The lacrosse world has a strong connection at many of the service academies across the country, and we are all very familiar with the NCAA D1 powers like Army and Navy, as well as other NCAA service schools like Air Force, VMI, SUNY Maritime (NCAA D3). But there is also a service academy playing competitive lacrosse at the MCLA level, and that is the United States Coast Guard Academy.
In order to give you a quick look into the long and compelling history of the USCGA lacrosse team, I’ve selected a portion from the Team History portion of the USCGA lacrosse website. To read more, go here.
How did the Men’s Lacrosse Club come into being? Understanding and documenting our past is critical to charting the team’s future course to success. While the founding and administration of the club was undoubtedly a team effort, supported by many different cadets, faculty and staff through the years, one of the key figures in the founding of the team was John M. Senyard, CGA ‘83.
Discussions with several classmates revealed LT Senyard’s intense love for the game of lacrosse. As a cadet, LT Senyard, a Maryland native, was often seen roaming the decks of Chase Hall with a lacrosse stick in hand. He attempted on several occasions to start a Men’s Lacrosse team without success. However, his persistence and example to junior cadets sparked the launch of the Men’s Lacrosse team during the spring following his graduation.
Unfortunately, LT Senyard was not able to witness the Men’s Lacrosse team grow into the highly competitive team that exists today. He was killed in an aircraft accident in Ilhithi, Kenya in 1989 along with his classmate LT Anthony Czapowskyj. Following his untimely death in 1989, LT Senyard’s parents started the LT John M. Senyard Lacrosse Endowment that has been the life blood of Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse since 1989.
LT Senyard could very well be considered the “Father of Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse”. As part of the silver anniversary of lacrosse at the Academy, and as a way to honor LT Senyard, the team adorned their new game uniforms with the Class of ’83 crest and JMS on the right sleeve.
The spring of 1984 started official club play. The team had to borrow a goal from Conn College, dodge baseballs, javelins, hammers and flickerballers during practice and play all of their games on the road. After the first three years, the team had grown to 25 strong, including an occasionally ineligible 4/c goalie who had to be snuck out for every game and football linemen recruited with the enticement at “not only can you hit people, but you can use this 6-foot stick, too!”
During the intervening years, the Men’s Lacrosse team developed into a highly competitive team. 1994 saw the first winning season (7-2), with a thrilling overtime victory over WPI, a spring break trip to Daytona, FL and a hard fought win against Fairfield University (who went NCAA DI Varsity the following year).
That’s an amazing story. And it reminds so very much of the Hampton Lacrosse Story. I guess it’s no surprise that the USCGA lacrosse team has been helping Hampton get started. That’s quite an amazing connection.
One other thing that is definitely worth mentioning here is that the Head Coach in the late 80s and early 90s just retired as a two-star Admiral, and RADM Tom Atkin’s involvement in the sport is another great story! Coach Atkin had neverseen a lacrosse game when he was asked to coach the team – he was a football coach, but they needed someone and he stepped up. From what I’ve gathered, the first year was rough, but he became a student of the game and was very important to the survival of our team at a critical time.
Coach Atkin was kind of like the Erin Quinn (MIddlebury) or Mike Daly (Tufts) of football to lacrosse coaching conversion before either of those guys had ever heard of the sport! Very cool to hear stories like this where someone with no connection to the game gets involved and then falls in love with the sport.
Here are a couple more great photos and quick stories to go along with them. I love the bucket helmets. Am I the only one who actually misses those sometimes?
The 1999 CGA Lacrosse team celebrates winning the PCLL championship and an undefeated season after a thrilling victory over URI on the lower field:
This was a pretty good birthday present for current USCGA Commander Sean Cross back when he was playing (his birthday was the next day). This article was actually a pretty big deal because it was the 1st time during the then players’ four years where they had a photo in the local newspaper:
Here is a better version of the above photograph:
Mike Fredie – aka the surgeon was one of the best Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse players of all time. To this day, some of his teammates still have no idea how a man of his talent ended up at the Coast Guard Academy (the Pride of Hingham, Mass), but they say that gratefully. The ‘Mike Fredie “Hard Hat” Union Award’ is named after him and you get to be part of the union by scooping 10 ground balls in a game. Fredie was a GROUND BALL MACHINE, mean with the long pole, and didn’t need much to take the ball from you. Before you knew it, he was headed the other way. From what we hear he was also a real gentlemen. Sounds like a gem!
And finally, we’ll come full circle! Austin English ’13 and Charlie Turner ’86 demonstrate the evolution of the Coast Guard Academy Lacrosse uniform between 2012 and 1984. GO BEARS!
I would like to thank Commander Sean Cross, Billy Tauzin, Commander Douglas Goodwin, and Commander James Spots for all their help in putting this post together. I feel like I know USCGA lacrosse better than ever now, and I’d like to thank them for all they have done to Grow The Game in New London at the Academy and beyond, as well as for their service to our nation. It’s been a pleasure, Bears, keep it up!