May 14, 2010

Mount Up: MSM Has Its Own Inspiration, 'GJS'

by Steven Russolillo | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Mount St. Mary's Brett Schmidt (20g, 16a) is one of three brothers on the team and sons to the late Gloria Jean Schmidt. The Mount will be a significant underdog Saturday in its NCAA tournament first-round game at top-seeded Virginia.

Mount St. Mary’s had one goal in mind at the beginning of the year: dedicate the 2010 season to Gloria Jean Schmidt.

Schmidt, or better known as Jeannie, was the mother of three boys on the Mount men’s lacrosse team – Justin, a junior, and sophomore twins Brett and Bryant. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with colon cancer in September 2009 and died just two months later.

Her death was devastating for the Schmidt family and the greater lacrosse community. But 15-year head coach Tom Gravante said his team helped the Schmidt boys persevere through such trying times. The Mount players also used the tragedy as a rallying point as they wore decals of her initials , "GJS" on their helmets throughout the entire season.

And when Mount St. Mary's competed in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game this past Sunday -- on Mother’s Day, no less -- Gravante made sure his team’s priorities were in check.

“My pregame speech was very short," Gravante said. "When we began this season, we made a pact. We dedicated this season to Jeannie Schmidt, a very special mom, a mom that was our mom. We owe it to her to finish the season, so let’s get out there and win."

And, in stunning fashion, that’s exactly what the Mount did. Freshman sensation Andrew Scalley’s game-winning goal at the buzzer propelled the Mount to a 7-6 victory over Sienna, a squad it lost to 8-7 last month. The victory awarded Mount St. Mary’s the MAAC championship and its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003.

“We allowed the three boys to accept the postgame trophy in honor of their mom,” Gravante said. He noted the captains usually accept the trophy, but figured it was only fitting to do it this way. “What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than winning the conference championship and heading to the NCAA tournament? It was a very touching moment.”

Both Brett (20g, 16a) and Bryant (17g, 19a) were key offensive contributors in the regular season, tying for third on the team in points, while Justin, a defenseman, registered 27 ground balls. Bryant also scored a goal in the conference championship.

They, as well as the rest of the Mount players, are psyched for the NCAA tourney, to say the least. But their first opponent is no picnic -- Mount St. Mary’s will take on top-seeded Virginia, a squad also playing with a heavy heart.

It’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks for the Cavaliers, as midfielder George Huguely was charged with the murder of women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love. Additionally, Virginia head coach Dom Starsia’s father recently passed away.

As a result, it’s been a media circus in Virginia, which is part of the reason Saturday’s first-round matchup is a prime-time game airing on ESPNU. While the Mount is excited to be in the spotlight, it obviously wishes the attention was coming for any other reason.

“That truly is a horrible loss down there, and our hearts go out to the folks down at UVA and the players of both teams,” Gravante said. “We’re keeping them in our hearts and prayers."

“All those UVA players need this tournament,” he added. “The whole atmosphere is truly sad, so I hope these games will bring some excitement and some fun.” 

The Mount will certainly have its hands full with arguably the best team in the nation. The game marks a rematch of their season opener, when the Cavaliers won 15-7. Gravante said he was pleased with the way his players competed in that game, but understands the significant challenge they’ll face on Saturday night.

“We have to be perfect,” he said. “We’re playing the No. 1 team in the country, and they’re No. 1 for a reason. We have to be flawless. You can’t turn the ball over and expect to get it back quickly. And I think my kids realize that.”

But for now, the Mount is soaking it all in, relishing in their stunning conference championship and remembering the woman to whom they've dedicated their season.

“These kids have persevered through their own ups and downs,” he said. “But right now, they’re absolutely flying high.”


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