- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

A few years ago, Navy assistant John Tillman was discussing prospects he watched that summer at the Top 205 camp, the largest collection of rising senior high school lacrosse players in the country.

Suddenly, one name grabbed the attention of coach Richie Meade.

“William Wallace, we have to recruit him. I don’t care how good he is. We have to have a guy named William Wallace in there,” Tillman recalled Meade saying. “You ever see ‘Braveheart’? No? Oh, it’s the best movie ever. But he better be tough, though.”

Wallace has more than satisfied that requirement for the No. 8 Midshipmen (9-2), who visit No. 7 Johns Hopkins (5-4) this afternoon. The senior ranks second nationally with a .704 faceoff winning percentage and also has nine goals and three assists on Navy’s second midfield line.

This season has provided a bit of a release for Wallace, who has contributed throughout his career. He was a valuable role player when Navy reached the national final in 2004 and ran on the second midfield the next year. But last spring Navy could ill-afford to wear him out when they needed him to faceoff, so he rarely played offense.

That changed this spring after Wallace worked not only to improve his own faceoff game but also those of juniors Dan Decker and Mikelis Visgauss. More faceoff options have freed Wallace up to use his sizzling shot on Navy’s second midfield line and on the Mids’ extra-man unit, a spot Wallace has wanted for several years.

“I’ve been fortunate to contribute in little ways all four years,” Wallace said. “… Now to be able to play offense, second line midfield, extra man and take faceoffs, it’s perfect.”

It’s an equilibrium that took Wallace a long time to achieve. The native of the Detroit suburbs was Michigan’s Mr. Hockey in 2002 but gradually came to see lacrosse as his best avenue for athletic success in college.

Not that he expected it would be at Navy. At the same camp Tillman watched, Wallace perused the dozens of tables college programs set up to recruit prospects and moved right past the Mids’ display.

“I remember walking by the Navy table, and all the Navy stuff was out, and I looked at it and thought, ‘What the heck is that school?’ ” Wallace said. “It’s kind of funny how karma or fate comes back to get you. I thought, ‘No way. I have no idea what that means.’ ”

Wallace warmed to the idea when Tillman called him later that year, and his hockey background has helped him throughout his lacrosse career. There is some carryover between securing possession of a puck and a lacrosse ball, and Wallace showed a knack for collecting groundballs as early as the Patriot League tournament his freshman year.

The skill will be crucial today against Hopkins, which has not lost to the Mids since 1974, a string of 32 games. Few teams value possession as much as the Blue Jays, who used a run of second-half faceoff victories to earn a 9-8 victory last year in Annapolis.

“Wallace is the kind of guy that can break you off the faceoff and go down and score a goal,” senior midfielder Billy Looney said. “That’s huge, especially in close games down the stretch. Every extra goal, every little groundball is going help, and Wallace has shown he can do that the past couple years.”

The impressive play doesn’t entirely obscure his familiar moniker. There always seems to be some murmurs in the crowd whenever his name is announced during a game. Looney said he heard how Wallace’s company had him dress up in a cape and deliver a speech from Braveheart.

And then there’s his coach with an affinity for the 1995 Oscar-winning film.

“I always refer to him as ‘Young Wallace,’ ” Meade said. “As much fun as the name is, the guy is more fun. I think his teammates love him. He’s just a really good kid. When I get a chance to interact with people with the very beginning part of their adult life, there’s some guys you know are can’t-miss guys, and he’s one of them.”

As for Wallace’s take on the famous name?

“People always have to hint at it and acknowledge it,” Wallace said. “I don’t mind if someone mentions it, so I know that they know so we both kind of know. But when people repeatedly say it, I guess it gets kind of annoying. That movie was a long time ago.”

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