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Catching Up With ... Tom Marechek

He brought a swagger to lacrosse with his flashy play and endless array of acrobatic shots which, decades later, still rack up views on YouTube. How many different ways could Tom Marechek, onetime star of the Baltimore Bayhawks, score goals? Behind his back. Between his legs. Off the alley-oop pass.

A crowd favorite was Marechek's "celebration goal," a maneuver in which he would fake a shot, then raise his arms in mock triumph.

"When the goalie slumped and turned to pick the ball out of the net, that's when I dumped it in," he said. "The goalie didn't look too happy."

Fans whooped and rallied around Marechek, whose pliant moves seemed part P.T. Barnum, part Gumby. He retired from the Bayhawks in 2007, having helped them win two Major League Lacrosse championships (2002 and 2005) in seven years. He still ranks No. 2 on the franchise's all-time list in total points, goals and assists.

It was the last in a series of starring roles for the Canadian-born Marechek, a four-time All American at Syracuse, nine-time All-Pro in the National Lacrosse League and member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Now 43, Marechek settled in Homewood, where he lives with his wife and two sons and coaches lacrosse at Friends. There, on occasion, he'll wow his players with those moves of old.

"You can easily get caught up in the seriousness of the game so, at practice, I'll make things lighter to show the kids how much fun lacrosse can be," he said.

Marechek grabs his weathered stick and the magic begins. Behind the back. Between the legs. Players react with oooohs and aaaahs.

"They shout, 'Cooooooaaach! What are you doing? That's fantastic! That's incredible! That's ridiculous!' " he said.

Then showtime is over and practice resumes.

"We just kid around with these trick shots. I don't work with anybody on this stuff," Marechek said. "Yes, it was my bread and butter, but here [at Friends] and in my clinics, we stick to the basics."

At times, players will try to mimick their coach's moves during games. Marechek's response?

"If they are successful, then good for them and I'll smile," he said. "If not, they'll throw against the wall, in practice, for a long, long time."

This year, his second at Friends, the Quakers went 7-10 and reached the semifinals of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference tournament. Last year's team lost in the championship game.

Before that, Marechek was head coach at Glenelg Country School and an assistant at McDonogh.

In college, he starred — alongside brothers Gary and Paul Gait — on Syracuse's NCAA championship teams in 1989 and 1990. The latter went undefeated.

"But the best team I ever played on was probably the 2005 Bayhawks," said Marechek, who was flanked on attack by Gary Gait and Mike Powell (Syracuse). "We dominated the MLL. We walked onto the field at Johnny Unitas Stadium, every game, banging our pockets, and smiling, and knowing we'd win by 10 goals."

Saturday, when Syracuse plays Denver in the NCAA semifinals in Philadelphia, Marechek will be there, wearing his old school's colors. He and his family have box seats on the 50-yard line at Lincoln Financial Field.

"It'll bring back memories, yes," he said. "It has been a good career, but it's not over.

"I want to build Friends' program to the power it used to be, when guys like Kyle Harrison and Joe Cowan played here. I have lacrosse camps at Goucher College, St. Timothy's School and everywhere from Hershey [Pa.] to Shreveport [La.]. And to be honest, more and more, in the back of my mind I think about coaching in college."

At some point, Marechek said, he would also like to master the game of golf:

"I just wish that a club felt as good in my hands as a lacrosse stick does."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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