- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 18, 2002

When an offensive player goes up against Georgetown midfielder Kyle Sweeney, he had better not hold the ball for more than a few seconds. Or else "Kyle count" expires, the ball will be stripped, scooped, and Sweeney will be leading a fast break.
That's the junior's takeaway/transition game, and it has made him the top long-stick midfielder in the nation, if not the best defender in the country. His fifth-seeded Hoyas (12-2) will face defending national champion and fourth-seeded Princeton (8-4) today at 3 p.m. in the NCAA Division I men's quarterfinals at Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y.
"It's incredible to watch, just to see the checks coming," said Hoyas senior attackman Steve Dusseau, who leads the team in goals (52) and points (67). "[Sweeney] won't get beat to the cage one-on-one although he throws every check in the book [and at] full speed."
The long-stick midfielder position has just recently become a key spot on any team's roster, and the position is not listed on All-American teams. But in the age of specialization, with teams utilizing short-stick defensive middies, face-off specialists and the control of substitutions, a player like Sweeney can excel and even dominate a game. He has become the prototypical long-stick middie, combining devastating checks with blazing speed and an offensive mentality. Sweeney constantly has youths and high school coaches ask him how he started at the position and where he learned to throw his myriad of ball-jarring checks.
Sweeney's role is simple but hard to execute shut down the opponent's best midfielder. He has done it with regularity the past three seasons. This year, Sweeney even has played some close defense against Loyola attackman Mike Sullivan and Syracuse attackman Mike Powell because of the matchup problems they posed.
But Sweeney does not like staying on one side of the field and prefers the open space and the running game that the midfield offers. His athleticism allows him to take over a game at any time, and Sweeney has five goals and nine points, all on fast break situations. The assists are when the defensive slide comes early if it doesn't, Sweeney will pull the trigger. It's not like he doesn't practice it. Coach Dave Urick pulls Sweeney out of footwork drills to participate in shooting exercises almost every day.
"We know he'll be down near the goal," Urick said. "It would be crazy not to let him take shooting drills."
Practice has been crucial for Sweeney. Dusseau is arguably the toughest matchup in the nation, and he and Sweeney have battled the last three years in practice like two prizefighters. They even call each other in the offseason for one-on-one drills. Dusseau, who moved from midfield to attack this season, still remembers the first day they went head-to-head.
"He stripped me the first five times I had the ball," said Dusseau, who leads the nation in goals.
The matchup has become legendary on the practice field, and Sweeney gives the slight edge to Dusseau, who has made the defender "look foolish" on many occasions. Dusseau says it's even. Both players believe their one-on-one partner is the top player at their respective positions in the country.
"They tend to seek each other out in practice," Urick said. "Steve gets a great opportunity with stick protection. They match their skills against each other."
Sweeney will start on Princeton midfielder Brad Dumont today, but could see some time on attackman Ryan Boyle. Whatever the matchup, Sweeney, who played high school lacrosse at Springfield (Pa.), will let the Tigers know of his presence.
"I like shutting down the best middie and affecting how other teams run their offenses," Sweeney said. "Scoring, running, and making a name for long-stick middies."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide