April 8, 2010

Texas-Born Goalie Keeps Army in the Hunt

by Brian Delaney | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

6-foot-5 Army goalie Tom Palesky wears size 14 shoes and gives the Black Knights an imposing presence between the pipes.

Tom Palesky isn’t necessarily a direct product of Army’s intent to spend more time recruiting the burgeoning lacrosse state of Texas.

When his older sister, Katie, went to West Point for basic training in 2005, Tom Palesky decided to attend a lacrosse camp at Army so he could be closer to his sister for a short time.

It was right after his sophomore season at Plano High School, located in the city of Plano, just north of Dallas. Plano’s high school coach is Kevin MacGibbon, a 1980 graduate of West Point and a former All-American goalie.

Jack Emmer liked what he saw, and Palesky’s name and game did not escape new coach Joe Alberici.

“He kept me as a recruit,” Tom Palesky said. “Both my brother and me, our biggest goal was Division I or nothing. Go big or go home. [Army] was the best shot I had pretty much.”

Palesky is believed to be the first Texas-born player to start at the goalie position for a Division I lacrosse program. His twin brother, Nick, joined him at West Point, but no longer plays. His older brother, Matt, is in the U.S. Air Force. Katie is now serving time at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

“It’s our way of giving back,” Tom said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

In the heat of the Patriot League race, Army (4-5) is in the thick of things with a 2-0 record.

Lafayette is also 2-0, while Navy is 4-1 and has already clinched a conference tournament berth.

“The season is pretty exciting, because the teams that usually don’t win are winning,” Palesky said. “The better team on that day wins. There’s no favorite in the Patriot League, and our guys understand that. Even Colgate, they’re a great team. Don’t let their record fool you. Anyone can win.”

What Palesky and Alberici understand is that the Patriot League is more than likely going to be a one-bid league this postseason.

To maximize his team’s chances at winning the automatic berth, Alberici said Army needs to tighten up its defense. The Black Knights visit Bucknell, Navy and Lafayette for their next three games.

“Quite honestly, we’re not built to win a lot of 15-14 games,” he said.

Defensively, no one is more important than Palesky, who stands 6-foot-5 and wears size 14 shoes. He’s a large presence between the pipes in every sense.

“He takes up a lot of the cage,” Alberici said. “He has very good ball stopping abilities and has done a lot to ignite our transition last year and this year. He does have a very well-rounded game.”

Which hasn’t been said too often over the years about players from Texas, but Palesky said that’s starting to change.

“I get this a lot. People will say I didn’t even know they played lacrosse in Texas,” he said. “I still get it today. It’s awesome.”

Alberici said his staff believes Texas can be a fertile recruiting ground for the Black Knights.

“It is an area for us that we feel we need to canvass every year,” he said, "to try and bring some guys and some interest there. We haven’t quite gotten a pipeline there by any stretch, but more and more guys are gaining experience down there. The coaching, from what I know, continues to increase and get to a higher level. It’s one of those emerging areas to continue to see Texas kids all over Division I and Division III rosters.”
Patriot League Notes

Navy gets a crack at a top-five team Saturday when it visits No. 4 Maryland at noon. The Mids lost to Georgetown last Friday, 13-12 in overtime, on a goal by Max Seligmann. Navy goalie R.J. Wickham is averaging 14.1 saves per game, by far the best in the Patriot… Lafayette bounced back from a loss to Drexel with a 13-7 win over Marist on Tuesday. Kevin Dunbar had four goals and two assists, and Chris Ahern enjoyed a three-point night. Vinny DePasquale made 13 stops in the cage… Ryan Klipstein has 28 goals in 10 games for Bucknell, which is 1-2 in the Patriot ... Colgate is 0-3 in the Patriot with three one-goal losses: 11-10 in overtime to Army, 10-9 to Navy and 9-8 to Holy Cross.

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