GETTYSBURG, PA. — Spring is in the air.
For some, it marks the start of baseball season, the end of another year of college basketball or the beginningof the never-ending professional hockey and basketball playoffs.
For other folks -- particularly some in these parts -- when you talk spring, you talk lacrosse.
And that's the case for Gettysburg College senior and Westminster High grad Erik Johnson.
"It's an exciting season for me," the 22-year-old from Westminster said. "Of course you have college basketball, which I'm a big fan of, and the weather is starting to get nice so everyone on campus is outside doing their thing.
"And then there's lacrosse," the two-time All-Middle Atlantic Conference selection said.
In his first three years at Gettysburg, tri-captain Johnson has totaled 32 goals and 19 assists at his midfield position -- including 18 goals and 10 assists a year ago.
"Erik is a natural athlete," said Gettysburg coach Hank Janczyk, in his fourth year at the helm. "He could probably play a lot of othersports. He's an independent thinker on the field who is very committed and leads by example. He's a good, solid player who has played a lot of midfield for us since his freshman year."
This lacrosse season will be particularly special for Johnson, being the last of an impressive four-year varsity career at Gettysburg.
"I'm looking forward to it. It's my last go-around after three good years and there's alot of other seniors, good friends, who make it really special," he said.
It could be equally special for the Bullets, who have 15 lettermen returning, including eight seniors, from a 9-4 team that came within one game (a 18-8 loss to Franklin & Marshall) of returning to the NCAA Division III tournament.
His sophomore year in 1989, Gettysburg qualified for the national tournament and was ranked fifth nationally with a 12-2 record.
"My personal goal is for us to get back to the nationals," Johnson said. "We came up one game short last year after reaching the nationals my sophomore year."
Johnson obviously will play a vital role in the team's success. Not only will he help stabilize the Bullets' midfield, he also must provide leadership in his captain's role on this veteran team.
"I think there were at least five or six seniors who could have been captains. They (the seniors) are all working very hard and know what it takes to be successful. The freshmen and other younger players who haven't been here as long are the guys I try to help out," Johnson said.
His most memorable game came during his freshman year, which paved the way for the team's success in the years that followed.
"It was a win over Washington and Lee, which was ranked third (in the nation) at the time. Itwas Coach Janczyk's first year and everyone was pretty much new at the time. Prior, the lacrosse program wasn't real strong here and after that win we realized we had something special here," Johnson said.
And yes, he did score in that game.
Along with lacrosse, Johnson played four years of varsity golf and two years of varsity basketball at Westminster High.
After thoughts of playing golf at the college level, he is pleased with his decision to attend Gettysburg and play lacrosse.
"It (lacrosse) combines a little bit of everything. You have to run,
catch and hit -- there's a lot of aspects. Playing midfield, you also have the opportunity to play both ends, offense and defense," he said.
Away from the lacrosse field, Johnson is equally committed to his studies at Gettysburg. An accounting and finance major, he is carrying a cumulative 2.94 grade-point average into his final semester.
"He's an excellent student and I couldn't ask for a finer young man to coach," Janczyk said. "I'd be very disappointed if he doesn't make $1 million before he's 30, and I'm not kidding you on that. He's a bright, hard-working, committed student as well."