf in front of the goal. Furthermore there is always the chance to knock in a rebound against a shell-shocked goaltender.
Understandably, attackmen gravitate to Hobart. “An attackman would want to come here just like a split end would want to go to a school that throws the ball a lot,” says Schmidt. “He knows he’s going to be a good goal scorer here.” Schmidt was a big goal scorer at Hopkins. In his senior year he scored 36 times to finish fourth in the nation. Two years ago his three starting attackmen each had 47 goals.
One of those attackmen, Rick Gilbert, then a sophomore, added 75 assists to total 122 points. Lacrosse records are surprisingly vague but Gilbert’s is probably the highest point total ever. Last year he added 114 more points while setting a single-season assist record of 88 feeds. Research at Hobart has turned up only one other instance of a 100-point season in all the history of collegiate lacrosse. With the 91 points he scored as a freshman, Gilbert is a cinch to pass the 400 mark for his career. In three games this season he has already rammed home 13 goals and had 17 assists to push his career total to 357 points.
At 5’8″, 160 pounds, with long, stringy hair and glasses, Gilbert hardly resembles the stereotype All-America. A political-science major who hopes to teach elementary school in Baltimore, he seems even less concerned than his coach about the professional contract he will never sign. “Athletics shouldn’t be utilized to make money,” Gilbert says. “They don’t have that much value in society.”
Schmidt‘s “well-legged kids” almost failed to get off to a good start this spring. In the first quarter of the opening game against Adelphi, the Statesmen played poorly and fell behind 5-2. Then Gilbert literally took matters into his own hands. In a stretch of just 84 seconds early in the second quarter he scored three unassisted goals to tie the game. At that point Schmidt rested his star, substituting a freshman, John Hayes. Hayes promptly raced down the field and on his very first shot as a collegian rifled home a goal to put his team ahead. For Hobart opponents there is no rest. These Statesmen never heard of a ceasefire.
Lacrosse In The 1970’s: Johns Hopkins Men’s Lacrosse Surged Back To The Top Of Men’s Lacrosse Behind “Sophomore Superstar” Jack Thomas (Sports Illustrated May 01, 1972)
For eight nostalgic septuagenarians, reunited members of the first All-America lacrosse team of half a century ago, it was yesterday again. Enduring the rain and cold at ancient Homewood Field in Baltimore, they saw Johns Hopkins, the Ming of lacrosse dynasties, in its old, formidable form. And foremost on the field was a slender sophomore superstar who is a bit of a septuagenarian himself.
Jut-jawed, blue-eyed, blond-haired Jack (as in Armstrong) Thomas is a gentlemanly exception on a team far more physical than any of the 23 previous Hopkins national champions. This probably has to do with the unusually large number of rugged out-of-state imports, and it means that Hopkins now can add injury to insult. The result is the same familiar one, however, and all the more welcome at Homewood following last year’s 3-7 record, most defeats in one season in the school’s history. Last week as Thomas, the nation’s leading scorer,
put in two goals, fed for three others and left his opposing defenseman throwing down his stick in disgust and frustration (left), Johns Hopkins overwhelmed Army 13-5 for its eighth win without a defeat. The domination was quickly evident as the first-half score mounted to 8-2, sending the regular Army goalie to permanent safety on the sideline. Clearly, Hopkins and unbeaten Maryland, who conclude the regular season with a face-off on May 13, are the top candidates for the NCAA title.
Earlier in the week Coach Bob Scott viewed the Army game as an important indicator of his young team’s worth despite its recent defeat of then top-ranked Virginia 13-8. “I want to see if we can control a game from the start and finish with an impressive win,” he said. “That would be very significant. I don’t think we have the best overall talent in the country but maybe we have it all going together now.”
Jack Thomas has been in high gear since the season began, in a manner which suggests the best that collegiate lacrosse can offer. He is the product of a lacrosse background in the only part of the nation where such a curiosity can exist. One might believe that it was all thrust upon him were it not for the fact that he accepted the game almost religiously. His father, Bill, an ultrasuccessful high school coach at Towson in Baltimore County, raised his sons to attend college through lacrosse. All have. First Bill Jr., who now captains his club team, went to Maryland and then Mike, the nation’s leading scorer last year at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, graduated to become a prep school coach.
Of the three, Jack is considered by neutral observers to be the best, although it remains a matter of understandable dispute at home. He has lost only three games since the seventh grade and set scoring records at every level.
Unlike his brothers, Jack was developed exclusively by his father. “I never wanted to coach one of my own sons until Jack came along,” he says. “I took over the junior varsity when Bill and Mike were at Towson. But with Jack it was different. Everyone knew how good he was, so there couldn’t be such a thing as favoritism.”
Thomas had always preferred nearby Johns Hopkins and he brought with him All-America recognition in football as well as lacrosse. Despite his size, 5’10”, 165 pounds—perfect for lacrosse, small for collegiate football—he has played both at the quiet, scholarly institution where the mood suits his personal manner.
Football Coach Dennis Cox watched Jack quarterback Hopkins to a 6-3 record and lead the Mid-Atlantic Conference in scoring and decided that although Thomas “is not the world’s greatest athlete, he does get the maximum out of what he has. More than anything he’s an intelligent kid who performs best in crucial situations and never panics.”
Thomas‘ lacrosse skills make him ideal for the Hopkins attack position that runs the offense. He is a fine stick handler who compensates for a lack of speed with quickness. Many of his points—32—have come on assists, but this is usual for his position. That he also has 24 goals, including a high of five against Princeton, indicates his extraordinary ability. Cutting and dodging around the net, he can hardly be contained, and when double-teamed he unerringly finds the open man. One statistic, which only a lacrosse fan can appreciate, tells a great deal. He leads the team in ground balls, meaning that when the ball is loose and everyone is lashing and digging to capture it, he is the one who emerges to keep Hopkins on the attack.
But Thomas is more than an exceptional athlete; he is an unusual young man. His whole life is devoted to a sport that, on the professional marketplace, will mean practically nothing. “Jack walks around in blinders,” says Joe Cowan, an assistant coach and alltime Hopkins football and lacrosse star with whom Thomas is often compared. “He doesn’t seem to care for anything but this game. What athlete doesn’t party and mess around a little? I did, but not Jack. He takes a lot of kidding from the rest of the team but I know everyone respects him. He’s a leader by deed, not words.”
Jack prefers the company of the one and only girl he has ever dated, Liz Resau, to the bashes the lacrosse team throws at the Phi Gam fraternity house. Liz, Towson‘s homecoming queen one year, caught Jack when they were juniors—when his head was turned the other way.
“Liz understands Jack better than most girls would,” says Mrs. Thomas, a kindly woman so infected by the lacrosse mania that envelops her household that her choir director duties go unattended in the spring. “He will never go out on a Friday before a game and she’s content to sit at home. And he’s such a traditionalist about everything. I gave him a pair of slightly flared pants for Christmas and he took them back because he thought they were too mod. He makes a point of being independent. His room stays in an incredible mess all the time but his sister Debbie says I shouldn’t complain. She was a psychology major and she thinks that’s just his way of expressing himself.”
Thomas realizes, without really caring, that his life, however ordered, is nevertheless one-dimensional. “Sometimes while I’m walking around this campus and I see people with a load of books I wonder if I really belong here. We Thomases just go to school to play lacrosse and then to coach. It’s like a religion. I’m not interested in anything else. I don’t follow what’s going on. When I registered to vote I didn’t know if I was a Republican or a Democrat so I put down Independent. It fits, I guess.”
On the dining room table in Jack’s home, from where he commutes daily, there are 10 salt shakers, used by the Thomases to diagram plays. The one with the red top designates the player with the ball, forever on the attack, sliding silently across the table with the single-minded objective of scoring. That one is Jack Thomas.
Lacrosse In The 1970’s: Virginia Men’s Lacrosse Shared The 1970 National Lacrosse Championship With Johns Hopkins And Navy In Final Year Of “Non-Playoff” Format (Sports Illustrated May 25, 1970)
Tradition, staunchly underpinned by the spirit and architecture set down 145 years ago by Thomas Jefferson and thickly padded with a peculiar Jeffersonian nomenclature, weighs heavily at the University of Virginia. Everyone from the president to the low man in the freshman class is addressed as mister, a reflection of the egalitarian tone Jefferson sought to infuse in the “academical village” he founded and designed. According to Jefferson and generations of Virginia students, the main quadrangle is not a quadrangle but the Lawn; the campus is the Grounds; living quarters are “ranges” and “pavilions.” Ironically, though Jefferson was possibly the most influential radical thinker in American history, the most pervasive of all the traditions that have flourished under the massive Corinthian columns and the lofty dome of the Rotunda, which Jefferson planned as Virginia‘s main building, has been the school’s essential conservatism.
A more recent trend at Virginia has been the school’s decline in athletics. After years of glory in sports as diverse as boxing and football the Cavaliers settled into a 20-year slump. The football team has played one winning season since 1952. The basketball team has had 16 straight losing seasons.
Last week a number of Virginia traditions were under attack. Construction crews worked on new buildings devoid of colonnades. The suddenly unconservative students were on strike in protest against the Cambodian invasion and the shooting at Kent State. The lacrosse team was headed for the school’s first national title since 1952. And, unlike the situation at most colleges where the activists and athletes are rarely the same people, at Virginia the new lacrosse champs were on strike against classes, too.
Since the first NCAA championship playoff in lacrosse will not occur until next year, the Cavaliers can only share the national title this season with Johns Hopkins and Army or Navy, each of whom has one loss. Virginia‘s record became 8-1 when the team beat Washington & Lee 19-3 and Hofstra 14-3 last week. The Cavaliers, who are very likely the best of this spring’s championship trio, can easily wait a year to prove it in a playoff, since the team, beginning with 25-year-old Coach Glenn Thiel, is young and will be around a while. Only four seniors and six juniors are on the 31-man squad, and the two top scorers are Attackmen Jay Connor, a 5’6″ sophomore with a sturdy build and quick stick, and Tommy Duquette, a freshman who already shows signs of developing into the best offensive player in college anywhere. Virginia‘s three best seniors, Defenseman Doug Hilbert and Midfielders Jim Potter and Charles Rullman, are All-America candidates and certainly will not go unmissed. Hilbert allowed his opponents only one goal in his final nine games, and Potter was the first lacrosse player ever selected as best athlete at Virginia. Rullman is so slippery that Maryland set up a special zone defense each time he handled the ball. The Cavaliers still won 9-3.
It was Duquette, however, who provided the surprising play Virginia needed to move up from its fourth-place ranking of a year ago. In the Cavaliers‘ first important win this spring—15-8 over powerful Hopkins—Duquette scored seven of his team-leading 24 goals, a startling showing for a player who was not considered good enough to make a Baltimore schoolboy All-Star team as an attackman last year. Thiel switched Duquette to behind attack this spring and quickly found out how useful his long, gliding strides could be. “Our first game was against Mount Washington, and they put Hank Kaestner on me. He was a three-time All-America at Hopkins,” says Duquette. “I was so afraid of him I just started running around behind the goal to stay away from him, and it worked. I used to just stand around, but I’ve found out that if the defenseman’s worried about keeping up with you, he can’t bother about taking the ball away.”
Duquette now rarely has an opportunity to stand still because of Thiel’s emphasis on physical conditioning. Coaches routinely say that lacrosse games are won by the team that picks up the most ground balls, a frustrating aspect of the game demanding more stamina than skills. In its big victories over Maryland and Hopkins, Thiel’s team fielded 42 more grounders than its opponents. The Cavaliers trailed in this category in only one game, their 11-7 loss to Navy. Virginia is also well coached in technique. It has won 61% of its face-offs, primarily because of Potter’s expertise at center midfield, and has been successful on an outstanding 80% of its clears.
Thiel, whose father coached him at Penn State and who spent the past two seasons coaching a junior college in Baltimore, did not bother to apply for the Virginia job when it became available last spring. “I hesitated until August,” he recalls. “I didn’t think they’d hire some 25-year-old for the job and besides I was teaching in a school where we had a lot of ghetto kids and I had a draft deferment. I was afraid if I came to Virginia I’d lose it.”
A coach who feels threatened by the draft is apt to look on war protesters somewhat differently from his older colleagues. When Thiel’s players asked before the Maryland game to wear red arm bands knotted on their uniform jersey sleeves as a sign of sympathy with the student strike, he permitted it on the basis of individual choice. Eighty percent of the Cavaliers wore them, and a wide majority of the team—along with most of Virginia‘s football players—signed petitions supporting the strike, which by last week had virtually closed down the undergraduate school.
“I was opposed to the arm bands at first,” says Potter. “I thought it would take guys’ minds off the game. But it got clear that so many of them felt so strongly about this that they had to have the right to show it.” The Maryland-Virginia game was played on the Cavaliers‘ home field, which is called The Parking Lot, not from tradition, but because of its hardness. The field was surrounded by police who were bivouacked in the adjacent basketball arena. As the red-arm-banded Cavaliers swept to their victory, it was obvious that several traditions, athletic and political, were in trouble at Virginia.