Editor’s Note: Please welcome Gabe Kelley to LaxAllStars.com! Gabe was an All-American LSM at Wesleyan University (NCAA D3), who graduated in 2011. Gabe was a terror with a long pole in the States, and while pursuing a master’s degree in England, he found a whole new lax scene to scare. Read about his amazing experience below!
Upon graduating from Wesleyan University just a year ago, I assumed my competitive lacrosse career would be over. However, one shoulder reconstruction surgery and 3,000 miles later, I was playing lacrosse again. I had the opportunity to apply for a lacrosse scholarship from Durham University, in northern England, and I took it.
Twelve other American men’s lacrosse players and I were accepted and began pre-season training in late September of 2011. Despite a month long Christmas break, we didn’t end our season until the end of April, with an international competition. All graduates of American institutions, we are earning our masters degrees in fields varying from International Defense to Neuroscience.
Women’s lacrosse is also huge at Durham and five American players came over this year. The five D-1 graduates have led the women’s team to a very successful 9 and 1 season.
The Durham men’s lacrosse program is made up of three teams that all practice together with three American coaches. This year we were led by first team coach Jerry Nevin (St. John’s 2010) and the 2011 Roanoke D3 All-American duo of Justin Tuma and Alex Burkhead (Charlotte Hounds). Jake Fratella, and Tom Gebhard proved to be major contributors to our offensive success this year, while Goalie Dave Crawford (Moravian 2010) allowed just 24 goals over his twelve league games.
Durham’s success has also attracted some of the best British lacrosse talent. Ric Topham (first team captain) and Andy Nicholls have been vital to every first team win this season. Martin Andersen, Stephen Long, and Jamie Dillon have been dominant in second-team games. The second team won its first-ever league championship and that same day the first team won its third BUCS national championship in a row with a 17-0 victory over Manchester University. In BUCS competition the first team finished with a 12-0 record outscoring its opponents 143-26. We also got the chance to play some teams outside of the UK.
In February, we traveled to Amsterdam to take on the Netherlands National Team, the Dutch U-19 team, and the German U-19 team. The weekend was the most exciting competition we saw all year and we left Amsterdam with victories in all four contests. We also had the opportunity to play the English U-19 team just a few weeks ago and they seem to have some of the most promising young talent in European lacrosse. Because of the excellent stick work and physical conditioning of the young English squad, we barely snuck by with an 11-8 win.
The year has been a success for not only Durham Lacrosse, but also the growth of the game. Along with the help of the 5 American women lacrosse players, we helped coach the Northumbria University Lacrosse team, which consisted of all British players. The American women also run the Durham University Junior Lacrosse program that is designed to get the youth of the community playing lacrosse together after school. The game is growing over here and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon.
I am very fortunate to still be a part of the player-side of the game and a, excited for the next step of my lacrosse life. I thank Durham for the wonderful opportunity, and strongly encourage laxers everywhere to consider a post-graduate study at Durham University. Lacrosse doesn’t end after college and even if it’s not through an academic setting, I hope all laxers out there continue to grow your/his/her/the game wherever they are.
For more info on Durham University Lacrosse, check out their Facebook page!
Thanks to Gabe for detailing his time over in England, and to Durham for having him! We hope to see Gabe back on the field in the US this Summer, hopefully with a LaxAllStars jersey on! Looks like we may need to string him up a new traditional head as well!
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