Fourteen members of the defending national champion Loyola men's lacrosse team took time from their holiday break today to travel to Newtown, Conn., and lead a youth clinic in the town rocked by a mass shooting last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The trip was the idea of freshman defenseman Jason Crane (Chesapeake-Anne Arundel).
Players departed Maryland this morning and picked up teammates on the trip to Connecticut. Others who live in the New England region met the team in Newtown.
Crane reached out to Jim Wallace, the coach training coordinator for the Newtown Lacrosse Association, and Wallace invited the Greyhounds to lead today's clinic.
"Obviously, we knew the town was hurting, and I found Jim's email address, and I asked if there was anything we could do," Crane said. "He said it would be great if we could do the clinic and talk to the kids.
"When we got here today, Jim talked to us for a while, and he told us how many of (the clinic's) kids were in the school at the time of the shooting. He said the town has been very quiet, and there is a lot of sadness. The kids are dealing with things that no elementary or middle school kid should have to deal with. He talked about how our presence helps the kids out in ways that we can't even imagine."
On Dec. 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire inside the school, killing 20 children and six adult staff members.
Today's clinic drew more than 100 Newtown youth players ranging from third through eighth grades, despite the fact that Crane and the Greyhound put their plans together in less than a week.
"As soon as I got (Crane's) email, I texted him and said I was in," junior attackman Brian Schultz said. "It has been a moving experience. We are trying to do anything we can just to raise spirits a little bit. In Maryland, you can't really gauge what it's been like here, but we've heard some really intense stories from Jim and others."
At the clinic, the Greyhounds taught lacrosse skills and team play, as well as interacting with the kids on the field.
"Hopefully, we can influence them positively," Crane said.
Loyola opens its season on Saturday, Feb. 16, at Delaware, and begins its home schedule a week later with a rematch of last season's NCAA championship game against Maryland.
Area teams ranked in NJCAA preseason polls
Two area women's teams are ranked in the top five in Lacrosse Magazine's National Junior College Athletic Association preseason rankings. Anne Arundel Community College was picked No. 3, while CCBC Essex was No. 5. Defending champion Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y., was ranked No. 1.
Sophomore Meghenn Jackson (Broadneck) was chosen as the Preseason Player of the Year; she's a returning first-team All-American who had 91 goals and 21 assists to finish second in the nation in points (112) last season. She also was the leading scorer on Anne Arundel's soccer team in the fall, with 49 points as a forward.
On the men's side, CCBC-Essex was ranked No. 3. Onondaga was No. 1, having won four straight NJCAA titles.
Bowen signs with Gannon
Division II Gannon in Erie, Pa., announced that Micky Bowen (Mount Hebron) has signed a national letter of intent to play starting in the 2014 season. Bowen helped the Vikings to the Class 3A-2A East regional title last season.