My Time at D1 Radford University - #2

This preseason article appeared in The Tartan February 15, 1990.  We had high expectations for the 1990 season with 20 freshman competing for spots.  I went all in on recruiting, sending handwritten letters to any and all prospects, including Steve Govett.  Also in that class was a highly touted goalie from Herkimer CC that would compete with our sophomore stopper that came to us from Calvert Hall the year before.  And let me say this - Chad Burke could face-off with anybody in the country, period.  We were pumped for the year and our schedule started to look like a real D1 schedule.

Chad Burke winning a face-off

Unfortunately, we lost both those goalies to academic ineligibility and had to go against teams like Duke and North Carolina with our 3rd stringer.  Nash Wainwright was a solid keeper, an effective leader and kept us in a lot of games, but just did not have the experience or instincts the other two had honed playing at a high level. 

I truly believe (and run this season over in my head constantly) if we had either of the other two goalies, we beat Notre Dame, Ohio State and VMI. Chad Burke was dominating Penn State in our 1990 meeting, but back then you could hit the face-off guy from the wing and that's what they did, knocking him out of the game.  He probably had a concussion. 

Penn State was Steve Govett's first NCAA game.  They did not have an answer for him in combination with Ruppel and  fellow attackman Rich Cavanaugh, one of the toughest players I have come across.  OK, that's enough for now.  On to the Article!

Ruppel-led lax team set for season

By Bob Blubaugh, Sports Editor

The 1990 edition of the Radford University Lacrosse team will be trying to end one tradition and keep another going. 

For the past several years, Radford has had trouble getting out of the blocks, but has finished strong.  Last year was no exception.  The Highlanders lost six of of their first seven matches, but then stormed back to win five of their last six.

A brutal early season schedule will work against its quest for a good start. But head coach Craig Tillmann is optimistic.

"We're shooting for a big season," he said.  "Sooner or later this program is going to start beating the tough teams on this schedule, and this might be the year".

Mike Conner

Assistant coach Steve Billings is even more unbridled in his enthusiasm. "Our ultimate goal would be to finish 10-2," said Billings.

There is good reason for this optimistic attitude.  Radford returns 18 members from last season's squad, including record setting tri-captian, Steve Ruppel.

A year ago, the Baltimore, Md., native set school records with 36 goals and 32 assists. He is first on the Highlanders' all-time assists list and would become RU's top goal scorer with 29 this season. He needs only 2 points (goals and assist) to become RU's all-time points leader. [Later to be overcome by Steve Govett, I believe]

"Steve's a leader on and off the field, " said Tillmann. "He's a hard worker with talent." [and high lacrosse IQ]

However, this is far from a one-man show. Depth is the team's greatest asset. "We're a well-rounded team with people who can score everywhere," said Billings.

Todd Vischer, who scored 19 goals and had 10 assists as a freshman, returns along with fellow sophomore Mike Conner (12 goals, 11 assists) to give Radford scoring punch.

Also back is senior Rich Cavanaugh.  The senior from Mendam, N.J., who scored 43 goals in his first two campaigns, but missed most of last season with a leg injury. [Rich was healthy enough in '89 to score the winning goal against Ohio State in the "horseshoe" with 1:20 left in the game]

"Rich should be better than ever," said Tillmann. "It's his senior year and he feels he has something to prove.  He's worked very hard and seems fully recovered."

Anchoring the defense is tri-captain Joey Ventresca [featured photo].  Another senior, led Radford with 105 ground balls last season and is Radford's best defender. "He's the one we use to shut down the other team's big scorer," said Tillmann.  "He is part of the offense as well - as a team we can do things we couldn't do without him."  [after our respectable showing at UNC, coach Willie Scroggs said three things to me. He said our first team deserves to play at this level, he complimented us on our clearing/subbing game and lastly, said that Joey Ventresca could play for any team in the country] 

Defender and tri-captain, Mark Cumm, an inspirational leader, also returns.  [Mark was the pioneer of the Herkimer to Radford path]

Another key returnee is midfielder Chad Burke.  Perhaps the teams unsung hero, the senior from Fairfax, Va., played a key role in the Highlanders winning 30 more face-offs then they lost a year ago.

"Chad is a key to our success," said Tillmann.  "We can control the game with him on the face-off because we're going to win more than we lose."

The question of who will be the starting goalie is still unanswered.  Both Junior Nash Wainwright and freshman Dave Murphy have been competing hard in practice, but are inexperienced.  "We are very fortunate to have two, good, developing goalies," said Tillmann.

Other returning lettermen include Shane Allen, Gerry Boston, Daren Colaiacova, Jim Kennedy, Pat Rox, Bill Scanlon and Joe Trottier.

RU has a strong incoming class as well, including veteran, Canadian box player Steve Govett.  "We are fortunate to have a big freshman class of talent.  Many should contribute right away", said Tillmann. "It makes us well-rounded.  "We should be able to win games 7-6 or 17-16."

A murderous schedule is the only thing standing in the way of a winning season for RU. The Highlanders face powerhouses Penn State, Georgetown, North Carolina and Duke, all in the first half of the season.  Other games include Notre Dame, Ohio State, and VMI. The regular season opens February 27 when Penn State comes to Radford.

My Time at D1 Radford University - #1

1990 Brochure

I was a graduate student at VA Tech while I was coaching at Radford.  Many of the images on this post are portions of a tri-fold brochure I created as one of my projects in Communication Technology.  At the time, the "technology" was creating layouts on golden rule and operating a lithographic press.  While it was fun to create half-tones and operate the press, these skills quickly proved to be wholly outdated, lol.

Highlanders, I still have a dozen or so of these brochures.  Email me and I'll send you one!



  • This is awesome coach! I hope you are doing well!!

    Joe V

    Joseph ventresca
  • Fellas! Thank you for your comments. I am back at it! We at still here 💪🗿🥍 We should probably have a D1 reunion some day … very best regards, Craig

    Craig Tillmann
  • Coach what a great write up. I now know why I do not remember playing Ohio State. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight. I would love to catch up sometime. I live in Northern Virginia. My email is

    Chad Burke
  • Hey Coach- I echo Gerry’s sentiments. It is great to read and remember and reflect on how important lacrosse and specifically, my time with RU Lacrosse.
    Conner played 88-91

    Mike Conner
  • Hey Coach,
    Hope you have been well, so great reading and remembering that season.
    GB ‘90

    Gerry Boston

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