At 6-foot, 205 pounds, Zeller gives Loyola sizable edge on the field

April 10, 1994|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,Contributing Writer

Loyola defenseman Karl Zeller isn't afraid to throw his weight around. Just ask a few of the attackmen in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.

Mention Zeller's name to any number of the A Conference lacrosse coaches and they will tell you the same thing -- he knows how to throw a check.

And that's only part of it.

"He's big, strong, got good speed and he has the ability to neutralize a team's No. 1 attackman," said St. Mary's coach Jim Moorhead. "He's an excellent defenseman."

At 6-foot, 205 pounds, Zeller isn't the biggest guy ever to play the sport but the intensity and ferocity with which he carries his long stick make him the big man on the Blakefield campus.

"He throws checks and he throws 'em hard," said Loyola coach Joe McFadden, who played high school ball with Zeller's father, Greg, at Loyola during the late '60s. "He doesn't throw them harder than what officials are used to seeing at the next level, but coaches are constantly screaming and hollering about it."

Jim Claborn, the Dons' defensive coordinator, has been fortunate enough to have Zeller on his squad for three years and from his vantage point on the sidelines, Claborn has watched the University of Virginia-bound senior deliver some knee-buckling blows.

"He lays the lumber, no doubt about it. That's kind of his forte," said Claborn. "His game is at the college level in how he throws a check and sometimes that gets him in trouble.

"Officials see him deliver a check with the force he does and they throw a flag because they aren't used to seeing high school kids throw a check with such force."

To combat that, Claborn and McFadden have tried to get him to shorten his checks and to better use his leg strength, but Zeller says he sometimes forgets.

"I forget about that sometimes because I like to throw hard checks," said Zeller, who played tight end and linebacker for Loyola's football team.

That attitude, coupled with his knowledge of the game and physical attributes, is why McFadden sometimes abandons the more conventional approach of matching up his top close defenseman with the opposition's leading attackman.

Instead of wasting Zeller's talents on denying his man the ball, McFadden often uses one of his other highly capable senior defensemen, namely Tim O'Hara, Chris McGlone, Roman Knysh and Dave Ford, which creates a certain mismatch between Zeller and the opponent's No. 2 attackman.

"We cut Karl loose on more take-aways rather [than] using the more conservative approach," said McFadden. "He comes down the field on rides, which really isolates him on the ball and in dead-ball situations he has the leeway to play the guy from one end of the field to the other. Not every defenseman can do that, but we have a tremendous amount of confidence in Karl and we know that he's willing to throw the take-away type checks.

"When you do that, sometimes you get burned for a goal or two but we know that more often than not, he's going to disrupt things."

Causing disruption on the lacrosse field is something Zeller has worked on perfecting since making the transition from midfielder to defenseman as a sixth-grader playing in the Cockeysville recreation program.

Zeller said he is focused on leading the Dons back to the A Conference championship where they lost last season to St. Mary's, but the Lutherville resident sounds more excited about competing at the college level where officials aren't so quick to blow the whistle after one of his bone-jarring checks.

"For awhile, I was grunting when I threw a check and my coaches told me to stop because that was a sure way to draw a flag," said Zeller, who will join former teammates Brad Hoag and C.J. Ginter at Virginia next fall.

"I'm looking forward to playing college ball because they let you stick your nose in there and hit people. That's what I like to do."

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