Just like father, Curtis a smash Lacrosse: Virginia defenseman Ryan Curtis is gaining a ferocious reputation for his physical play, just as his father, Mike Curtis, did with the Baltimore Colts.

March 21, 1998|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

There's a loose ball in front of the goal and it's a race between Virginia goalkeeper Chris Sanderson and Princeton attackman Jon Hess. But here comes Cavaliers sophomore defenseman Ryan Curtis.

Trying to level Hess, Curtis accidentally slams into Sanderson. The full-force hit separates Sanderson's shoulder and adds to Curtis' ferocious reputation.

Compare him to a mad dog linebacker. Actually, just compare him to his father, Mike Curtis, a Baltimore Colt from 1965 to 1975 known for his brutal play.

Although at 5 feet 10, 180 pounds he didn't inherit his father's size, Curtis still plays with the same physical style.

"There are a lot of similarities in the way he plays," said Mike Curtis, who sometimes refers to his son as Ryan-oceros. "He got his size from my wife's side, but I see my intensity in him."

After being a backup for most of his injury-hampered freshman year, Curtis not only has been thrust into the starting lineup, but has assumed the role as Cavaliers' top defender. He hasn't backed down, quieting two of the top offensive players in the nation.

In his first start, he matched up with Syracuse's Casey Powell, last year's Player of the Year. The next week, Curtis drew Princeton's Hess, last year's Attackman of the Year.

Today, he'll rotate between Johns Hopkins' top offensive weapons -- attackman Dudley Dixon and midfielder A. J. Haugen.

"I couldn't be happier," said Curtis, who might try the football team as a walk-on in the fall. "The people I've covered are the people I want to be playing against. This is fun for me."

Curtis shut out Powell for the first quarter, but broke off some cartilage at the end of his femur in the second quarter and left the game. He didn't practice the following week and was only going to play sparingly against Princeton.

However, Curtis entered six minutes into the game and never removed himself. Although not at full strength, he limited Hess to a goal and two assists.

"He's a really tough kid," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "You can see it in his intensity. You can see it in his character. You could see it when he went out there and played against Princeton after he tore a piece off his bone."

hTC At times, Curtis shows his youth, losing his man off ball. Then he'll sometimes throw an ill-advised check, trying to show the same moves that allowed him to record six take-aways a game during high school.

But for the majority of the game, Curtis proves why many consider him the best athlete on the defensive end of the field.

"What he's got is the combination," Princeton coach Bill Tierney said. "There's great checkers who do not have the athleticism and try to compensate for that. Then look at us, where we have great athletes and don't want them to throw lots of checks.

"What Ryan can do is both. He can take the ball away and harass you with the best of them. He could be one of those special players."

That's why Starsia doesn't worry about pitting Curtis against senior attackmen. Curtis' ability outweighs his inexperience.

"My philosophy in matchups is that my best guy is going against your best guy," Starsia said. "If you try to finesse it, it turns around to bite you. I believe the best attackman is the key to the offense and I'm going to try and slow him down. So Ryan will be fed a steady diet of the best attackmen in lacrosse."

Pub Date: 3/21/98

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