Boland hoping to end his Hopkins career on high note

Blue Jays fifth-year senior has endured adversity, persevered at Homewood

February 16, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Chris Boland is beginning to feel his age.

At 23, the fifth-year senior attackman is the oldest player on the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse roster that includes 13 freshmen and 12 sophomores. Watching the younger players in practice and film sessions has taken Boland for a stroll down memory lane.

"It's crazy how fast the years go by," said Boland, who has been jokingly called "Uncle Bo" by some of his teammates. "You take every day and soak it in and put your best foot forward. That's one thing I try to tell them. Even the guys that I played with in the past, they've certainly told me that it goes by faster than you think. So I try to tell the young guys the same thing and to make sure that they take advantage of every day."

If there's anyone among the Blue Jays who can attest to the peaks and valleys in a career, it's Boland, who has dealt with changing depth charts, academic issues and injuries at Johns Hopkins.

Despite all that, Boland is back, and his return has been welcomed by teammates, coaches and fans.

"In one word, great," senior attackman Kyle Wharton said when asked to describe Boland's presence. "Chris is a phenomenal player, a great leader and a great guy. He's one of my best friends on the team, and having him back and having him suit up and not be hurt, it's just great to have him back."

Boland's return couldn't have been better timed. The program said farewell to attackman Steven Boyle and midfielder Michael Kimmel, who combined for 55 goals and 39 assists last spring. And then junior attackman Tom Palasek, who had 13 goals and seven assists and was expected to join Boland and Wharton on the starting attack unit, transferred to Syracuse.

"Boland makes everybody else better just by his presence," said Quint Kessenich, an ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins All-America goalkeeper. "He's got a really high lacrosse IQ … he plays with great instincts and typically makes the right decisions. He's also a little bit of a gambler. He'll take chances; he's not afraid to make a play. And his skill set is pretty balanced. He's a good midrange shooter, he's a very crafty dodger, he's got great hands, he's just got a certain flair. He's always been a special player."

Those talents weren't evident during Boland's first two seasons with the Blue Jays. A Jessup native who was sought after by nearly every prominent lacrosse program after becoming a three-time Baltimore Sun All-Metro selection and three-time All American at Boys' Latin, Boland played just four games as a reserve in 2007.

The following spring, Boland was supposed to become a major contributor in his sophomore year, but he was declared academically ineligible and sat out 2008.

His breakout year was 2009. He finished that season leading the team in scoring with 46 points on 28 goals and 18 assists and was poised for another encore.

But Boland opened 2010 by serving a three-game suspension for violating an unspecified team policy. He scored four goals in his first two games but then tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the second quarter of a win against UMBC on March 9.

"It was a tough situation," Boland reflected. "Anytime that you get hurt or lose your season because of an injury, it's kind of tough. But when you're surrounded by good teammates and good coaches and good people — the training staff did a great job — it makes things a lot easier. Of course, it was tough at first, but I tried to step into a role where I could help out all the guys as much as I could. Knowing that I had another year certainly helped, and I just went along my business and tried to get healthy one step at a time and help this team the following year."

No one would have blamed Boland for sinking into the background and working on rehabilitating his knee, but before and even after surgery in late April, Boland attended Johns Hopkins' home contests and would navigate his way down the sideline to converse with teammates.

Boland has continued to set an example this winter. A team captain with Wharton and senior faceoff specialist Matt Dolente, Boland has emphasized fundamentals and assumed a coaching role with his younger teammates.

That maturation has not escaped coach Dave Pietramala's attention.

"There's a kid who has really grown over the years," Pietramala said. "The maturity level he's at now compared to when he got here is tremendously different. He's a guy who earned the right to be captain after not participating in the fall. Chris wasn't voted because he's our smartest lacrosse player, which he is. He was voted because of how he coached the guys when he was hurt, how he interacted with them, how enthusiastic he was, how he rehabbed, how he did the winter workouts to get back and earn the respect of his teammates."

Boland said that aside from a little soreness, his surgically repaired knee has shown no signs of regression. Observers seem to think that a healthy Boland is critical to a Blue Jays squad eager to make amends for last season's 7-8 record.

Boland and Wharton might spearhead an offense that starts three sophomores and a freshman, but Boland said he doesn't feel any pressure to duplicate the numbers he posted in 2009.

"We have a pretty young and talented group of guys, and one of the things we've stressed as an offense is to work together," he said. "I think because of the talent surrounding me, it's going to make it easier for all of us to put up the numbers that all of us know we can, and that comes from practice and meshing together. Certainly, that takes some time, but we're putting our best foot forward to do that."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

    Baltimore Sun Articles
    |
    |
    |
    Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.