Love of lacrosse lives in league

Competition: Former college players are still passionate about the sport, playing in a 28-team Howard league.

Howard At Play

Recreation and local sports in Howard County

August 10, 2005|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mike Machiran was in Houston on business one day this summer, but he had lacrosse on his mind - and Rockburn Branch Park.

Game time for his team in the Howard County Men's Lacrosse League was 8 p.m. He called his wife, who met him at the airport with his lacrosse equipment in the car when he landed at 7:50 p.m. While she drove, he changed into pads and uniform.

The former Mount Hebron and Towson University defenseman missed the game's first quarter, but he played in the final three in a game his team won by 1 - "perfect execution," he said, laughing.

That's the length some will go to keep playing lacrosse in this league, in its 14th year since league director Mike Milani, a player himself and a sports supervisor in the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks, helped start it in 1992.

The summer league, which opened with four teams, has 28 teams divided into two competitive divisions that are about the begin postseason playoffs, after a regular season of Monday and Thursday night games. A playoff champion will be decided next week.

Machiran's team, sponsored by Mangia Italian Grill, plays in the A Division that tends to have more organized, younger teams. Mangia's stood in first place at 6-1 after last week's games and hopes to have a shot at the championship.

Most players on this team know what it is like to play in big games, especially Machiran. The 27-year-old defenseman is a regional sales manager for sports clothing-maker Under Armour who played on three Mount Hebron High School teams that lost state championships - all in overtime. He went to Towson University, which made the NCAA Division I Final Four once during his stay.

The core of the team has been together about nine years in some form, a major reason, Machiran said, that playing is so enjoyable.

"It's another outlet to de-stress ... and just to get together with those guys," Machiran said. "We've been together since we were kids. For the most part, we've all grown up together."

Machiran's younger brother also plays with the team. Jonnie Machiran, 22, is about to start graduate studies in biochemistry at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He also played for Mount Hebron and Towson University at midfield and has been with this summer team about eight years.

"It's so much fun, especially in the summer league," he said. "You're with guys you grew up with. There's not as much of a competitive edge. Everyone is competitive in the league, but you can't compare it with the college environment, where winning is the priority."

John Gover shares the same feelings. At 33, he is another defenseman who played for Howard High, the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville, and Limestone(S.C.) College. The Elkridge resident works for the State Highway Administration designing roads, but he said he never seems able to get lacrosse out of his mind.

He and James Meyer share general manager duties and organize the Woodstock Inn team each year. They are in Division B with players from different areas who come together during the summer to play their favorite game.

"It's like a brotherhood, lacrosse in general," Gover said. "Once you play lacrosse, it's hard to give it up."

The Woodstock Inn team has not given up much this season, posting a 6-1-1 record that puts it in a tie for second place in the B Division. Gover's team is much like Machiran's in that a core of players has been together for 14 summers.

"Age has taken its toll [because] the game has gotten faster and I've gotten slower," said Gover. "I'm still trying. It's more of `Do I still have what it takes to play fundamentally?' You want to be fundamentally sound out there, and I'm still doing that."

Playing with good fundamentals is one of several things that stays the same. For one, Machiran said, parents who once followed players during their high school years in the sport still show up at men's league games.

"We just enjoy playing so much that we have to keep going," Machiran said. "We enjoy playing as much as when we were younger. It's [just that] the recovery time is a little longer."

Machiran doesn't mind that, though, because he is still able to play the game. His younger brother said he has no plans to quit playing, especially since he does not see the league slowing down any time soon.

But the older Machiran acknowledged that he might be starting to slow down a bit. Still, he wants to keep finding his way onto the field as long as possible, even if it means rushing back from halfway across the country and changing clothes in a car.

"I'll keep playing until the body tells me I can't any more," he said.

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