- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2004

BALTIMORE — Kevin Boland was an afterthought for most of the elite programs in Division I men’s lacrosse when he was in high school. Many coaches figured he was too small, others that he wasn’t fast enough. At best, he was a complementary player to fill out a second or third midfield line.

Four years later, no one can afford to overlook him.

Boland seems a cinch to earn first-team All-America honors after a stellar senior season for Johns Hopkins (13-1). More importantly, he is perhaps the most vital cog in the top-seeded Blue Jays’ offense entering tomorrow’s NCAA tournament semifinal against fourth-seeded Syracuse (13-2) at M&T; Bank Stadium.

“I think it’s very easy to judge a book by its cover, and it’s a mistake,” Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “You look at him, you’re not going to be overly concerned. When you watch him, he takes good shots, makes unselfish passes and takes good care of the ball. I don’t think we knew how good he could be.”

Boland comes from a rich lacrosse background. His father, Kevin, played four years at Maryland and was a third-team All-America pick as a senior in 1977. Where other kids were usually playing baseball before anything else, Boland had a lacrosse stick in his hand by the time he was 2.

As he got older, Boland began to develop the excellent field vision he now uses to pick apart opposing defenses. He starred at Baltimore’s Gilman School as an attackman and played with current Princeton star Ryan Boyle.

“I got so used to knowing where people are on the field and having a good sense of where people are going to be and knowing the personnel and who’s going to shoot the ball well,” Boland said. “I don’t shoot the ball 90-plus, so it’s my job to get the ball to the guys who can shoot. If I have to feed the ball to help the offense, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Yet few programs seemed interested in the 5-foot-9 Boland. Duke and Virginia gave him cursory glances, but Hopkins, then coached by John Haus, was the only major school that stayed with him throughout the recruiting process. The summer before Boland arrived, Haus left for North Carolina and was replaced by Pietramala, though Boland settled in and played regularly as a freshman.

He followed with a pair of third-team All-America seasons on Hopkins’ second midfield line, emerging as an excellent feeder with an innate ability to be part of big goals.

“He’s a very good off-the-ball player, but the guys know that if they do the right thing and move off the ball, Kevin will find them,” Hopkins offensive coordinator Seth Tierney said. “Somehow, some way, Kevin will make a play, whether it’s an easy pass, a skip pass, a pass to the pole, a ground ball. They know when the ball’s in his stick, something good is going to happen.”

His emergence as a leader on a Hopkins team stacked with talent increased his value. Boland became a point man between the coaching staff and the rest of the team, welcoming freshmen to the program and even helping them move in when they arrived on campus.

“You can’t measure what a kid like Kevin brings to your program,” Pietramala said. “There’s so much more he does than the naked eye sees. Before the freshmen arrive, he will e-mail them and call them and say, ‘I look forward to playing with you.’ How unbelievable is that for those kids to get that kind of e-mail?”

With 13 goals and 29 assists this year, Boland has become even more of a handful than in the past. He broke the program record for assists from a midfielder (79) earlier this month, passing four-time first team All-American Del Dressel.

With scoring threats like midfielder Kyle Harrison and attackman Conor Ford surrounding him, Boland has created some difficult decisions for coaches who might be tempted to defend him with a short stick.

“You’re scared to put a pole on him but scared to not to put a pole on him,” Princeton coach Bill Tierney said. “He can score if you don’t slide to him and will have some amazing assists if you do. With Hopkins you know who the superstars are. Then you look at the stat sheet and he has one [goal] and three [assists], or two and two. … I’d love to have a team of Kevin Bolands.”

Boland hopes to enter coaching and could serve on Hopkins’ staff next season. A first-team All-America selection could come this weekend, but the Jessup, Md., native has other things on his mind as his career winds to a close.

“There’s such a bigger picture,” Boland said. “When I end my career, I’m not going to remember being an All-American. I’m going to remember playing in the final four, and I’m going to remember winning a national championship. I would so much rather have a ring on my finger than be a first-team All-American, though that would be a great honor.”

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