May 7, 2010

Delaware Rallies Around Grieving Goalkeeper

by Chris R. Vaccaro | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Noah Fossner, sporting pink shoelaces in honor of his mother, Elaine, made 14 saves to lead Delaware to a CAA semifinal win over Drexel just days after her death due to breast cancer.

© Kevin P. Tucker

Elaine Fossner always took an interest in her son’s lacrosse career. She drove him to practice and games. Noah Fossner spoke to her after his University of Delaware outings.

And though she passed away Saturday evening in upstate New York after a battle with breast cancer, she was with Noah during Delaware’s 15-12 win over Drexel in the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals Wednesday night.

Elaine Fossner, an actress and dancer, was diagnosed with cancer when Noah was in seventh grade and continued to get recurrences with the disease through the years. She was 57.

Noah Fossner, a junior, made 14 saves in leading Delaware (9-6) to its fourth straight win, including three over nationally-ranked foes.

While he’ll tell you the game was about the team and

the Blue Hens’ quest for playoff lacrosse glory – and it was – it meant much more for the 1,300-plus in attendance.

From the pink shoe laces to pink armbands and t-shirts and hats worn by many, to the pre-game moment of silence and the emotional speech Fossner gave to his teammates prior to the game, Wednesday night was anything but the norm. There was a higher power swirling around Newark, Del.

“There was a lot of love around the field, in the locker room, from the Delaware community, my community at home,” Fossner said. “It was a tribute to my mom, and that’s a meaningful thing. I can’t thank everyone enough.

“It’s part of life. Things will continue to move forward and the sun will continue to rise the next day. Lacrosse is lacrosse, which is why it’s so special.”

Fossner received a call from his father, Nathaniel, last Friday evening when the team was traveling home after beating Penn State 14-10. He was with his mom before she passed, and she told him to continue playing. By Tuesday, he was back at practice and looked as good as ever, Delaware coach Bob Shillinglaw said.

“Between my years coaching and my involvement in sports, I’ve never been part of a more emotional experience than what’s happened the past couple of days,” Shillinglaw said. “He was unbelievable. This is the tightest group of guys that I’ve ever coached.”

After the pre-game speech -- which elicited tears and caused the floodgates to open for everyone in the Delaware locker room, it seemed, but Fossner -- Shillinglaw said he wasn’t sure if his team would win. With that sort of emotion in the air, anything could happen.

“Noah really held it together,” he said.

“We consider ourselves a family, and when one of our buddies gets hurt, we hurt for them,” said Curtis Dickson, who scored three goals for Delaware in the win. “Seeing him this way was a little extra incentive for us to win.”

Fossner admits he thought about his mother as much as he could during the game. He appreciates the down time a goalie gets, allowing him to think and, in this case talk, to Elaine.

“It’s not something where you want to get your mind off it,” he said. “It’s important to always think about her.”

Fossner was mostly touched by the helmet decal with his mom’s initials that the team wore. That was the ultimate honor.

“It’s a very big deal,” he said.

Delaware can secure its fifth NCAA tournament appearance with a win at top-seeded and No. 20-ranked Towson Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the CAA championship game.

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