posted 05.30.2011 at 1.47 a.m. by Matt DaSilva

Nieves Sticks It to Cancer, Celebrates Title

Alex Nieves' presence has followed the Salisbury men's lacrosse team this season mostly in the form of his No. 6 jersey draped over the bench. The number bears enough significance on its own, as Sea Gulls stars like Josh Bergey and Kylor Berkman wore it before he came to wear it as a freshman in 2010. Now it's a symbol of hope.

Nieves, a sophomore midfielder from Centreville, Va., found out in December he has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a blood cancer that forced him to leave school and the team to pursue aggressive cycles of treatment that include nauseating chemotherapy and painful spinal taps.

"It's like a long-lasting hangover that sticks with you for nine, 10 months," he said. "It sucks."

Being with his Salisbury teammates on occasion this spring helped. Watching them beat Tufts for the NCAA Division III championship Sunday was surreal.

"The team’s been everything for me going through cancer. Now that I’ve beaten it and it’s almost over, being able to watch these guys win one is the best feeling in the world," said Nieves, who was hoisted by his teammates in celebration after the Sea Gulls' 19-7 victory. "As much as I want to be out there, which kills me that I can’t play, I’m just so happy we were able to do it."

Nieves is not out of the woods. He has two cycles remaining before finishing his treatment in early August, he said, adding that he would like to return to school and rejoin his lacrosse teammates in the fall.

"I'll be back next year," he said.