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February 11, 2011

Weekender: Cranshaw Makes Williams Sing

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Whether it's in his musical pursuits or on the lacrosse field, Williams senior Matt Cranshaw has shown his versatility. Now that he's back on attack - his old high school position - Cranshaw and the Ephs are hoping it pays off in a second NESCAC title.
© Kris Dufour/Williams College

In the silence before Matt Cranshaw opens his mouth, you don't know what to expect.

While he's got the preppy look down along with the other members of the "Williams Octet" -- one of seven a capella singing groups on the Williams College campus -- he still looks a little odd among his peers on stage. His athletic, 6-foot-2, 191-pound frame instantly sets him apart from others.

But once Cranshaw belts out that first note, you understand why he is up there.

Cranshaw has been involved in music since singing in his church choir and at the Westminster School, a prep school in Atlanta. It continued when he arrived in Williamstown. His interest expanded further when he met other like-minded musicians and started writing his own lyrics.

Cranshaw's versatility has also been apparent in his other hobby, which is played on the Ephs' lacrosse fields.

Although he was an attackman during his last year at Westminster, Cranshaw has played at every position but attack since he joined the program. His adaptability was readily evident to the Williams coaches, and they quickly found him a home in the starting lineup.

"I came in and we actually had a guy who was taking the year off at midfield, so a spot opened up," Cranshaw said. "I remember at the time I was playing second line offensive middie, and the coaches put me in as defensive middie. We had a pretty good game, and I ended up staying there all year. I think a lot of that versatility has to do with growing up in a non-hotbed of lacrosse. I had to be able to do a lot of things."

While Cranshaw's lacrosse motivations were relatively simple -- "I wanted a jersey and to get on the field anyway I could," he said -- Williams head coach George McCormack saw the potential. Though he was not highly recruited, Cranshaw's rugged frame and solid stick skills would be an asset all over the field, McCormack figured.

"It's really an ideal situation, especially at a place like Williams where there is a finite amount of young men that we can recruit," McCormack said. "If they are one-dimensional, we're just hoping they find a place on the field, because if they don't, it's hard to contribute to our program. But a guy like Matt, we can say, if he doesn't go here, we can put him there."

Cranshaw's versatility paid off in his first year, as the Ephs shook off a poor start and rolled to the 2008 NESCAC championship -- the first time a team other than Middlebury captured the crown -- and a spot in the NCAA tournament's second round. From there, he moved to offensive midfield the last two seasons. But with the advent of his senior year, Cranshaw is on the cusp of moving back to his original spot.

"We were a little thin at attack after least year, so he's coming full circle from high school. We're going to work him back into the attack, as we have a good amount of depth at the midfield position," McCormack said. "He'll give us some experience and savvy at the attack position."

"We'll see how it goes," said Cranshaw, who will be a captain this spring. "It's about getting on the field for me as well as whatever is good for the team. I'm fired up about playing attack this year."

Cranshaw is also fired up about finishing his career as it started -- with a conference title and a trip to the NCAA tournament. And even though it doesn't leave time for much else on his schedule, he'll continue to hop up on stage for the Williams Octet.

"My friends always laugh at me about how I have time to do all that," Cranshaw said. "The short answer is I'm pretty good at doing things at the last minute. But the truth is it doesn't stress me out, because I love it so much. It's been a ton of fun, and I've also got into writing a little bit of my own music with a lot of interesting musicians around here. It's definitely something I love. It adds to my experience."

"I've seen him perform, and it's pretty impressive; there's no music to drown out any of the mistakes," McCormack said. "He's got a good range. It's actually a pretty competitive thing here on campus, and he does an excellent job of it. It's kind of neat to have that kind of multi-dimensional kind of guy on our team."

In more ways than one.

Slides & Rides

- Trivia! Which NCAA division had the player with the highest points per game average last season? What about between the two divisions of the MCLA?

- St. Andrews Presbyterian, located in Laurinburg, N.C., announced the six players who will be joining the team this spring. No big news there. But the fact that all six players hailed from the state of Washington -- one of the geographically farthest states from Carolina -- was an interesting twist. Alas, that's the way of the lacrosse world these days.

The concept of "lacrosse hotbeds" -- typically considered Upstate New York, Long Island and Maryland -- is on life support. While those areas certainly produce their fair share of marquee players, 95 percent of the rosters of NCAA Divisions II, III and both MCLA divisions are made up of kids from the so-called "non-traditional" areas. Recruiting is a whole new ball game.

"This my 20th year of coaching college lacrosse, and the landscape of recruiting has completely changed," said Williams coach George McCormack. "When I first started, we had three hotbeds. Anybody else was out of the ordinary, and you didn't really follow up. Now, a lot of the times you'll go to a camp and a lot of the kids from other parts show up so you see them in person.

"We now feel that if we get interest from someone from Texas, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia or any of those places, we take it very seriously. It's nice because [players from those areas] do a good job of coming to camps up here in the Northeast, so we actually get to seem them in action. But we travel to California twice a year, to Chicago and travel down south, which never would happen before."

- With the number of teams that play in Florida, Texas and California -- and the fact that the league starts so early -- it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking MCLA teams play solely in warm-weather areas. While that is true to some degree, it's not so in Fort Collins, Colo. Earlier this week, Colorado State had the 8-10 p.m. practice shift, and the temperature was hovering right around zero, not including the wind chill.

"That's nearly as cold as I've ever been while involved with lacrosse," said Rams head coach Alex Smith. "The worst was last year down at the Air Force Academy, when all the water bottles froze and people's spit was literally freezing to their masks."

Why not relive old times? CSU heads back to Colorado Springs this weekend for another scrimmage with the Falcons. The weather is not cooperating, however: there's supposed to be a high of 53 degrees in the Springs on Saturday.

- NCAA Division II pushes the start button this weekend when Florida Southern travels to Deep South Conference rival Rollins on Saturday at noon. FSC won both matchups last year, including the Feb. 13 season opener for both teams, 12-7. The Mocs will be without their leading scorer from last year, Cam Holding (44g, 8a), who has returned to play for No. 5 Grand Valley State (Mich.), a member of MCLA Division II. Holding was the Lacrosse Magazine MCLA-II Preseason Player of the Year for GVSU before transferring to Florida Southern.

- Lenoir-Rhyne will play Belmont Abbey and Catawba will travel to St. Andrews in other NCAA D-II action Saturday.

- There are three games of note on the NCAA Division III side, headlined by the contest between Greensboro and No. 3 Salisbury on Sunday afternoon. Obviously, the Gulls are huge favorites, but this is still a win-win game for the Pride. Greensboro has a chance (albeit a slim one) of pulling off the stunner, and it will also get the schedule bump from having a team likely to finish with a .900-plus winning percentage and very strong RPI. Sewanee and Fontbonne square off in an SCAC-MLC showdown on Saturday along with an ODAC-CAC matchup featuring Virginia Wesleyan and Mary Washington, respectively.

- MCLA D-II No. 3 Westminster (Utah) is getting in some off-field training in preparation for the upcoming season. As was outlined in a release, the Griffins were hiking the five miles from the school's campus to the Hunstman Cancer Institute with 40-pound packs on their backs to present a $2,800 check to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation... Trivia! In the NCAA, it was Division III, which was led by Griffin Meehan's (Keene State) 5.53 points per game, which nipped D-II leader John McClure (5.38) out of Dowling. Both were nearly a point ahead of the D-I co-representatives -- Stony Brook's Kevin Crowley and Delaware's Curtis Dickson -- with 4.53 points per game. On the MCLA side, Eric Weber's (Hope) 8.00 points per game easily outdistanced Memphis' Steve Schifani's mark (6.89)...The Schooling Schooler MCLA pick 'em started this week and the "Coyne vs. Censer" NCAA D-III version kicks off next week... A quick shoutout to Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which is off to a 2-0 start in MCLA-II. Have to check in now with the Blugolds because their next two games are against No. 7 St. John's and No. 1 St. Thomas.

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