Young scoring stars lead lacrosse to new levels
- By Jon Reidel
Young scoring stars lead lacrosse to new levels
by Jon Reidel G’06
It’s a sunny spring day at Moulton Winder Field and first-year scoring sensation Sydney Mas and sophomore standout Drew Philie are putting the finishing touches on record-breaking lacrosse seasons. In the women’s game, Mas tallies five times to set an America East record for goals by a rookie with fifty-five; Philie scores his sixtieth career goal in the men’s game that follows.
A few days later, Mas, a midfielder from Bedford, New York, and Philie, a high school star from nationally-ranked Deerfield Academy, seem genuinely unimpressed with the fact that they could become UVM’s all-time leading scorers. Instead, they focus on a greater goal: helping lead their Catamount squads to first-ever trips to the NCAA Lacrosse Championships.
“It’s definitely our main goal,” says Philie, who, like Mas, was named America East Rookie of the Year. “It’s a slow process, but we’re really starting to get some top recruits in here. Sydney is All-American caliber and probably the best women’s lacrosse player to ever come through here. We want to put UVM on the lacrosse map and making it to the NCAA tournament is the best way to accomplish that.”
Mas and Philie represent two very different types of recruits, exhibits A and B of the assertion by UVM coaches that they must attract players from many ranks to surpass the Vermont glory days twenty-some years past.
Philie, whose father played college lacrosse and mother grew up in a family of nine sports-minded siblings, represents a high-profile recruit from a prep powerhouse with an athletic pedigree. He grew up playing hockey at legendary Hockeytown USA on Route 1 in Saugus, Massachusetts, where he and his four siblings and thirty-two cousins would regularly go at it following weekly Tuesday night dinners at his grandma’s house in Melrose.
“If it involved a stick, puck, or ball we pretty much played it all the time,” says Philie. “We used to beg my mother to let us go out and play before the sun went down, but to her credit she always made us sit down at the kitchen table and do our homework first.”
Men’s lacrosse coach Ryan Curtis says UVM is now on the radar of top recruits. “The perception of the program is changing and we’re now starting to get top kids from lacrosse hotbeds,” says Curtis, who led the University of Virginia to the 1999 NCAA national championship and played eight seasons of Major League Lacrosse. “We were a few goals away from being 10-5 and are starting to get talented recruits like Drew. I really feel like we’re ready for a breakthrough.”
Mas, on the other hand, represents a student-athlete who wasn’t highly recruited but came with great potential. She comes from a family where sports weren’t a high priority. “Both my parents have two left feet and are very unathletic people,” she says with a grin. “They had these athletic kids and were like, ‘What the heck do we do?’ To his credit, my dad learned how to ski and play basketball until we eventually exceeded him. My family’s best friend is a UVM alum so we used to go to hockey games at Gutterson. I loved coming here as a kid and had never met anyone who graduated from UVM who didn’t love it.”
Women’s lacrosse coach Jen Johnson knew Mas would excel, but admits to being pleasantly surprised with her young star’s flirtation with breaking UVM’s all-time single-season record for goals and points. “Based on her agility, quickness, hands, and the way she moved for her size we knew she’d be a major contributor right away,” says Johnson, a three-time All-American at Penn State and co-captain of the Canadian National Women’s Lacrosse Team. “And I don’t think she’s peaked yet. The fact that she’s so humble and modest and always thanks her teammates makes her a pleasure to coach.”
Athletic Director Bob Corran attributes lacrosse’s rise to a comprehensive plan initiated by America East Conference officials in 2006 identifying the sport as one in which member institutions could compete on a national level. New standards were established, resulting in the quadrupling of full scholarships, the addition of a second full-time coach, tougher scheduling, and the construction of turf-surfaced Moulton Winder Field. Similar upgrades by other AE schools resulted in multiple programs being ranked in the top twenty nationally.
“All of the elements were here for UVM to be a successful lacrosse school, but we had to supply the resources, and fortunately, the administration stepped up and provided them,” says Corran. “Sydney and Drew are products of that support and the kind of high caliber student-athletes that will take both programs to the next level.”