At Severn School, dreams of a "White" Christmas have become a reality.
The Admirals' veteran boys lacrosse coach, Rob White, finally has come home.
After spending the past 10 months in Fort Bragg, N.C., with his Special Forces unit in support of Operation Desert Storm, White returned Saturday to a seasoned squad with hopes for another big year -- just like the ones they used to know.
"We're approaching this season. . . full-throttle," said senior midfielder Milford Marchant, a second-team All-County selection last season, when Severn finished below.500 in the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference.
"We're pretty much strong everywhere on the field, and with Coach White back, things should come together nicely. I love to play for him. He's just the kind of guy you want to go out and work for. He cares about usand wants us to excel."
For the better part of 1991, however, White was asked to excel in a different environment. Summoned to active duty on Feb. 17, the fifth-year coach traded his maroon-and-white sweat suit for attire more appropriately worn by a reservist in the Maryland Army National Guard.
Despite the swift, decisive victory by American-led forces over Iraq, White was told to stick around and complete his training with the 20th Special Forces Group.
Upon completion of an initial 60-day training period, the former attackman at Boys' Latin and Salisbury State was asked to remain for more intensive training, which lasted until May 31.
While many of his military colleagues were dismissed for the summer, White, a Green Beret, was invited to enroll in an even more specialized Special Forces qualification course. He successfully made it through the selection phase and wasadmitted to the six-month course in April.
Intense training followed, including airborne operations and a three-week survival course dealing with the prisoner-of-war experience.
Peter Trau took over the reigns of the lacrosse team and led Severn to a 15-6 overall record, 4-6 in the conference. White, who guided his team to an 18-5 record and a berth in the conference finals the previous year, said he wasanticipating a "down-year" forthe Admirals last spring and was pleasantly surprised by their showing.
"I thought they did very well considering the circumstances," said White, 37.
"Severn is a small school, so there is a continuing cycle you have to deal with. We had alot of new people last year, but I think they maintained our competitiveness in the A Conference."
With the county's top scorers returning to Severn's lineup, the Admirals have visions of accolades dancing in their heads.
Attackmen Dudley Dixon (41 goals, 28 assists) and Jason Wade (45, six) return, along with senior midfielder Todd Muendel (16, three) and goalkeeper Court Durling (198 saves).
"I'm really excited about this year," said White. "We have a big senior class that is very talented, both athletically and academically. With what they've done on the field and in the classroom, a lot of them are already lined up at some very nice schools."
When White returned tohis Severna Park home over the weekend, there was no fanfare or ticker tape, but what he did receive was a welcome-home visit from several of his players.
Durling, Severn's 6-foot-1, 170 pound goalie, was among those who dropped in on the popular coach.
"Everyone's excited about him being back," he said.
"He's a great motivator, and he's always positive. What we really missed last season were his speeches before games. He's an overwhelming guy, and he can really get you pumped."
Junior attackman Duncan Slidell has never played under White -- who also serves as a teacher and guidance counselor at the school -- but is aware of his aura at Severn.
"He's just what we need," said Slidell. "I think he's the last piece to our puzzle. Everyone on the team is looking forward to his return. Everyone on the teamloves him and can relate to him."
White's relationship with his players and students is one that has blossomed due to mutual respect and admiration.
Before leaving in February, White was honored at the school with a ceremony that drew more than 400 students, faculty and administrators. After the formal assembly, White stood next to a pine tree bearing a lone yellow ribbon, and in his down-to-earth tone, tried to predict a year without lacrosse.
"I'll miss (lacrosse) because it's been such a part of my life since the ninth grade," White said on that windy and cold day. "I've never been through a season without it."
For White, the waiting is over. He has been reunited with his wife, Kathy, and their children, Josh, Jessica and Matthew. White said he's looking forward to Jan. 6, when he returns to Severn, but had no regrets about his military commitment.
"Being away for ayear has given me a renewed fervor," said White, who left as a firstlieutenant and returned as a captain. "The break was kind of nice, but I think I missed the people more than the actual sport."
"I missed all the guys and the coaches around the league. The MSA A Conference has a nice fraternity of coaches, and most of us have know each other for years."
St. Mary's coach Jim Moorhead is part of that fraternity.
Moorhead grew up with White in Towson, where they attended Rodgers Forge Elementary School. Moorhead said he is looking forward to renewing their rivalry, but hinted that White may be at an advantage this season.
"I go way back with Rob," said Moorhead, last year's Anne Arundel County Sun Coach of the Year. "We're very good friends, so it was different not having him on Severn's sidelines last season. It was an odd feeling not seeing him over there, but I knew it would be a one-year deal.
"I'm glad he's back, and I'm looking forward to coaching against him again. I'm sure he is, too, because he'sreturning to a heckuva ballclub."