Practice puts Lettau on national-level pace Boys lacrosse: Motivated senior's hard work to perfect skills has helped revive the sport at North Carroll, and won him a trip to Australia.

April 10, 1997|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

North Carroll senior midfielder Shane Lettau was in the eighth grade when he came home from a baseball game a little frustrated.

"Maybe it's time to try something new," his dad said at the time. "What about lacrosse?"

"I figured, 'What the heck?' " Lettau said.

In a sport that some players start when the sticks are taller than they are, Lettau knew he had some catching up to do.

He's done just that, and then some, earning first-team All-County honors last season and leading the 2-4 Panthers in scoring so far this season with 15 goals and three assists.

His secret?

"Practice, practice, practice," Lettau said. "I dedicated myself to learning the game; that's what it takes."

For Lettau, it means going out in his backyard after practice and spending a couple more hours shooting on his net. It means jumping from one recreation league to the next -- both outdoor and indoor -- throughout the year to improve his skills. It means getting the family four-wheeler out when it snows and plowing a section of the driveway clear so he can practice.

"I run around the house with my stick, and there are holes in my room. I don't think my parents are too happy about it," he said. "I do a little snowboarding in the winter and like to surf in the summer. The rest of the time, it's pretty much lacrosse."

Said North Carroll coach John Piper: "He's given up a lot to focus on lacrosse. He's a heckuva athlete, and that doesn't hurt his cause. He enjoyed it so much at first, I told him you can't just do it for a season; you have to take it home with you. Fortunately, he has parents [who] signed him up in a lot of rec leagues, and he's worked hard on improving his left hand. He's basically slept with his lacrosse stick."

Lettau talks about all the ingredients needed to make a solid midfielder.

There's the need to be able to go right or left, to get down low on scoops, to have the crafty stickwork, to win draws, and to ride relentlessly on defense.

He can do it all.

What has impressed Piper most about his standout is Lettau'swork on draws (so far this season he's won 40 of 56 faceoffs) and how he drives to goal.

"What makes him such a threat is how he can go to his left as well as his right hand with all his quickness and speed. Some players may have the same quickness, but if they can only go right, defenders see that, and they're dead in the water," Piper said. "The way he goes to the goal also sticks in my mind. It's like seeing something you see on Saturdays at the college level. Shane is doing a lot of the same stuff."

The North Carroll program has struggled in recent years, but things are looking up this season. The Panthers ended a 20-game losing streak on March 24 by beating Wilde Lake, 13-7, and have since added another win.

Piper could have used Lettau in more isolated, one-on-one situations offensively last season but instead opted to get everyone involved. It's paying dividends this year.

"Shane opens up our offense a lot," the second-year coach said. "He is such a threat, it allows our other players to flourish. With everyone keying on Shane so much, our attackers -- Tim Hackler, John Dwyer and John Dubicki -- have more chances to score."

Lacrosse has taken Lettau a long way in a short time.

Last summer, he was selected to help represent the United States on an under-17 World Class Lacrosse team that traveled to Australia. The team, mostly comprised of East Coast players, went 9-0 to win the tournament, defeating their Australian opponents by an average margin of 11 goals.

"They play rough over there -- it's a whole other game," said Lettau. "They don't call too much, and it took time to get used to it, but it helped me out a lot."

As for the future, first is more games to be won at North Carroll with the county slate opening at Liberty tomorrow night.

After graduation, he plans on playing in college; he's considering three schools.

But hold on. "I'll be playing in the summer league first," he said.

Pub Date: 4/10/97

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