You read that right. Radford University in Southwest Virginia had a Division 1 program back in the day. In 1986 I was named Head Coach at the age of 23, making me the youngest in D1 lacrosse history. It is still hard for me to believe.
This will be the first post in a series about my time at Radford. In no particular order, I will recreate newspaper articles and share the stories that I can remember. For this first edition I have recreated an article from the school newspaper, The Tartan, April 5, 1990 (was it really almost 30 years ago?!).
Lacrosse Waxes Mary Washington, 23-7
By Mike Easmeil
While other RU teams took the weekend off because of foul weather, the RU lacrosse team took to the field and made light work of Mary Washington on Saturday Afternoon. [at that time, it was common for non-top 20 D1 teams to play D3 opponents, mostly because of geography, lol.]
The Highlanders rebounded from a tough 15-13 loss to Guilford on Wednesday to manhandle Mary Washington 23-7 at the Dedmon Center.
Steve Ruppel amassed six goals and assisted on two more to fuel the Highlander attack. Mary Washington scored the first goal just :18 into the game to take the early 1-0 lead. The Highlanders answered with a barrage of goals that sent the Eagles reeling. RU scored five goals in just over five minutes to lead after the first period 5-2.
"We just needed to get a goal to get our confidence going," Ruppel said. Once the Highlanders got their confidence, they never relented. In the second stanza the onslaught continued as RU outscored the Eagles 7-1.
The catalysts for RU in the second period were Ruppel, Todd Vischer and Mike Conner. Ruppel scored three times and assisted once while Conner served up three assists. Vischer tallied two of his four goals in the first half. The Eagles could manage only four goals in the second half to the Highlanders 11 and RU took their second win of the season.
Head Coach Craig Tillmann said ball handling was the Highlanders best asset on Saturday. "I think the guys realize what they are capable of if they have consistent ball control", said Tillmann. Almost every Highlander short of the goalies found the back of the Mary Washington cage. [Freshman, Steve Govett must have been unavailable for this game. It is unusual that he did not appear in the stats report.]
Earlier in the week, the Highlanders lost a close match to Guilford College. RU put up a good fight but fell short 15-13. Rich Cavanaugh lead the scoring with 4 goals and two assists.
Radford 23 Mary Washington 7
Goals: Ruppel 6, Vischer 4, Cleary 2, Cavanaugh 2, Conner 1, Curry 1, Trottier 1, Niehaus 1, Kennedy 1, Hayes 1, White 1, Lemos 1, Boston 1.
Assists: Cavanaugh 4, Ruppel 2, White 2, Vischer 1, Scanlon 1, Lambert 1, Hates 1.
Guilford 15 Radford 13
Goals: Cavanaugh 4, Ruppel 2, Govett 2, Conner 2, Cleary 1, Lambert 1, White 1.
Assists: Conner 3, Cavanaugh 2,Ruppel 1, Ventresca 1.
Ruppel Rebounds After Slow Start
Steve Ruppel scored six goals and 2 assists to lead the Highlanders lacrosse team past Mary Washington College last Saturday. The six goals was the highest number of goals by a Highlander so far this season. A year ago, the Baltimore, Md. native set school records with 36 goals and 32 assists.
The Senior stickman is well behind the pace of a year ago. Coach Tillmann and players say Ruppel will use this victory to find his momentum. [To be fair, we had a terrific recruiting year that included Steve Govett and others that Ruppel was able to distribute to. He was a very unselfish player]
"Steve [Ruppel] and I needed to get back on track", said Todd Vischer. "It was about time. We needed this win". Ruppel downplayed the effort, giving credit to the team around him. "Mike Conner and Richie [Cavanaugh] were drawing slides and giving me great feeds," Ruppel said. "I just had to fill in the seam like coach said."
Lax Notes: After a 1-5 start last year , the Highlanders rebounded to win five straight. RU is now 2-7. Rich Cavanaugh is the Highlanders leading goal scorer with 21 and also leads in total points with 33.
My Time at D1 Radford University - #2
Congratulations Coach Tillmann! You have introduced the Lacrosse world to such a simple yet innovative training tool. I have wondered what you have been doing all of these years, now I know. Keep up the good work. However, I feel compelled to tell your readers that you were also one of the pioneers that introduced mountain biking in Maryland.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane Coach! Those days still remain my fondest memories to this day. I will forward this on to the rest of the team as I am still in touch with a large number of them. I’m looking forward to reading “My Time at D1 Radford University – #2” when you get the chance to post. Also, if you have the stats for your time at RU, I’m sure the team would get a kick out of reliving the glory days, I know I would. I hope you and your family are doing well. Good luck with Head Rock Lacrosse, I wish you success! To this day I still remember… “Horses don’t Cheat!” Thanks again Coach!