In his nearly 30 years of coaching lacrosse, Dave Cottle said he turned down countless offers to participate in all-star events. This year, though, the Chesapeake Bayhawks coach couldn’t pass up the chance to run Team Eclipse in the Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game because he wanted to meet some of the sport’s top young talent.
But when he got to Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on July 13, Cottle realized he was already familiar with plenty of MLL’s best players. In fact, six of the All-Stars played for the former Terrapins men’s lacrosse coach during his nine years in College Park.
Reunions have become commonplace for Cottle since he left this university to join the Bayhawks in summer 2010. All eight MLL teams have at least one former Terp on their roster, and three play under Cottle at Chesapeake.
In June, Cottle joked that he can’t escape his former players.
“There sure are a lot of them,” Cottle said. “It’s fun to see these guys, and that’s the great thing is that they still get to compete and play the sport and, in a way, represent the school.”
Former Terps aren’t just infiltrating MLL in terms of quantity: Four of the top 10 scorers in the league played at this university, while Lee Zink and Brett Schmidt both made the All-Star team as defenders.
“The players get to keep playing the sport as a passion and have been very successful,” Terps coach John Tillman said. “Selfishly, it’s great for the program too. You watch these guys play professionally, and they obviously are very talented, and it speaks well to Maryland lacrosse.”
This week serves as a prime example of the impact former Terps have on the league. Cottle, who led the Bayhawks to an MLL championship last year, and his team will travel to play the undefeated Denver Outlaws on Saturday in a nationally televised matchup.
In arguably the most significant regular-season game this year, the field will be lined with Terps. There’s midfielders Dan Burns and Kevin Cooper and long pole Jesse Bernhardt joining Cottle on the Bayhawks sideline, and three Outlaws All-Stars — Zink and midfielders Drew Snider and Jeremy Sieverts — will compete against their college coach.
“You definitely take pride in your school,” Sieverts said. “We all play for the MLL teams now and that’s our focus, but I definitely am proud to be from Maryland and see my old teammates playing well.”
On Saturday, Sieverts’ old coach will try to slow him and the Outlaws’ top-ranked offense.
But Cottle’s Bayhawks have certainly benefited from the addition of his former Terp players, too. Chesapeake’s first two picks in this year’s college draft were Bernhardt and Cooper, both of whom played for Cottle as freshmen in College Park.
In Cooper’s only appearance this season, he scored three goals in a 13-12 victory against the Ohio Machine on July 6 and was named Rookie of the Week.
Bernhardt, meanwhile, has played in six games and gathered 17 groundballs. On Thursday, he got the start over veteran Nicky Polanco and forced a turnover with 20 seconds left that set up a game-tying goal and another 13-12 win — this time an overtime victory over the Boston Cannons.
“Sometimes in the draft, you don’t know what you’re getting,” Cottle said. “With these guys, I knew. Heck, I’ve known Jesse since he was in the sixth grade.”
“It’s been great to play for Coach Cottle again, because he obviously did so much for my career, and he’s just cool to be around,” said Bernhardt, who attended Cottle’s camps as a youth player and was recruited to Maryland by the coach several years later.
While the former Terps’ success in MLL competition provides legitimate benefits to both the players and the program, the players have emphasized how grateful they are to rekindle bonds with their former teammates.
MLL players typically have daytime jobs because their lacrosse salaries range from about $10,000 to $25,000 per year, according to The Wall Street Journal. So the competition serves more as an enjoyable venture than a profitable one.
And Brian Farrell doesn’t think there’s anything as fun as competing against close friends. A Cannons defender and 2011 graduate of this university, Farrell also works as a volunteer assistant coach for the Terps.
Last week, when his team traveled to play Chesapeake, Farrell competed against his former coach and two players — Bernhardt and Cooper — he had played with and helped coach.
And then there’s Burns, whom Farrell considers one of his best friends.
“Me and Dan, we’d be competitive if we were eating hot dogs,” Farrell joked. “That’s what so great about this sport. It’s kind of a small community, so you get to see and play against your college teammates and you’re very close friends. That’s the best part of it.”