The Baltimore Thunder's Matt Kerwick can't seem to get bTC enough lacrosse. Once a week he feels compelled to drive five hours for a fix.
In real life, Kerwick is the head coach at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. But at 24, he still has the urge to play, and makes the Ashland-to-Baltimore commute, 2 1/2 hours each way, every Tuesday night for Thunder practice at the Perring Athletic Club. It's 2 a.m. when he arrives back in Ashland.
"Practice and the games are a chance to play with and against the best indoor players in the world," Kerwick said at practice for the Thunder's game with the New York Saints tomorrow (8 p.m.) at the Baltimore Arena.
After two games, Kerwick has nine points on seven goals and two assists, which puts him among the Major Indoor Lacrosse League's elite and second on the Thunder to Jeff Jackson, who has 11 points.
Kerwick's game is quickness and anticipation. At 5 feet 9, 165 pounds, he is not, according to coach John Stewart, "your heavy-duty guy who picks and rolls." Kerwick creates situations, intercepts passes, snaps up loose balls in front of the cage and puts them in.
"You wonder, how did he get that ball?" Stewart said. "He's like a vacuum cleaner."
"He's our best at getting ground balls coming out of a pack," said Thunder assistant coach Marc Hoffman. "When guys are in a corner, Matt snaps at the ball and comes out with it with people all over him.
"He's a phantom. He'll score four or five goals but you don't realize it until the game's over."
Teammate Rick Sowell, a six-year MILL veteran, describes Kerwick as "shifty and smart." Kerwick gets in position to score or feed, always managing to be around the ball.
Kerwick puts it this way: "I'm not a ball carrier. I move without the ball. Players find me."
Kerwick came to the Thunder last year fresh out of Hobart, where he played on four straight NCAA Division III championship teams. Hobart's string of titles is now at 12.
"People think it's talent," Kerwick said. "It's not; it's hard work. The coaching is good, but they don't have to motivate much because the players push each other."
Born in Rochester, N.Y., Kerwick came out of high school with ice hockey as his first love. At Hobart, he played both sports for four years, discovering that hockey helped his lacrosse, especially his indoor game.
"You get to know the rinks, how to come off the boards, whether it's hockey or lacrosse, and where you are in respect to the goal," Kerwick said. "I played box lacrosse in rinks in upstate New York in the summers. So I've played indoors four or five years longer than a lot of the guys on the Thunder."
As his play in only his second MILL season shows, that is a decided advantage.