February 13, 2014

#LMRanks: RIT's Krzyston Progression

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

After a quiet, 16-point season in 2012, senior attackman Jack Krzyston exploded for 81 points. He was the Liberty League offensive player of the year and a first team All-American, helping RIT make the national title game. Now his younger brother, Jay, a defenseman for the Tigers, is eyeing a similar breakout junior campaign. (Kevin P. Tucker)

The only person who saw Jack Krzyston's monstrous 2013 season coming was Jack Krzyston.

Coming off a sophomore campaign in '12 when he amassed just 10 goals and six assists while ceding much of his playing time to the likes of Tyler Russell, Brendan McDonald and A.J. Tingle, Krzyston was due to improve his production. But a 50-goal, 29-assist season for a team-leading 81 points, Liberty League offensive MVP and first-team All-American honors?

"It was definitely his break-out year and he certainly exceeded our expectations," said RIT head coach Jake Coon.

Krzyston's personal expectations never changed, however. He just needed his chance.

"The big thing was getting on the field," Kryzston said. "My first two years, I didn't get a lot of playing time. I didn't really change the way I played or anything; I just finally got my shot."

As the Tigers prepare for this spring, there is a possibility history could repeat itself, albeit with another Krzyston.

Jay Krzyston, Jack's younger brother by two years, is entering his junior season on much the same career arc. He hasn't found a lot of playing time in his first two seasons on RIT's defense, sitting behind the likes of poles Elliot Cowburn and Evan Burley. He is expected to be at least part of a four-way close defense unit this spring, with a decent chance at earning a starting spot.

"I guess only time will tell. We'll see," said Jay. "Obviously, I'm not going to take any opportunity for granted, but at the same time, I'm more focused on getting the win. If that means I have to do something special, I'll do it. If that means that I have to get certain stats for that game, I'll do it. But it's all about the team goals first."

"He's finally getting a handle on the defense and where to be," Coon said of Jay. "The biggest improvement has been his communication. He was very quiet last year and we couldn't get him to open his mouth for anything. This year, I told him, 'If you don't open your mouth, we can't play you.' He's definitely come a long way in being vocal. It's a difficult thing for guys who are quiet to come out of their shell and be vocal. He's made an effort to do that."

* * *

Unfair or not, there is a perception about the Krzyston brothers.

They are not the type of brothers who are always goofing around or getting each other in trouble. They don't necessarily hang out with each other a lot, and there is a natural sibling competition simmering just beneath the surface. They are both very focused on the task at hand, whether that's getting their engineering degree or winning a national championship.

"We're definitely brothers, but at the same time, we have a more reserved approach towards each other," admitted Jay. "Especially since it's around lacrosse, and on the field or in the locker room, we tend to be a little more serious because that's the nature of the team."

"I think we have a real strong, brotherly love for each other," added Jack.

This low key relationship feeds into the notion that the brothers are quiet. In addition to outlining how Jay needed to become more vocal, Coon said that Jack doesn't say a whole lot on the field, either, and it's been something the staff has been trying to work on for the last three years.

"Not that Jack isn't a leader, because he does lead in his own way," Coon said. "It's just not always vocally."

It's something that rankles the elder Krzyston.

"I totally disagree. That's just kind of how coaches have perceived us," Jack said, with an edge. "We're not going to be the two guys screaming our heads off, but we communicate and when the time comes, we'll talk. But we're not going to be the two boneheads just screaming to get noticed and get attention. We're not just going yell to yell. Coach Coon likes guys who are real vocal and Jay and I can be vocal, but we aren't those guys that are just screaming."

Their volume aside, it's the other similarities between the two that makes it a real possibility that Jay could make an impact like Jack this year, but on the defensive end. They are both consistent – Coon labels them both as "steady Eddies" – and are tireless workers in the weight room and during practice.

Jack is hoping that his younger brother will get the opportunity to follow in his footsteps.

No. 2 RIT Tigers

2013 Record: 19-3, NCAA Runner-Up

Top Returner: Jack Krzyston, Sr.
The team-leading 81 points (52G, 29S) are impressive, but it's Krzyston's efficiency - he scores on half of the shots he takes - that sets him apart.

X-Factor: G Anthony Deleo, Sr.
Junior Pat Johnston (7.23 GAA, 63.5% Svs) is the incumbent goalie after guiding the Tigers to the title game. But RIT has the luxury of DeLeo, who went 15-3 in 2012, on standby. 

Jay Krzyston (34) earned some time on defense last spring behind a stacked backline, but he'll be a bigger factor in 2014. Will he have the breakout junior season that his brother, Jack, had last spring? Maybe, but both brothers are more concerned with team goals. (RIT Sports Information)

"I wouldn't be surprised if he did what I did," Jack said, referring to a huge junior year. "I got some great individual awards, and I feel Jay is the same way as me. We've just got to get some playing some time, get our chance. There is no doubt in my mind that he will perform at his best when his number is called. It's just a matter of getting on the field."

* * *

There's a duality in the relationship between the Krzyston brothers. On one side is a great admiration and respect for the other.

"He sees the field as well, if not the best, of anyone I've ever covered personally," Jay said of his older brother. "That's what makes it hard to defend him because you never know. Obviously, you're playing on the same field, but you don't know what he sees. He probably sees things that a lot of people miss and that just allows him to make plays, whether it's making a pass or putting it into the net."

"He's a really smart kid," said Jack of Jay. "In the classroom and on the field, he just gets it. Obviously, he's a bigger kid. He's really strong. He's one of the strongest kids on the entire team. He's been working on his footwork and speed since he got here. Overall, his understanding of the game and the defense kind of sets him apart."

On the other side of the relationship is a fierce competition between the two. When Jack first picked up the sport growing up in the Syracuse area, he gravitated toward being an attackman. Jay, who started the sport a bit later, became a defender. And because Jay has followed behind his brother, it has created a mild tension.

"There's a bit of a competition or rivalry there," Coon said. "When I was recruiting Jay, his parents certainly mentioned that you don't want to call him Jack. You kind of want to stay away from that. He's lived in his brother's shadow and doesn't necessarily care for that. They are great kids and there's no animosity, but they push each other in a good way."

It's not uncommon for the Brothers Krzyston to get paired off in practice. The brotherly rivalry manifests quickly when that happens, but for varying reasons.

"Personally, Jay is probably the last defenseman I'd want to go up against in practice, and it's not just because he's my brother," Jack said. "He's a great player and being his brother, I don't want him to take the ball away from me because I'll be hearing about that for a couple of days. That wouldn't be too good for me. I think Jay is a great player and we have a great defense, but again, he's probably the last person I'd want to go up against."

"I like to go against everyone," said Jay. "I like to see the variety. I know that if I go up against one type of player, that won't prepare me for a game. I like going against Jack as much as anyone else. He has got a different style than some of the other players and it's good to become acquainted with his skill set just as other players."

Whatever the difference between the Krzyston brothers, they are united by two certainties. They will always be brothers and they want to win a national championship during this final season playing together.

"We both started playing sports together when we were four or five, so to end it together on the same team at the same school, I couldn't ask for anything more," Jack said. "We played on the same teams our whole lives, so why not end it together? It's a special thing and I know our parents are really going to enjoy it."

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks. 

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