Loyola copes with the loss of Case Memory of freshman weighs on players

March 28, 1997|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Loyola's men's lacrosse team walked off the practice field solemnly, with the memory of Gerry Case on their minds as well as their uniforms.

Most of the Greyhounds have written No. 9 on their helmets and elbow pads in memory of Case, a freshman midfielder who died suddenly Saturday night of meningococcemia, an infection of the blood.

"He's on everyone's minds," senior defenseman Brian Volpe said. "We want to talk about him. We want to remember him."

The team has felt a whirlwind of emotions recently.

On Saturday, the Greyhounds put together their most impressive victory of the season, beating Brown, 18-10, and dedicating the game to Case, who was hospitalized at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. The team presented the game ball to Case's family at the hospital and was told about the progress Case was making.

But Case died a few hours later, devastating the Greyhounds.

"This just makes you think," Volpe said. "The worst fear is that a teammate might lose a parent or grandparent. This shocks you, especially when the person is younger than yourself."

The players gathered together that night to talk. They had a team meeting Sunday morning and later had dinner together.

On Tuesday, they attended the funeral, with some of the players serving as pallbearers.

"This is probably the tightest team I've ever been on," Volpe said. "We have really stuck together."

There has been little time to escape this tragedy. All week, the talk on campus has been about Case and the meningitis vaccinations the student population is receiving.Every time the players turned on the television or picked up a newspaper, it seemed the lead news story dealt with Loyola.

"We're mentally drained," senior midfielder David Mahoskey said. "It's been a long week."

Loyola has postponed tomorrow's game against Towson State and just started practicing again on Wednesday. The players will practice this morning and then go home for the Easter weekend.

"I think the wound is still there for the players," said Loyola coach Dave Cottle, who is planning to put decals of Case's No. 9 on each helmet. "What we're trying to do is go on. That's why we have begun to practice again. But we're not 100 percent yet."

Cottle said his Greyhounds played their best game of the year Saturday because they played with emotion. And Case's death has provided Loyola with a new focus.

"I was talking to [assistant coach] Billy Dirrigl at our first practice back, and he said it would be really special if we won it all," Mahoskey said. "I told him: There's nothing we can do but win it all."

It's not the first time Loyola has coped with a death early in the season. In 1995, Jason Foley, who had left the team a year earlier, committed suicide two days before his 22nd birthday.

"A lot of us felt the same as when Foley died," said Volpe, who played with Foley as a freshman. "It was hard then, too, but the difference was Jason took his life and Gerry had his taken from him. But it was totally the same shock and a little eerie."

Volpe and Mahoskey, Loyola's captains, said the younger Greyhounds took Case's death the hardest. Case, who was one of 13 freshmen on the team, led his class on and off the field.

Case, a first-team All-Metro player in high school for Broadneck last year, was one of only two first-year Greyhounds to start a game this season and only one of four to score a goal. At the end of practices, he always was leading the freshmen in picking up balls.

"Usually, the young guys need to be pushed to do everything," Volpe said. "But not Gerry. He was the leader of this freshman class by far by far."

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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