The 2015 College Lacrosse Season has started off on a very sad note so far, with three well known NCAA programs losing young men to bizarre, tragic, and confusing deaths. Hopkins freshman Jeremy Huber passed away in his dorm, Hofstra sophomore Joseph Ferriso was killed in a car crash, and now Rollins senior captain, Will Hauver, has passed away, making for three big losses in men’s college lacrosse, all in the last month.
To lose three young men in the prime of their lives in one month’s time is a shock for any small community, but for it to all happen just as the 2015 college lacrosse season was set to kick off makes it an ever sadder string of events. The three players’ teammates were probably only thinking about beating Virginia or Tampa just a month ago, not about going to a funeral, mourning a friend, or trying to “play for the departed”, but things have changed.
It’s not just another season of lacrosse at Hopkins, Hofstra, or Rollins this year…
It is Jeremy’s season.
It is Joe’s season.
It is Will’s season.
A program never wants to lose a player while the player is enrolled in school. It’s a tragedy beyond the normal day to day scope, and it can test players and coaches unlike anything else. But when it does happen (and it does happen), reacting in the right way is incredibly important. So far, all three of these programs, and their opponents, have done just that.
Hopkins cancelled a scrimmage with Loyola, Loyola said “ok”, and then tweeted out their condolences to their Charles Street rival. That was classy. Hofstra moved some stuff around and no one batted an eye. Rollins is just starting to deal with their tragedy now, but you can expect much of the same from their opponents and program.
Hopkins has held a vigil for Huber, and over 500 people from the small school came out to the turf to remember him. The Blue Jays will paint Huber’s number on the field for the 2015 season, and his #19 jersey won’t be worn by any player until his class graduates in 2018. Hofstra will remember Joe Ferriso in their own way, and so will Rollins with Hauver.
Many people assume a tragic event, and all of the stories above qualify, can hurt a team’s season chances, but it can also provide a strong rallying point for any program, and this is the potential silver lining to a tragic story. Personally, I will never forget playing against Bates College shortly after their captain, Morgan McDuffee, was stabbed to death in Lewiston, ME, while trying to break up a fight. I knew Morgan tangentially from high school lacrosse in Massachusetts, and his death hit me pretty hard.
I remember getting ready for the Bates game thinking I would play my hardest to honor Morgan. I remember experiencing the realization then that even healthy young men can die, and that I should live my life to a better and fuller extent. I came in contact with my own mortality. But I also remember looking across the field at Bates, and KNOWING that I couldn’t play as hard as the Bobcats were about to play. I didn’t experience the same pain and heartache that the Bates players did. I was simply sad and a little lost, but they were on another level. A part of me knew we weren’t winning that game… and we didn’t.
I remember seeing the Bates’ players faces during the game. Some had steely expressions of toughness, others simply looked worn out, like they hadn’t slept in weeks, and still some others were fighting to hold back tears at times, but it all made sense, and it all helped them play better team lacrosse. The loss of Morgan McDuffee was not a positive for Bates, but it was reality, and they turned that crushing reality around into something impressive and uplifting.
Bates’ head coach, Peter Lasagna, was a big reason for this positive reaction. Lasagna has always been a mentor, and a leader of men, but his actions during this time went way beyond the scope of the job. He was a constant source of strength for his players. He allowed them to mourn and helped them to move forward. When the proverbial rain fell, he stood in it with his guys, living the soak like a player. Coaches are obviously important for lacrosse, but when truly bad stuff happens, the greats step it up another notch.
I hope that the Johns Hopkins, Hofstra, and Rollins programs can all make the transition back to life and lacrosse as smoothly as possible. I know there will be tough times to come, and many trying moments, but if these teams remember their lost teammates, and focus on living and playing in their honor, some good may come out of this tragic month yet. Hopefully, the program leaders will think about giving Coach Lasagna a call to ask for his advice on how this should be done.
These losses have shaken up these three programs, and we wish them all the best as they move forward with life, school, and lacrosse this year, whenever they are ready for it. To the parents and families of these players, our hearts are heavy, and we can only imagine the pain you feel. We hope that you can still follow your son’s program, and we wish that this coming year also gives you some joy as you watch your son’s teammates celebrate his life, with their actions on the field.
Losing a friend or teammate too early is always tough, and it can break you if one is not careful. Mortality is a reality we all must face at some point in our lives, if you can do it with a group of people you love and trust, it gets just a tiny bit easier.
2015 College Lacrosse – Chico State Cancels Season
On the other side of the coin, sometimes a death of a teammate can end a season, or a program. Chico State’s men’s and women’s club lacrosse programs have both had their seasons cancelled this year by the school. Both teams were said to have hosted team gatherings where alcohol was served over the course of January. After a party on January 16th, a men’s lacrosse player died, and this prompted the school to look into the teams’ activities.
Losing a teammate is sad enough, but possibly contributing to that teammate’s death is so much harder to deal with. I don’t know the details of the situation at Chico State, and I’m not blaming the team here as I don’t know what happened, but I do know that guilt can come on strong whether it’s deserved or not, and that can be a very difficult road to tread.
Alcohol may be a staple on many of our college campuses here in the US, but if you’re part of a team, think twice before you have any around at team events. There are two realities in college: that of real life and that of college life. Don’t forget that the two always exist together!
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the teams dealing with the pain of a lost player right now. Good luck in your road to recovery.