October 31, 2010

Eight Greats Join National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in Style

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Hall of Fame Bios

Hall of Fame inductee Bonnie Rosen addresses celebrants Saturday at a formal induction celebration in Hunt Valley, Md.

© LaxPhotos.com

HUNT VALLEY, Md. -- Eight new lacrosse players and coaches were inducted Saturday into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame at the Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, Md.

Each helped revolutionize lacrosse in his or her own way.

Scott Bacigalupo set a new standard for goalkeeping, and might just be the best ever to man the pipes; Francesca Den Hartog is thought to be the first women's lacrosse player to use a plastic molded head; Michael Burnett was at the forefront of Carolina's mini-dynasty in the 1980s; Eleanor Keady Gaffney was a member of the 1957 U.S. touring team that sailed across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary and played previously unmatched England to a 7-7 tie, shifting the sport's balance of power stateside; Mac Ford was, at one point, the best attackman in the world; Bonnie Rosen considers herself a success story of the sometimes-controversial Title IX legislation passed to provide equal opportunity for female athletes; Jack Kaley turned a small commuter school on Long Island into a Division II powerhouse; Mary McCarthy Stefano, a Moorestown lifer, helped lay the groundwork for a New Jersey high school dynasty and led Penn State to its first NCAA championship.

They were joined Saturday by 41 Hall of Fame alumni spanning three decades and hundreds others celebrating their induction in a ceremony presented by Bollinger Insurance.

Best of the Batch

Among celebrants was Bill Tierney. The former Princeton and current Denver men's lacrosse coach was there on behalf of Bacigalupo, the goalie who backstopped the first two of his six NCAA titles at Princeton.

Tierney remembered walking arm-in-arm with a dejected Bacigalupo following a triple-overtime loss to Towson in the 1991 NCAA tournament.

"He told me, 'As long as I'm here, we will never lose another overtime game,'" Tierney said in a video presentation.

Bacigalupo went 5-0 in overtime after that loss, including NCAA championship game victories over Syracuse and Virginia, respectively.

He was not only a "prognosticator," Tierney said of Bacigalupo, a four-time All-American and three-time NCAA Goalie of the Year, but "he is Princeton lacrosse."

Consequently, Bacigalupo would never pick up a stick again. He joked Saturday that his wife has never seen him play lacrosse, wondering if any of the stories about him are true.

"I don't know who coined the phrase 'lightning in a bottle,' but oh, did that capture that group in my four years at Princeton University," Bacigalupo said.

Rather than try to recapture that lightning as others did in the post-collegiate, professional and international ranks, Bacigalupo instead stuck to Wall Street and honored a promise he made to himself and longtime Princeton assistant David Metzbower to leave the sport on a high note.

"Metzy helped me make the decision to stop playing lacrosse after college," Bacigalupo said of a conversation they had in a Baltimore pub following the 1994 NCAA final. "We discussed, in my career, walking off the field as a champion -- as a senior, captain and national champion, the pinnacle of the sport."

Career of Firsts

Francesca Den Hartog was given a wooden stick and told to pick a hand. A natural righty, she chose to play lacrosse left-handed.

When Den Hartog arrived at Harvard in 1980, her coach, Carole Kleinfelder, worked with Brine to design the first sanctioned women's lacrosse plastic-molded stick for her.

Den Hartog became a two-handed scoring machine, setting Crimson records for all-time goals (249), all-time points (315), single-season goals (83) and goals in a game (nine).

"She led the way," Kleinfelder said as Den Hartog's video presenter Saturday. "She was the future of lacrosse."

Den Hartog's distinctions include playing in the first Massachusetts high school state championship game, the first NCAA tournament and the first World Cup. She was also the first U.S. national team member to play with a plastic stick.

"There was a lot of resistance to that," Den Hartog said. "I wish I recognized at the time how significant these moments were."

Family Man

To hear Jim Burnett tell it, most defensemen never saw his brother Michael's first step, quickness he developed chasing crabs in Maryland's Severn River.

A four-time All-American at North Carolina, Michael Burnett used that speedy first step to beat defensemen, draw slides and dish as one of the best feeders in the sport's history.

On a night in which inductees deflected praise to family and teammates, perhaps no one was as effusive of family as Burnett, who was presented by his brother and thanked his parents for sending him to college -- "in my case, the greatest six-and-a-half years of my life," he joked.

When told of his Hall of Fame induction, Burnett said, "two people who popped in my mind were my dad and Coach Willie Scroggs."

Burnett remembered Scroggs, the architect of UNC's lacrosse dominance in the 1980s, telling him and teammates, "We want to be the best team on campus." It was no small feat in Chapel Hill, where basketball and football stars abounded, but Burnett helped fulfill Scroggs' wish. He led the Tar Heels to back-to-back, undefeated NCAA championship campaigns in 1981-82.

The Beautiful Game

Jack Kaley's career .849 winning percentage ranks first among NCAA Divisions I and II men's lacrosse coaches. "Thanks for the memories," he said Saturday.

© LaxPhotos.com

Eleanor Keady Gaffney must look at women's lacrosse today and wonder, with its hard boundaries, incessant whistles and space-age looking gear, what happened to the game she fell in love with in the 1950s.

Despite never playing in high school, Gaffney flourished as a player at Boston University and even more so internationally. The Brookline, Mass., native spoke Saturday in a thick-as-chowder New England accent of what drew her to the sport.

"I loved the freedom and the flow of the game," she said.

Gaffney said the highlight of her playing career was when the U.S. touring team tied vaunted England, 7-7, in fall 1957.

Gaffney, a two-sport standout, also toured the United Kingdom and Ireland as a U.S. field hockey player. She would later establish the Cape Code Field Hockey and Lacrosse Camp in 1975.

These days, she said, her love of lacrosse has passed down to her grandchildren, who "in backyard pickup games get me tossing the ball again."

Comeback Mac

Mac Ford might not carry the same clout as Michael Jordan in North Carolina or, well, the non-lacrosse world, but the two former Tar Heels are ironically connected in one way: each used failure to drive his success in his sport.

Ford, like Jordan, was cut from his high school varsity team, only to use that snub as motivation to become one of the greatest ever to play his sport. Ford would eventually make the Gilman (Md.) lacrosse team, earn Baltimore Sun All-Metro and high school All-American honors and become the best copycat in the business as a two-time NCAA All-American at UNC.

"My dad was my first coach. He said, 'Mackey boy, watch a game, pick one or two players and study what they do with and without the ball.' That's what I did," Ford said Saturday. "I'm standing here as a product of who I've watched and who I've played with."

Although Ford won an NCAA title with the Tar Heels as a freshman -- and teammate of Burnett -- a 14-13, double-overtime loss to Syracuse in the 1985 final four left him unfulfilled.

Ford thrived as an attackman for the vaunted Mount Washington post-collegiate club team. He was cut, again, in his first attempt to make the U.S. team, but qualified four years later, his All-World performance in 1990 testifying to his perseverance.

Ford went on to coach his daughters in "this foreign game called women's lacrosse," he said, "and a passion emerges." He rejoined the Team USA ranks as an assistant coach on the gold medal-winning 2009 U.S. women's World Cup team in Prague, Czech Republic.

'Good Enough That Day'

Of all the players inducted Saturday into the National Hall of Fame, Bonnie Rosen might have stood out the least on the field. She was a nothing-fancy defender who, yes, was an All-American at Virginia, but prided herself on team defense.

Rosen counts herself lucky to have made the U.S. national team in 1992, paving the way for a 13-year career in the Team USA system, including three U.S. World Cup teams.

"Fortunately, I was good enough that day," Rosen said Saturday of her first Team USA tryout.

Rosen also harkened on the difficulties of being a female athlete in the late 1980s and early 90s, including some negative perceptions from the non-lacrosse community.

"I am a direct beneficiary of Title IX," she said, but credited her family and friends for her "being secure in being a female athlete."

Rosen is currently the head coach at Temple and instrumental in the development of inner-city lacrosse in Philadelphia.

"It's been quite the ride, and it's still continuing," she said, after which she provided the night's largest laugh. "The only thing the sport has not given me yet is a husband, and there's still time."

Paging Dr. Kaley

It was the first time Jack Kaley, the innovative, shoot-from-the-hip coach whose press conferences were almost as legendary as his sideline demeanor, had ever read a prepared speech.

Still, Kaley could not help but improvise when talking about his time as a player for the legendary Long Island Athletic Club. "I got my PhD in lacrosse with the Long Island AC," he said. "Every bus trip or post-game party was a coaching seminar."

Or his no-nonsense approach to conditioning as the head coach at East Meadow (N.Y.). "It wasn't just four corners, OK, but 10 good ones," he said of the storied hauls around campus.

But it was Kaley's success at NYIT, where he brought a fledgling program to an NCAA Division II final in just two years and would go on to win four NCAA titles, that ushered him Saturday into the 53rd class of Hall of Famers. His "backer" zone defense and swarming ground ball patterns became hallmarks for the Bears and have been imitated by countless coaches in the high school and collegiate ranks.

Said Kaley: "Thanks for the memories."

Jersey Girl

Considering it was only this year that Moorestown's 228-game winning streak in New Jersey came to an end -- thanks to Shawnee's 7-6 comeback victory in the South Jersey Group 3 final -- you'd have to go back considerably to find a time in which the Quakers were not the standard of Jersey lacrosse.

Mary McCarthy Stefano joked that she will be "forever 32," but truth is she led Moorestown to its first state title in 1983 before flourishing as an All-American at Penn State (winning the NCAA championship in 1987) and two-time gold medalist for the U.S. World Cup team.

Like Rosen, Stefano was a defensive wing who opened doors for herself by closing them on others. Her defensive performance was largely responsible for the Nittany Lions' 7-6 win over Temple in the 1987 NCAA final.

"It's pretty funny when your college archrivals become your favorite U.S. teammates," Stefano said, specifically mentioning Temple alumnae and fellow Hall of Famers Kathleen Geiger and Mandee O'Leary. "How we acted on and off the field was just as important as how we played the game."

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