Lacrosse is family affair

Keegan and Grace Gaeng have followed in their father's footsteps by playing lacrosse - and sharing the same coach - at John Carroll.


Keegan and Grace Gaeng can identify with their father's athletic experiences at John Carroll more than two decades ago.

Not only have the three played on the same fields, but they also have played for the same coach - John Hughes.

Hughes, who has been at the school for 34 years, coached Keegan, a senior, in boys junior varsity soccer. Grace, a sophomore, currently has Hughes as a coach on the girls varsity lacrosse team. Their father, Chris Gaeng, graduated from John Carroll in 1980 and had Hughes as a soccer and lacrosse coach.

"I think it's really cool, just to see how he used to talk to my dad, but in a different generation," Grace said.

Of watching Hughes coach his kids, Chris Gaeng said: "It makes me laugh because he still does all the same things he used to do. He does the same things to motivate the kids - trying to get their goat a little bit. He's always yelling to try to get the kids to do their best."

Lacrosse also is a common bond for the Gaeng family. Keegan plays on the varsity lacrosse team, following in the footsteps of his father, who went on to play the sport at Loyola College. His mother, Mary Pat Gaeng, played at Mount de Sales and the College of Notre Dame.

Keegan and Grace, who are two of seven children in the Gaeng household ranging from ages 5 to 19, both began playing the sport when they were 6.

On the weekends, the family often can be found playing pick-up games in the backyard.

"Everyone plays," Keegan said. "It's something we can all share and everyone enjoys. My sister and I have had some good games [in the backyard]. I'll always play my hardest against her, that's for sure."

Keegan and Grace's lacrosse teams at John Carroll are at very different levels.

The boys team is in a rebuilding year. After dominating the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference and winning back-to-back titles from 2003-2004, the Patriots have been inconsistent, going 6-3 this season.

Coach Keith Hinder is still tinkering with his starting lineup, which sometimes includes Keegan.

"He's just a good guy," Hinder said. "He can play midfield and he can play attack. He understands it's a team sport and we just changed things up, and the way he is being used now benefits the whole team. He's just a great team player."

The girls squad, on the other hand, is 10-5 record and ranked 12th in The Sun's poll.

It is a contender in the highly competitive Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.

Grace has been a huge part of John Carroll's success. A two-year starter at midfield, she was named to the All-Harford County second team as a freshman, and has 18 goals, 12 assists and 31 ground balls this season.

"Grace is just an incredible competitor," Hughes said. "She has such quickness - probably the quickest on the team.

"She scored a whole lot of goals last year, but she is just incredible at getting loose balls and ground balls. She performs a perfect linkage between defense and offense. Grace hasn't scored as much this year, but the amount of ground balls she's gotten and the hustle she gives has tremendously helped us."

Grace also was a starting midfielder for the soccer team, helping the Patriots win their second consecutive IAAM A Conference title.

Hughes says both athletes remind him of their father.

"Their father was so intense and focused," Hughes said. "He was incredible and I loved him as a soccer player. [Chris and Grace] are both real hardheads, particularly to their style of play. They are so determined and competitive. They are just wide open and team players. I personally love the way Chris and Grace played."

Despite their different roles on their respective teams, Keegan and Grace said there is no sibling rivalry or jealousy between them.

"I'm glad she's doing well and I'm sure she likes to see me do well, too," Keegan said.

"I'm proud of him," Grace said. "I just try to encourage him. I try to watch as much of his [home] games as possible before practice."

Although there are still four more members of the Gaeng family expected to enter the doors of John Carroll, they will not get the opportunity to have Hughes as a coach. He is retiring after this season.

"The one thing that would make me even want to come back and coach is to have another chance to coach them," Hughes said. "[The Gaengs] represent what we want John Carroll to be about. They are solid and based on substance and not a lot of that glitter."

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