Because more than half of the Catonsville Lacrosse Club 35-and-over players who compete in Howard County summer and fall lacrosse leagues are also coaching youth lacrosse in Catonsville, the veteran team’s camaraderie is as good as it gets.
After coaching and playing together, they simply enjoy “hanging with the guys,” as Catonsville resident Chris Kirby described postgame get-togethers.
On the field, they are reliving their glory days while blossoming into a quality squad preparing for the playoffs after going 5-2 through seven games with one game remaining.
Kirby and Greg Gentner, who also hails from Catonsville, started the local team in the summer of 2011 after getting the idea from club player John Adelsburger.
Gentner, who played soccer at West Chester University, hadn’t played lacrosse for 21 years after his stick career ended in his junior year at Loyola Blakefield due to a skiing injury.
“It’s been really fun,” said, Gentner, 38. “There are some really good players out there. I just enjoy the competition. I missed it.”
“A lot of guys still had an itch to play,” said Kirby, who sought to upgrade the team’s roster after a 2-8 rookie season.
Adding Matt Hahn, once the all-time leading scorer at the University of Maryland and a former Major League Lacrosse standout for the Rochester Rattlers, helped.
Hahn also coaches in the Catonsville youth league with 35-and-over teammate Jim Huelscamp, a former star at Salisbury State University and captain of the now-defunct Baltimore Thunder professional indoor team.
“I’ve played with a lot of good players,” Huelscamp said. “But I’m really proud to play with this group of men and coach with them, too, because they really care about the kids in the program. That is the prime reason I play with this team, because they are outstanding men.”
Huelscamp, 50, recently participated in a masters tournament in Rhode Island and is slated for another in Ocean City, Md. in mid-August.
Still, he cherishes games with the Catonsville crew.
“I love to play with those guys on Monday nights,” said Huelscamp, who has two kids in the Catonsville youth program.
Huelscamp was the age-group coordinator for the Catonsville boys soft sticks program, which boasts around 100 under-5 participants in its second year of existence.
Jay Marszal, 49, the 35-and-over team’s goalie, is one of 13 Mount St. Joseph grads on the roster.
“I still get hit, but it doesn’t bother me,” said Marszal, noting enemy shooters have far less zip on their shots than they did in the 1980s. “It’s the stage of their careers where most of them have slowed down.”
Although Marszal also coached his triplet daughters in a Tyker program in the spring, he still makes time to join the Catonsville graybeards on the field.
He said he is eagerly anticipating the playoffs, which will feature the top-six squads in the 13-team division.
The next-best six teams meet in a consolation playoff tournament.
“The competition is still there for everybody, and I think everybody steps it up a notch in the playoffs,” said Marszal, who started playing in the sport at age 5 and did so for 30 years before taking a 10-year hiatus.
When the summer season ends in August, the old guys have little time to recuperate before the Howard County fall season begins in mid-September. It runs through mid-November.
They also play a spring session in the Maryland Masters League, which runs from March through May.
Gentner noted that “more than anything, we want to enjoy playing together,” he said. “We’re actually a pretty decent team.”
A team that, like its rivals, feels the aches and pains of playing a young man’s sport in such a competitive environment.
Just ask Josh Vicchio, a Mount St. Joe varsity assistant, who’s just happy to be back out on the field after suffering broken ribs while playing.
And that shows that the sport can still be physically challenging for the veteran players.
“Sometimes, you are like, ‘What am I doing out here?,’” said Kirby, a 1988 St. Joe graduate.
In the end, though, the fun of competing outweighs the risks.
Seeing a picture-perfect behind-the-back shot for a goal by St. Joe alum Jeff Newstead in a recent triumph over The Chill was one such moment to savor.
“That was sweet,” Kirby said.
“It made me look like I could play,” joked Newstead, a freshman lacrosse coach at Mount St. Joe.
Among the other youth coaches on the 35-and-over roster is 1990 Catonsville Times Athlete of the Year Brian Bateman.
Catonsville native and St. Joe graduate Jay Muir joins Kirby, Gentner, Adelsburger, Aaron Brown, Chris Cheuvront, Kevin Gemmill, Matt Doyle, Matt Hipszer, Matt O’Ferrall, Rique Sanchez and Steve Ruppel as youth coaches who also still play the sport.
Gemmell, Bateman and Jason Rubin, the former junior varsity coach at Catonsville High, are all former Comets.