All He Can Be At Midfield

Men's Lacrosse: West Point Senior And Former Liberty Star Ross Yastrzemsky Is Team Captain, May Break The Scoring Record He Set Last Spring, And Is Being Touted As An All-american Candidate.

April 24, 1997|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Army men's lacrosse coach Jack Emmer talks about being a team captain at West Point.

"Leadership is the primary objective here," he says. "Being selected a captain of a team here is very significant. All these kids come here as leaders."

He goes on to talk about his senior captain, midfielder Ross Yastrzemsky, a Liberty High grad who entered West Point as a 135-pound attackman simply looking to make the roster his first season.

Four years later, after a switch to midfield in his second season, Yastrzemsky has compiled more points in a career (114) than any other Army midfielder in the program's history, which started in 1907. Last season, he set a new single-season school scoring mark for midfielders with 48 points, and with his team-leading 41 points (29 goals, 12 assists) so far this season, he's bearing down on that standard.

Those solid numbers make a viable All-America candidate this season.

"The kids we recruit come in unheralded, and you hope some can develop to have a competitive program. That's how we compete against the programs which get the All-Americans from the start," Emmer said. "Ross epitomizes Zastrzemsky that kind of kid. He's provided, first and foremost, the ability to get the most out of his God-given ability by working hard."

During his days at Liberty, Yastrzemsky was Carroll County's most dangerous offensive player with his ability to finish, as well as distribute to others.

When he was leading the county in scoring as a junior, finishing with 20 goals and 29 assists, he received an Army lacrosse pamphlet from Army's Emmer. After adding 27 goals and 28 assists to earn first-team All-County honors as a senior, he considered the option of staying close to home at the Naval Academy or going north to West Point.

"I started comparing the two and went through that process. Once I was nominated [to attend West Point], I couldn't turn it down," Yastrzemsky said.

Everything else has fallen into place nicely -- both on and off the lacrosse field -- for the 22-year-old civil engineering major who will graduate on May 31.

He's 25 pounds heavier, but has maintained the same speed and quickness that has always made him such a threat. His smooth transition to midfield as a sophomore gave him an opportunity to play and also become a more complete player.

"He gives us a presence of confidence that's eminent with the rest of the guys," Emmer said. "He carries the ball for us, gives control to our offense, scores, and sets others up -- always draws the top defender. His quickness is the key. He's able to change direction and change hands."

Said Yastrzemsky: "Going in, I was hoping to compete at the Division I level. As the years progessed, my goals became higher and higher. After playing on attack that first season, the coach asked me if I'd mind moving to midfield [my sophomore season]. We didn't have a lot of depth there, so it gave me a chance. I like midfield. It's a great opportunity to play both ends of the field. I started in the third game and haven't looked back."

Yastrzemsky is too busy looking forward.

After graduating in May, he plans to go to Army Aviation Flight School in Fort Rucker, Ala., where he'll spend 1 1/2 years learning to be a helicopter pilot.

But first things first, and at the top of the list right now is Army's visit to Annapolis tomorrow night to take on the Naval Academy. After two losses to Navy in his first two years, Army came away with a 15-8 win last season, and now Yastrzemsky wants to even the series. Going into the game at 7-4 on the season, a win is also vital for Army to stay in playoff contention.

"I can't compare it to any other game on the schedule -- it's a pretty unique experience," he said. "We're pretty much representing the entire Army, and Navy is representing the Navy. There will be a lot of family and friends there, also, so it's pretty important."

Emmer, in his 14th season as coach at West Point, continues to talk about Yastrzemsky, who has already left his mark.

All-America this season?: "Absolutely. He does more for our team than any other player does for their's," he says.

His biggest attribute?: "He sets such a great example for the younger guys. He'll leave with a great legacy because of his hard work," he said.

Yastrzemsky doesn't have the time to think about the marks he's set or the place he's established in Army's rich lacrosse tradition.

"Right now, I prefer not to think about those things. If they happen, they happen, and it will be nice to maybe someday look back on those accomplishments," he said. "It's more important to think about winning games right now. The guys I've played with are my best friends, and I'll have them long after we all graduate. That's what is great."

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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