Progress might be slow, but Hood men aren't bowing heads

April 03, 2009|By MIKE PRESTON

FREDERICK -The Hood College men's lacrosse team has won only one game in five seasons, but who's counting?

It's certainly not the Blazers. Here in Frederick at this small Division III school with an enrollment of about 2,500, it's more important to count moral victories than putting a "W" in the win-loss column.

Oh, the Blazers like to win as much as anybody else, but it's hard to beat teams in the talented Capital Athletic Conference, which has No. 1 Stevenson and two-time defending national champion Salisbury as members. It's even harder when your college didn't allow men to live on campus for 100 years, until 2003, and your program, which is only five years old, has had five head coaches.

But again, the Blazers don't count wins. Here, it's about moral victories. Five weeks ago, Hood won its first game, 12-7, over Gwynedd-Mercy, which is in its first year of playing lacrosse. This would have touched off a mad, nighttime celebration on most college campuses, but all the Blazers, including the coaching staff, walked across the street to a hospital. Team captain Dan Rocker had been hospitalized after the first game of the season because of a virus that caused him to lose 30 pounds.

The team presented Rocker with jerseys and a game ball.

"He was a great leader, always excited," said Hood coach Curt Foxx, pointing to his long-stick midfielder, who has returned to the team but not to practice. "When he left, there was a void in our practices. He has put a lot into our program - helping raise money for uniforms and helping us recruit. He has great grades, and we were really disappointed he couldn't be a part of our first win on the field. He is Mr. Hood College. It was pretty emotional handing him those game balls."

If you hang out on the Hood campus long enough, you get the picture of what is happening here. There are only 26 players on the roster, which is composed of 13 freshmen, 10 sophomores and three juniors.

The Blazers (1-11) have been outscored 208-85 and outshot 595-327. In a sport in which the magic number seems to be eight (goals scored just to be competitive), the Blazers have scored five goals or fewer in five games.

But enthusiasm remains high. Extremely high.

"Other teams are putting in their second strings, and we're beating their second strings," said Hector Montoya, a freshman midfielder from Kenwood. "So when we get to be juniors and seniors, we'll be contenders. We don't worry about the losing right now. We just lean on each other because that's all we got. But a lot more people are starting to believe in us."

A lot of the self-confidence comes from Foxx. At age 29, he is a former high school football and lacrosse player.

A former football player at Kenyon College, Foxx has a broad chest that shows he isn't far removed from the game. He refers to his players as knuckleheads and is close to them. When asked what type of virus Rucker had, Foxx said it was from the "Sci-Fi movie channel."

They both laughed.

Foxx's big shoulders come in handy because he knows he has a tough load to carry at Hood.

"We're developmental at this point," Foxx said. "We're playing against 22-year-old men, and I have only one guy who is 21. Some of the kids that have gone through this program did not win one college game, so they deserve a lot of credit every time they come out here.

"All coaches don't measure success in wins and losses."

Foxx and the Blazers are winning. He isn't getting blue-chip players from Gilman, Boys' Latin or Loyola, but he is getting blue-collar players from public schools in Carroll, Baltimore, Frederick and Anne Arundel counties.

"We're bringing in kids who have heart," Montoya said. "Heart beats talent any day."

Hood has talent but much more potential at this point in young players such as Montoya; midfielders Troy Hubbard, George Mineff and Rocker; goalie Nick O'Brien; and defenseman Jon Butterfield.

"Everybody has a role here," said Dominique Shorter, a sophomore midfielder from Lansdowne. "We're recruiting and building for the future. Losing doesn't bother me, because when you lose, you learn. Each game we're getting better, and we're close to turning the corner. We're going to be pretty good."

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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