2017 Tewaarton Award Winners An All Maryland & (Once Again) All Offensive Affair

The 2017 Tewaarton Award for Division I Lacrosse most outstanding players are both Maryland Terps, ttacker Matt Rambo and Midfielder Zoe Stukenberg.  The storied lacrosse Men’s and Women’s lacrosse programs of Maryland have much to be proud of this season, sweeping not only both the Men’s and Women’s National Championship, but also sweeping the Tewaarton Award.

The Tewaarton Award goes to the most outstanding players in Men’s and Women’s college lacrosse, akin to the Heisman Trophy Award in college football that is awarded to the most outstanding player (there are more parallels to the Heisman that I will address below).  The Tewaarton Award is so named to honor the Native American origins of the game of lacrosse.  Tewaarton is the Mohawk word for lacrosse in their native tongue, and the Mohawk Nation is credited with being the progenitor of lacrosse.

There are two controversies associated with the Tewaarton Award.  Given that it is awarded after the Division I college lacrosse post season is complete, there is an observation among many experts that the award is all too often influenced by a player’s performance in the post season, which is not the intent of the award.  The award’s intent is to recognize a player’s outstanding achievement and importance to their team during the regular season.

Less controversial perhaps and falling in line with the reality of the Heisman Trophy Award in football, the Tewaarton Award, especially on the Men’s side, is very tilted historically toward offensive players.  In fact, since the award’s inception in 2000, all but two recipients on the Men’s side have been attackers, while the only two that were not attackers were offensive midfield studs Doug Shanahan and Max Seibald.  Although defense is equally important for success in lacrosse as it is in football, like in football, great defensive players in lacrosse get far less recognition than their offensive counterparts.

I understand that part of this is simply the nature of the game, that the team with the most points at the end of the game wins, and it takes a capable offense in most cases to get the ball in the other team’s goal. Naturally, that will garner more attention.  On the other hand, if you ask the vast majority of coaches if they had to make a choice between a high powered offense or a lock down defense, most would opt for the lock down defense.

Still, one cannot argue with this year’s choices, Matt Rambo and Zoe Stukenberg, as both were not only dominant, Matt Rambo clinched the career scoring record for one of the most storied college lacrosse programs in the history of the sport.

Congrats to this year’s Tewaarton winners and to the University of Maryland Terps Nation that loves them!

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Maryland Breaks The 42 Year Curse, Ohio State Represents Diversity In The 2017 Lacrosse National Championship

On paper, Maryland had the advantage.  With a prolific offense that included Maryland all time leading scorer (an incredible feat in a program as storied as Maryland)  and Tewaarton Award finalist Matt Rambo, Dylan Maltz, and offensive middie powerhouse Connor Kelly; let’s face it, Ohio State as good as they were, did not match up.  On the other hand, we gave Ohio State a chance in this game based on past battles with Maryland, the fact that this game was an inter-conference rivalry, Ohio States face off prowess driving more possessions, and Ohio State’s physical, gritty and tenacious style of play.

While Ohio State started off the game dominating physically, Maryland’s defense tightened up and their offense ultimately took control of the tempo of the game.  Although Ohio State would not go away and pulled within 2 goals with 2 minutes left, Maryland dominated possessions and committed very few unforced errors.  The best team truly won.

One cannot help but feel happy for the Maryland seniors who came through with the weight of 42 years on their shoulders and a fan base that that had watched their beloved Terps come so close in so many championship games since 1975 only to come up short every time…until yesterday.

While Ohio State came up short, they should walk away from this experience with heads held high.  This roster was the first Ohio State team to make the Final 4 and then went on to take it a step further to the title game.  They have perhaps the most diverse roster among Division I top 10 teams.  While they do have players that hail from some of the more traditional lacrosse states like Maryland, NY, and Pennsylvania, they have several players from their home state of Ohio, as well as players from Alabama, Florida, California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Delaware. Rounding out their roster are the Ontario and British Columbia based Canadians.  Alabama?  Really?

While Maryland’s win represent’s a storied programs return to glory, Ohio States runner up achievement represents the growth of lacrosse into less traditional areas where kids may now feel that they finally have a seat at the table along side players from the Northeast.

For many reasons, this was a lacrosse National Championship game to remember!  Congrats to Maryland and Ohio State.  To all of the May Madness teams, thank you for a great season of the best lacrosse in the world!

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Why Major League Lacrosse Got It Right With The Shot Clock

The Lacrosse Shot ClockIn my freshman year at Montclair State University, the 1993 men’s lacrosse program was in a rebuilding mode. I was one of two freshmen starters, both of us midfielders. The team was young, with a small core of veterans to lead us, and the overall expectations were mediocre at best.

But rather than stagger the other freshmen and I on middie lines with more experienced players to help carry us, my coach instead chose to put us both on the same line along with a sophomore forming middie line two, stacking middie line one with our three best and most experienced midfielders. The plan was to aggressively engage in a run and gun attack while middie line one was on the field, then dial it back to a ball control and ball movement offense when middie line two was on; thus enabling us to take time off the clock, to keep the ball out of the sticks of the other team’s offense, and rest middie line one. While middie line two was on the field, we were only to shoot if within point blank range (5 yards or closer) of the goal, with the shot being the closest to a sure thing as one could get in lacrosse. Case in point, I only registered 6 goals that season, with perhaps just over double that number in attempts.

My own personal stats notwithstanding, the strategy proved effective, turning what was supposed be a rebuilding year for Montclair State, into a 13-3 record, Knickbocker Conference Champs, as well Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament champs. We accomplished all this while being the clearly less talented team on the field in at least half of our games. While my coach gave us our best opportunity to win that season, this strategy was hardly his brainchild. He merely borrowed from Bill Tierney’s strategy as he guided the Princeton Tigers to six Division I national titles. Ball control and clock management with only the highest percentage shots taken enabled Princeton to be one of the most successful Division I lacrosse programs in history without the benefit of luring the best blue chip recruits with scholarship offers (Ivy League schools are not permitted to offer athletic scholarships).

Bill Tierney was successful to be sure, but watching the Princeton Tigers offense (and Montclair State’s offense in 1993) was sometimes as entertaining as watching paint dry. It slowed the game and lulled the audience into a rhythmic monotony. Such drawn out ball and clock control led to lower scoring games, something that is not as fan friendly, as scoring is exciting…everybody loves a shoot-out no matter what the sport may be.

Enter the newly formed Major League Lacrosse in 2001 who, determined to draw in new fans, endeavored to make the game fast and furious by implementing a shot clock (among other changes meant to make the game more exciting). The 60 second shot clock (increased from 45 seconds to 60 seconds in 2005) begins ticking once the ball reaches the offensive half of the field. At first, its detractors and lacrosse purists thought this change would lead to careless shots and poorly organized offensive schemes given the limited time to set up an offense set. Quite the contrary, this innovation instead led to faster ball movement, adapting to quickly setting up offensive schemes, and a wonderful increase to the pace of the game. The fans loved it and continue to love it to this day.

Of course, talk of an NCAA shot clock and having one even at the high school level began shortly thereafter, following the success and popularity of the MLL shot clock. NCAA responded by implementing a “stall rule,” where an official may issue a stall warning to a team that is not showing enough intention to attack the goal. Once the stall warning is given, a team must shoot within 30 seconds or lose possession of the ball.

This was definitely a step in the right direction, but from my view, it leaves too much discretion to the officials. Intention to attack the goal may look very differently from one official to another, leading to an inevitable lack of consistency in implementing stall warnings. A proper shot clock like that of MLL would take all subjectivity out of the call, increase the integrity of the game, and increase the pace and excitement of NCAA lacrosse.

I would not just stop at NCAA shot clocks, but I would have them for high school lacrosse as well. Many would argue that high school lacrosse players are not ready for the pace that a shot clock would mandate. However, I counter with the same argument that was made when NCAA implemented the 10 second clearing rule. It took years for high school lacrosse to follow suit, but once implemented at that level, we learned that high school players were perfectly capable of clearing the ball in 10 seconds, so much so that the 10 second rule is even now implemented in many youth leagues.

The shot clock is the future of lacrosse and its sustained growth as the fastest growing sport in the United States. The sooner we embrace it, the sooner we will reap its benefits for the sake of the game.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Lacrosse Carpe Diem, Because These Moments Are More Fleeting Than You Will Ever Know

Montclair State Lacrosse Zach SchroeckPictured is one of two standout players from my Alma Mater, Montclair State University, Zach Schroeck (brother is Mickael Schroeck).  In an impressive 2015 16-2 season, Michael was named first team All Skyland Conference, while Zach was named its Rookie of the Year.  While I do not know these two fine players, seeing them in the uniform that I once donned in my own playing career; while approaching the close of my youth club’s current lacrosse season, it made me wonder if these guys and others living the dream of playing competitive lacrosse are really appreciating the opportunity they are in the midst of.

 To be sure, none of us really know when our playing careers will end.  For a few unfortunates, it may end early due to injury.  For most, it will end after their senior high school lacrosse season.  For a select few, it will end after college and for an even lesser select few, it will end at the end of a professional lacrosse career.

 I still enjoy playing in my Brevard County Lacrosse Men’s League, but as fun as that is, it does not compare to playing for my high school in the NJ State Championship tournament, or in college, playing for the East Coast Athletic Conference Championship.  In Men’s League, whether I play well or play poorly, my team wins or loses; beer and wings will be waiting after the game.  I will go home to my family, and life will go on unaffected regardless of the outcome.

 But in my high school and college playing days representing my school and community, during lacrosse season, nothing else really mattered.  The anticipation of big games and big moments was as much thrilling as it was at times terrifying.  The bond with my teammates, sharing the thrill of winning and the agony of defeat has no present day comparison.  In college, the long road trips and staying in hotels with my teammates were some of the most memorable moments of my life.  I feel truly blessed to have experienced all of what lacrosse gave me.

 Reflecting on all of this as our 2016 lacrosse season winds down to a close, I leave you with this famous quote from great Robin Williams movie, Dead Poets Society: “Carpe diem,” translated from Latin, “Seize the day.”  Savor every moment of your lacrosse playing experience as it is your last; as one day it will no longer be there.  Constant training and preparation will be replaced with meetings, deadlines, and commitments; working and paying bills.  Bonding with your teammates will be replaced with raising your family, possibly coaching your children and enjoying watching them live the dream that you once lived.

 Yes, you may play again as I do, but it will not compare to what lacrosse once meant to you.  So to all of you young men and women out there still living the lacrosse dream, carpe diem!  Hope you all had a memorable and fun season.

Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.