An old adage tells us that time heals all wounds. And in sports, winning can sometimes speed the healing process.
No better example of that this year than in the sport of lacrosse, where local and national stories crossed paths.
On the big stage, Duke’s lacrosse team won the NCAA championship this season – finally able to get some vindication four years after their program was suspended when rape allegations were lodged against three of their players, only to be proven false and dismissed later.
The 2006 case made national headlines and the school administration rushed to take drastic measures in the wake of the allegations. But, ultimately, state prosecutors were able to determine the alleged attack never occurred and all charges were dropped against the players. But not before a season was ruined and a program left in tatters.
On a local, more personal level, Brophy College Prep in Phoenix captured the state high school lacrosse championship – just months after one of its most popular players was killed in a tragic accident at the start of the season.
In both cases, it was the strength of community that lacrosse built within each program that carried Duke and Brophy players to reach their ultimate goals, despite tragedy that devastated each school.
For Duke, it was the school’s first NCAA championship in lacrosse. To accomplish it, the Blue Devils had to beat a strong Notre Dame team in sudden-death overtime. The 6-5 win had all the drama of a movie script, including the feel-good end to a four-year quest for redemption.
For Brophy, it was just one more championship trophy to put in the case. The Broncos won the state title in 2007 and 2008 and were runners-up last year. But this one meant so much more to the players.
Robby Mayasich scored the first goal of the season for Brophy, and the first goal of his varsity career, in an exhibition game against Chandler High School before the team began its regular schedule. As it turned out, that first game of the 2010 season came just a day after Robby’s funeral.
The 18-year-old senior was struck by a car on the Carefree Highway while he was bringing water to a fellow runner during the Ragnar del Sol relay race. It was 1:30 in the morning and the road was dark. He died three days later.
Ironically, it was Chandler HS that Brophy had to beat to win the state championship. Adam Fishman scored two goals to lead Brophy to a 10-8 win. Fishman was one of the players that carried Robby’s hockey stick to every game this season; team members wore t-shirts with his uniform number, No. 8, under their jerseys.
Another irony was that Brophy beat Chaparral HS, its primary rival, in the semi-finals. The Firebirds, as a tribute to Robby, had put stickers on their helmets with Robby’s No. 8 and displayed them throughout the season. The Broncos lost to Chaparral in a mid-season match, 8-7, but won the semis, 9-4.
That regular-season game was given a name by Chaparral, to be used going forward: The Robby Mayasich Memorial Cup.
And Brophy took the tribute a step further by retiring No. 8, which also happens to be the same uniform number his father used when he played at the University of Minnesota. That number had also been retired by UofM.
It was Robby’s memory that carried the Broncos through this season. But, thanks to the thoughtfulness of the local lacrosse community, his name and number will live on.
(Photo: Duke Athletics)