Retrievers thriving after family reunion

Senior's transfer has bolstered starting midfield that also features his younger brother

April 21, 2007|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun reporter

A year has passed since they were reunited in a way neither of them could have foreseen, and UMBC junior midfielder Terry Kimener smiles at the strange memory.

There he was, telling his 26-year-old brother, P.J., what to do. There was Terry, who was blossoming as a sophomore star, counseling his oldest sibling on the finer points of the UMBC offense and the Division I game.

The adjustment period has since passed, and it has led to another unlikely scenario.

As the 15th-ranked Retrievers (7-4) pursue their fourth straight victory today against visiting Vermont and angle for a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, they are banking partly on two brothers born five years apart who happen to run together on the first midfield unit.

Terry, 22, is an established force in the America East. Over the past two seasons, he has produced 36 goals and 29 assists, and has done it as a two-way throwback player who rarely leaves the field.

P.J., 27, is a veteran of the Navy using his last year of eligibility to play the game he loved as a kid, while he earns a sociology degree he expects to receive in December. Until last season, his most direct on-field connection to Terry was as his coach, from youth leagues to the junior varsity at Oakton (Va.) High School.

"We kind of switched roles," Terry said. "When P.J. got here, I was teaching him about the system, showing him the ropes about our offense, how to look for slides and stuff like that. He was always the teacher toward me, giving me the pointers. It's weird."

The role change also has given P.J. pause.

"The opportunity to come back to lacrosse is a great gift. If Terry wasn't on the team, I wouldn't even have looked at playing," he said. "I remember carrying him around as an infant. Now I'm running on the same line with him."

UMBC coach Don Zimmerman said the pairing of the Kimeners has nothing to do with creating a feel-good story in a sport that has spawned its share of sibling combinations.

Zimmerman has juggled his lineup continuously this season, especially at midfield. While the attack unit of seniors Drew Westervelt and Andy Gallagher and freshman Cayle Ratcliffe solidified itself early on, Zimmerman was looking for ideal, complementary players to Terry Kimener.

Since Zimmerman moved P.J. - who has scored four goals and has played attack, offensive and defensive midfield and taken 20 faceoffs - to the first midfield with sophomore Alex Hopmann, UMBC is riding its first three-game winning streak.

"Terry is a rare breed. He's proven himself at both ends of the field," Zimmerman said. "A lot of kids are able to do things but aren't willing to do them. Terry is willing. Same with P.J. They're consummate team players.

"P.J. is tough on ground balls. He's a bull on faceoffs. He looks for other people. He has a clear picture of the big picture. His age has a settling effect on me."

His teammates call him "the old man," and P.J. Kimener already can tell them a thing or two about life. Before transferring midseason last year from CCBC-Catonsville, he served for nearly four years as an aviation electrician in the Navy, after enlisting in October 2001.

Before that, he had briefly attended Mars Hill (N.C.) College, which was launching a Division II lacrosse program. Later, after opting out of the service three months early to pursue his education, he earned All-America junior college lacrosse recognition at Catonsville, then decided to try UMBC.

After playing in six games last spring, P.J. regained his senior year of eligibility due to an exemption for his military service. He has been married for two years to his wife, Jennifer, who works for a corporate real estate information provider.

"The Navy gave me more structure in my life, and I needed it. There's a camaraderie, and I think it's very similar to what I have with this team," said P.J., who intends to go into law enforcement. "You're put in situations where you have to adapt. It's a stressful environment. You establish a family away from your family."

"When we heard we had a 26-year-old coming here to play lacrosse, we were like, what's he thinking?" junior defenseman Brandon Mathias said.

"They're not flashy, but they're both clever players," added Westervelt, the team's leading scorer. "P.J. is not a captain, but he is a leader. He's more vocal on the field this year. It's not that he's a wise old man, but he's more serious than Terry, who is always saying things that make people laugh. He's goofy."

The youngest of four brothers in a six-child household, Terry is completely serious between the lines. He broke out a year ago with 24 goals and 17 assists, helping UMBC win its league and finish 10-5. This year, he regularly draws a long-stick midfielder but still has put up 12 goals and 12 assists, and plays on offense, defense and the extra-man unit.

"I'm a little older and stronger, but my legs were shot last year," P.J. said. "Terry is a long-winded man. But with three older brothers picking on him, he had to have the good legs. He had to run away from us all his life."

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