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posted 03.25.2014 at 11.59 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Stray Shot Sends Berry's Gilbert to Surgery

During my time as an SID, as a lacrosse writer and an official, I've had some close calls when it comes to getting drilled by shots and errant passes. I've had balls come so close to my head on several occasions where it raised the hair on my neck.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Berry head coach Curtis Gilbert wasn't so lucky this past weekend. Helping his team warm up prior to an important Southern Athletic Association home game with Centre on Saturday, Gilbert had just shagged balls on the endline and was standing about five feet up from goal line extended and about 15 feet wide of the cage. As he was about to signal for the guys to start shooting again, a shot came directly at him.

"One of the kids just started shooting ahead of everybody else and I kind of turned at the wrong time – really the right time, because it would have hit me in the back of the head – and it caught me in the right cheek. It just dropped me," Gilbert said from his home on Tuesday.

"It shattered a bunch of bones," he continued. "I'm in surgery Friday to have a couple of plates put in. I'm lucky it didn't catch me a couple of inches higher and hit me in the eye. That would have really done some damage."

Gilbert must wait until Friday to see how complicated his operation is going to be. Because the ball also shattered Gilbert's nose, the doctors will have to see whether they can fit a breathing tube down his nose for the procedure. If they can't, it means Gilbert must get a tracheotomy, where the breathing tube is inserted in his throat. If it's the latter, the coach could be in the hospital over the weekend and perhaps longer.

As with most lacrosse coaches, Gilbert only had one concern after he was struck.

"If it was up to me, I would have stayed and coached the game," Gilbert said. "That's the only thing that was in my mind. The trainers kind of forced me to get out of there and go to the ER and miss the game, which was unfortunate."

Gilbert won't be able to make the Vikings' trip to Rhodes and Hendrix this weekend for a pair of conference games because of the surgery, and he sounds truly heartbroken about not being with his team. He has, however, set his return date.

"We have a pretty important conference game coming up against Sewanee (on April 5)," Gilbert said. "We played them in the championship game last year. I've already spoken with them about being cleared for traveling and getting back on the sidelines, but it all depends on how the surgery goes and how I'm feeling. Ideally, I'd like be out there today blowing the whistle and running the drills and maybe letting someone else do the yelling. The plan is to be back in action next week."

Anyone who has been around lacrosse fields knows the inherent danger of a dense ball moving at great speeds. Gilbert certainly did.

"It wasn't like I was behind the cage," he said. "I've been coaching for a while, so I know how to play head's up and I've had my share of close calls, for sure. This was just a freak accident. Maybe it just hooked wrong."

Do me a favor this weekend: keep your head on a swivel, especially during shoot-arounds, and keep Curtis Gilbert in your thoughts during his operation.