May 16, 2014

Hall of Famer Reese Watching as Thompson Nears Goals Record

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Yale midfielder Jon Reese scored 82 goals in 1990, which has stood as the NCAA Division I men's single-season record since. Albany's Miles Thompson has 79 goals entering Saturday's quarterfinal game against Notre Dame. (US Lacrosse)

Records may have been made to be broken, but that notion won't make this weekend any easier for Hall of Fame midfielder Jon Reese.

The NCAA Division I men's single-season goals record of 82 he set in 1990 at Yale is in jeopardy of holding up. Albany attackman Miles Thompson is within three goals of tying the mark and four of breaking it. Thompson averages a nation's best 4.64 goals per game entering the Great Danes' quarterfinal matchup Saturday with Notre Dame.

"It's bittersweet," Reese said Friday. "Say a prayer for me."

The competitor in him doesn't want the 24-year old record to fall. And Reese surely is competitive. In addition to being a two-way midfielder, and facing off during his college days at Yale, he was also a middle linebacker on the Yale football team. He only played lacrosse half the year.

But the bigger-picture thinker in Reese also recognizes that the attention Lyle, Miles and Ty Thompson have generated within and around the sport — in part because of the numbers they've put up — in general is a good thing.

Reese, who is still involved with the game as a volunteer assistant at Long Island power West Islip (N.Y.) High, will be in attendance on Saturday at Hofstra, watching the Thompsons in a game for the first time.

He's only seen the highlights, and heard about the trio from others, including current players at West Islip, which is gearing up for a playoff run of its own in the Suffolk County playoffs that start Monday.

"These kids are incredibly skilled," Reese said of the Thompsons. "My high school players say, 'They are wizardry and I was savagery,'" referring to Reese's football mentality as a physical midfielder on the lacrosse field.

"To hear the amount of people talking about lacrosse because of what they do on the field is a great thing," Reese said. "I continue to hear they are great character guys, and it brings in the history of our sport. To me it makes it so much easier ... if we get to that point [Saturday]."

Friends and relatives have called and texted about it. Some offer support; others just say they can't believe what may happen. West Islip head coach Scott Craig, assistant Bill Turri and the players certainly know the history at stake.

Wall Street buddies — Reese quit a 12-year bond trading career after the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City — still connected to the game have been in touch as well. Reese keeps up with real estate investments and runs his own non-profit foundation.

"I get reminded many times about what's going to happen," Reese said.

Who wouldn't want to keep their spot in the history books?

Best Attack Ever?

Is the Thompson trio the best attack line ever? Having the top two single-season point producers in NCAA history on one unit certainly gives them an argument. Lyle, Miles and Ty have combined for 288 points, or 16.94 per game this year.

But no conversation can go too far without mentioning Cornell’s talented three-man unit of Hall of Famers Mike French and the late Eamon McEneaney, and Jonathan Levine. In 1976, the trio combined for 262 points — 15.41 points per game — en route to the Big Red’s undefeated national championship season. Cornell became the first team to win two straight titles the next season. French was most outstanding player of the ’76 tournament and McEneaney took the honors in ’77.

LM contributor Will Cleveland caught up with French, a three-time All-American from 1974-76, as part of a ‘Glory Days’ package that appears in the May issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 415,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

“I kind of look at the Thompson boys at Albany right now and they are doing the same thing," French said. "We had the good benefit of not really caring too much about the numbers. Nobody really cared about points. What we really wanted to do was, particularly when we knew we were overmatching a team, our idea was to take care of business as soon as possible, so the other guys on the bench could get in.

“I was the biggest one of the group. I was a box player from Canada, so I had that specific advantage. I think that I felt I could play behind or I could play out front. We had three guys — we had Jonathan Levine, the Jewish guy. We had Eamon McEneaney, the Irish guy from Elmont, Long Island. And I was the Canadian guy. We had people that came from different cultures. Levine was a very strong lefty. I would be considered the strong right. We had a pretty good mix. But we really worked on trying to make sure we could play each other’s positions. That’s where we had the advantage. We used to flip the ball. We used to run around in circles. We used to go up front.

“Coach [Richie] Moran gave us a lot of latitude. We had the circulation offense we used where everybody would touch the ball. You would start off at the midfield. If I was the attackman, I would go to the crease. Then I would go behind and then you would rotate around. We had a lot of flexibility. If you are winning, sometimes the coach isn’t going to mess with it. We were fortunate in that we had success and we were allowed to freelance. We did have some structure, but we were allowed to freelance. We all knew each other’s tendencies. ... We were very complimentary. I think there was a lot more moving without the ball and cutting. We had midfielders that not only could dodge but also move without the ball. I think the game now is more about dodging now than it is moving without the ball. I think it’s starting to come back a little with the two-man game and a lot of that stuff. Points were never a big thing." — Will Cleveland

Reese, like several lacrosse observers, thought Miles Thompson had a chance to score a couple of goals last Saturday against third-seeded Loyola in the first round. But Reese wasn't expecting an upset — "Loyola had a great defense, great team," Reese said — giving Thompson another shot at the goals record this weekend.

Thompson has scored 79 goals in 17 games this year, playing alongside his record-setting brother Lyle, who set a new Division I men's single-season points record last weekend against Loyola, with 122. He broke the previous record of 114 set by UMBC's Steve Marhol in 1992. Marhol also set the single-season assists mark of 77 that year, and Lyle Thompson is three away from tying that record.

Miles also broke the previous single-season points mark last week against Loyola and now has 115, sliding into second place all-time ahead of Marohl, who has said the Thompsons play may inspire future generations to play their style.

Reese's style, in scoring 82 goals in 18 games in 1990, was completely different. First off, he played another position. Plus, it was a different era of up-and-down play and limited specialization. Reese rarely left the field. If his record was ever in danger nowadays, he figured it would be by an attackman.

"It's just the way the game has changed," Reese said. "We were a high-risk, high-reward type of team that year. Tremendous transition; really didn't come off the field much at all. You don't see that too often now. It certainly is much more difficult for a midfielder and just frowned upon, I guess, four-on-four or five-on-five, or four-on-three. We took full advantage of that. It was the way we were set up and the mentality we had. ... It fit. To bring the mentality of an inside linebacker to the lacrosse field was effective. It was a fun time."

Reese said the talk surrounding the record has also brought back a bank of good memories, and in a way, has deepened an already strong relationship with the current Yale program. His family's last name adorns Yale's lacrosse and soccer facility in New Haven, Conn. His oldest of three children, Jon, was a sophomore on the Bulldogs this season.

Yale reached the national semifinals in 1990, falling 14-13 to Loyola. Syracuse went on to win the title and Gary Gait was named the tournament's most outstanding player, scoring seven goals and seven assists in three games.

"Our team that year in 1990 was very unique," Reese said. "We were sort of the Cinderella group. It was Syracuse and the Gaits. All year long we were the Cinderella team. We had a great attackman in Jason O'Neill, a great goalie and a great defense. As an older athlete, I forget about a lot of things, but it was pretty neat to start remembering the names of every guy on the field. That said a lot about the experience we had."

Reese played in two playoff games that year. Miles Thompson will play in his second on Saturday. It's a level-playing field when it comes to the number of games each has had this season to score the goals they have.

"It's been great for the sport," Reese said. "For me to be able to play a piece in this still is really humbling and I'm proud of it."

Relayed information about the Thompsons looking to be leaders in the Native American community now and after leaving Albany, Reese spoke of an even greater perspective on the record chase.

"Maybe I could offer something of a mentorship," he said, mentioning he's looking forward to meeting the trio if he can on Saturday. "Maybe this relationship can be one plus one equals three. That strikes a deep chord with me. Use what you have done to help others. That's the best thing there is."

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