Rob Shek, a 1987 graduate of Bel Air High School, is making a name for himself in Towson State University's lacrosse program and in lacrosse circles around the nation.
Last year, as a junior, he became the school's first second-team All-American in Towson State's 12-yearhistory of Division I play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He is a strong candidate to become the school's first Division I first-team All-American.
Shek, 22, has transformed himself from a player who could only penetrate the box with his right hand to a player who is now equally threatening left-handed. He says he has the confidence now to go eitherway.
As a freshman tryout, Shek feared being cut. Today, he is one of the most powerful and potent players in the game, say TSU coaches and players. The transformation came about during practice and timethe athlete put in afterward working on his skills when most teammates had packed their bags and headed home.
It's no wonder head coach Carl Runk, in his 24th year, and assistant coach Jeff Clarke, in his 16th year, refer to Shek as their "blue-collar player."
"He's anoutstanding athlete, and he works real hard to master his skills," said Runk.
Shek, a first-team middie, has played a big role leadingthe Tigers (6-2) to a No. 9 ranking in the United States Intercollegiate Athletic Association (USILA). So far this season, he has scored a team-high 20 goals and dished out 5 assists.
Shek's success comes from a work ethic as solid as his physique, says his coaches.
Heimproved his physique by weight training in the off-season.
At 6-1, 205 pounds, Shek has a strong presence on the lacrosse
"If he wants to go by you, he'll go by you," said Clarke. "I don't think there's anyone that can stop him; only way you'll (stop) him iswith a lucky check."
Shek's 90-mph-plus shot is the hardest on the team, "without a doubt," says Clarke.
In a 23-3 clobbering of Bucknell on April 10, Shek scored the first goal with a technique typical of his presence on the field.
He forced a middie to pick him upgoing right, and suddenly turned 180 degrees, firing a shot into thenet left-handed. Runk says he uses Shek as a decoy sometimes. He hopes that will enable Shek to pass the ball off more often.
Shek often floats about 25-30 yards off the goal, from where he has the ability to fire a shot, while players on the bench of opposing teams yell,"Pick up Shek! Watch out for Shek!
The Tigers' two setbacks this season were against No. 6 ranked Maryland (17-16) and rival No. 8 ranked Loyola (14-12).
But there is still optimism on the Tiger team that they can make it to the 12-team national tournament. They were denied a trip last year after dropping a 12-9 decision to Johns Hopkins in the final game of the year.
"If we lose any games, we're not going," said Shek. "We have to take every game as serious as the other. We have all the ingredients, but need to bring them together," he said.
Since the loss to Loyola on April 6, TSU seems to have jelled. The Tigers have outscored East Coast Conference foes Hofstra, Drexel and Bucknell by a whopping 62-20 margin.
The Tigers have a showdown against No. 3 Johns Hopkins on May 4, a game in which Shek should play a crucial role.
Shek was named ECC player of the week ending April 1 for a five-goal, one assist performance against Maryland and for scoring two of the first five goals in a 14-11 win over C. W. Post.
"He was one of those sleepers," said Clarke. "The really scary part is that he isn't finished developing yet."
He was named to the All-County team at Bel Air High his senior year and came to Towson State to pursue a major in physical education.
On the field, Shek is a respected player. "He's not a dirty player, just a real good player," said teammate Tim Barger, a 1987 graduate of Fallston High, who plays second midfield.
Shek and Barger, along with goalie Tim Colt, a 1989 Fallston graduate, are three Harford County players on the TSU team that looks to repeat as ECC champions.
A lot of that hinges on Shek, who sat out Wednesday's 19-9 victory over Drexel to nurse a bruised left shoulder. He was scheduled to play at home last night against Navy.
Shek says he is content with the progress he has made at Towson State. He says he works hard at lacrosse because of anold motto: "You know what they say, you're only as good in a game asyou are in practice."
Shek says he works on different approaches so that he always has an option if the defense shuts him down. This also helps him develop confidence.