April 3, 2014

Small Numbers, Big Impact for Lehigh's Souders

by Justin Lafleur | Lehigh Sports Media Relations

A Senior CLASS Award finalist, Ty Souders has been an anchor for the Mountain Hawks. (Justin Lafleur)

The statistics for Lehigh men's lacrosse senior Ty Souders don't jump off the page. In his typical calm demeanor, Souders has helped transform the Lehigh defense into one of the nation's best while serving as a catalyst for the sport of lacrosse in the Lehigh Valley.

A local product out of Emmaus High School, Souders is a two-time All-American. Under his leadership, the defense hasn't missed a beat this season. The Mountain Hawks are second in the nation in scoring average, allowing just 6.45 goals per game.

Beyond his success on the field, Souders is the embodiment of a student-athlete who excels as a student, lacrosse player and most importantly, person.

"Ty is naturally a great role model because he's a kid who's very polite, very disciplined and lives life the right way," said Andy Scott, Ty's first-ever lacrosse coach who coached Souders through his freshman year at Emmaus.

Souders was recently named one of 10 finalists in the nation for the prestigious Senior CLASS Award, which stands for community, classroom, character and competition. Growing up, the focus on all-around success was instilled by his parents at a young age.

"I remember sitting at the kitchen table when I was in second, third and fourth grade wanting to stop doing homework," said Souders. "My parents said I had to finish before doing anything else."

That discipline has translated to high school and college.

Souders grew up playing several sports, from football to baseball, basketball and hockey. He didn't start playing lacrosse until seventh grade.

"Coach Scott was trying to convince me to play lacrosse for a couple years," said Souders. "Finally, I decided to try it out. I loved the pace of the game, the physicality. I just fell in love with the sport."

Although there was an obvious transition, Ty impressed from the onset.

"We put a long stick in his hand right away because of his size, strength and agility," said Scott. "By the time he finished a year of lacrosse, he looked like he'd been playing for five or six. Plus, he understood the defensive concepts very quickly."

Those intangibles helped Souders excel in high school and moving into his college days at Lehigh. Not only is he gifted physically, but is also in the right places at the right times while directing his teammates as well.

"There are times when Ty helps all other field players on the defense do their job, while he does his, without even thinking about it," said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. "It take a mature young man to do that, and at such a high level. It takes a humble young man and it takes a selfless young man. Ty is all of that and more."

Souders quickly began to focus on two sports in high school: football and lacrosse.

"I thought football would be my avenue to college," said Ty. "After freshman year of high school, going into the summer circuit with my local team, I started to realize that lacrosse could potentially be a different avenue to get to college."

"I knew from a very early age that he had the potential to do whatever he wanted in the sport," said Scott.

Souders was being recruited by several schools, but he saw the potential in Lehigh's program and wanted to be a part of the transformation.

"The coaching staff had a vision," said Souders. "Coach Cassese, Coach Wray and Coach Callahan were all young guys and all really enthusiastic about where they wanted to take this program. All the way back to when I visited my junior year, the players also had huge enthusiasm about taking this program to new heights.

"Thankfully, four years later, it's starting to come together," Souders continued. "It takes a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot of different people that led to where we are right now."

Souders has developed into one of the best - if not the best - lacrosse players the Lehigh Valley has ever seen. His success is hard to argue. Souders has started at Lehigh from day one. When he entered in 2011, the Mountain Hawks hadn't made the Patriot League Tournament in five years. That quickly changed as Lehigh qualified in Souders' freshman campaign.

The Mountain Hawks accomplished a first in Souders' sophomore season when they went 14-3 and not only advanced to their first-ever NCAA Tournament, but also hosted Maryland in an NCAA First Round Game.

Lacrosse has been booming in the Lehigh Valley, between increased youth participation, high school programs and overall interest in the sport. A perfect example was that game versus Maryland in 2012 which sold out (more than 2,000 tickets) in less than 48 hours.

In Ty's junior year, the Mountain Hawks followed with a second straight Patriot League Tournament Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance. The biggest change within the program was its defense, thanks in large part to Souders. Lehigh finished second nationally in 2012 and sixth in 2013 and has kept it going in 2014.

Souders believes an emphasis on the little things has led to the success.

"We focus on the little things, anything from simple communication to recovery," he said. "We celebrate a roll off the back side that leads to a turnover. It doesn't look like a big play, but internally, we know the importance of every little detail.

"Offensively, when we watch the film, we'll celebrate a guy cutting really hard and causing two defenders to move to him which opens up a lane for a shot," he continued.

Souders has helped create a culture of success. He carries himself in a way that breeds success with all those around him.

"Ty is the quarterback of our defense. He is the signal caller, the orchestrator, the encourager and the disciplinarian," said Cassese. "His numbers aren't the most impressive because he's accepted a role that is less about individual numbers and more about overall team success."

Despite some players on his own team putting up better numbers, coaches recognize Souders' importance, voting him as an All-American two straight years.

"As coaches, we keep a different stat called a winning edge," said Cassese. "These are basically the little plays that are made through the course of a game that do not show up in the media stat column. Ty is far and away the team leader in winning edges."

Success and discipline is evident in all areas of Souders' life. The Finance major is a standout student.

"I currently have Ty in my undergraduate advanced topics course, which is a corporate finance course," said Dr. Samuel Weaver. "Ty is the perfect student. He's always in class, always sitting in front. He participates. He knows exactly what's going on, does the work beforehand, asks select questions and participates.

"Ty is a pleasure to have in the classroom," Weaver continued. "The ideal student, along with his ability to play lacrosse, makes a really great combination."

Souders has already made connections and enjoyed success in the workplace, interning with Solebury Capital last summer, an IPO advisory firm out of New Hope, Pennsylvania.

"We would advise companies that were going public or doing other types of secondary offerings," said Souders. "It was really interesting. I got a great look at the markets and how everything works. I got to sit in on calls and look at a bunch of different filings. I got a good background and base knowledge of what it takes to be successful in that realm."

Souders is also a leader of Lehigh's community initiatives, which include going to the local Boys and Girls club, day cares, reading to elementary school students and more.

Whether it's on the field, in the classroom or as a working professional, Souders is a role model for his teammates around him and all aspiring student-athletes.

"Kids naturally look up to him," said Scott. "Ty has coached some of our youth association teams in the summer. That helps. Little kids need somebody to look up to. If you love the sport and you see somebody from your backyard who is so successful, it really helps motivate kids to reach those heights."

"In my opinion, Ty paved the way for lacrosse in the Lehigh Valley," said Cassese. "He was the first big-time recruit in our sport to come out of the area and it was all the more special when he decided to stay close to home. He's such a tremendous role model for the young, aspiring lacrosse student-athletes in the Lehigh Valley.

"Ty not only gets it done on the field, but also in the classroom and in the community," Cassese continued. "He's a genuine person, with a big heart, and a smile that lights up the room. It's hard not to cheer for him and it's easy to follow him. That's why he's become the model young man, the prototype, of what I want a Lehigh Lacrosse player to look like and act like."

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