Ryan Shuler already made one big change during his senior season at Georgetown. The second one just felt right.
An offensive player throughout his lacrosse career, Shuler found himself as one of the Hoyas’ top short stick defensive midfield shortly after making the switch. There was one request stemming from it: the chance to wear No. 40, his number when he played defensive back in high school, during practice.
“The 22 wasn’t really working out for me,” Shuler said of the number he’s worn since arriving at Georgetown.
Just about everything else about the switch has for the Hoyas (5-6), who play host to No. 14 Yale (9-2) on Saturday.
Shuler, who made his debut as a defensive midfielder March 12 against Syracuse, leads the Hoyas’ short sticks with five caused turnovers. He’s paired with junior Gerry Reilly to help stem Georgetown’s early-season defensive issues.
Before the switch, the Hoyas were gashed for 14.3 goals per game. In the seven games since, Georgetown has surrendered eight goals an outing - and more than 10 just once.
Yet Shuler’s willingness to make the move has made a difference beyond on-field production as the Hoyas venture deeper into the spring despite some of the team’s struggles.
“I think it’s been huge,” defenseman Bobby Boyle said. “You see your leader not just talking the talk but walking the walk. He’s senior captain, and he came in as an attackman and played some midfield and it didn’t matter to him to switch over. When everyone sees that, it’s a perfect case of leading by example, which Ryan has always done.”
Shuler was a starter for much of 2009 and 2010 while splitting time between attack and midfield, scoring 15 goals over the two seasons. But the emergence of Travis Comeau and Davey Emala meant opportunities on attack would be limited this spring.
Eventually, the glut of attackmen became clear, particularly while the Hoyas struggled to find answers at the defensive end. A switch was made - right before the Hoyas faced Syracuse.
“It wasn’t much time - I wasn’t allowed much time,” Shuler said. “I had to pick it up fast. We played a lot of zone the first game, and that made the transition easier. Coach [Matt] Rienzo and the other guys on defense were giving me lessons on what I needed to be doing and what my role was. I didn’t have to do anything special. I just needed to know my role and play within the team defense.”
At halftime and after the game, teammates praised him for his rapid adjustment to a significantly different job. Rather than have a chance to score, Shuler’s task now is to hold up at a position most coaches view as a logical place to attack - something Shuler has done well.
“I give him a lot of credit,” coach Dave Urick said. “To accept a role like this, I think he takes a lot of pride in it. He understands it’s a very difficult thing to do. Not just anyone on our team can do it. It’s a significant role and an unsung role.”