Gettysburg's Steve Mayer and Washington College's Jamie Carver have taken different paths to today's Middle Atlantic Conference lacrosse championship.
Mayer, a senior and Liberty High graduate, has returned from a broken hand that sidelined him most of last season to lead the Bullets in scoring. Carver, a junior and South Carroll graduate, has established himself as one of the finest defensive midfielders in the Division III ranks.
The Gettysburg-Washington College rivalry is not quite as heated as the Liberty-South Carroll battles that both endured in high school, but it certainly has had a good start.
Last season, Washington's first in the MAC, Gettysburg defeated the Shoremen, 17-10, in the MAC final to win its second straight title. Even more is on the line this year. Washington (11-2) comes in ranked seventh in the Division III poll, and Gettysburg (8-3) is right behind at No. 8. Eight teams qualify for the NCAA Division III championships.
"The winner of this game may get that final eighth seed," Carver said. "I'm looking forward to it, and our team is, too. It was a tight game through three quarters and into the fourth last year, then we fell apart a little, and they put it to us. We're keeping that in consideration and plan to use that experience to our advantage when we go up there this time."
Mayer has come back to make his senior year one to remember. He needed surgery after breaking his right hand in a practice after the Bullets' second game last year. He wasn't quite sure how things would go in his final year.
"It was the first time in a long while I had to sit and watch the game -- it got pretty frustrating last year," he said. "I wasn't sure what to expect coming back after a year off. I started playing again last summer back home in Carroll and got off to a pretty good start [this spring]. It helped my confidence a lot."
Coming into today's championship, Mayer has 25 goals and 29 assists to lead the Bullets with 54 points at his right attack position.
"That's a tough injury to come back from, especially for an attacker. Steve's often drawing the opponent's big stud on defense and is constantly getting whacked on that hand in game situations," Gettysburg coach Hank Janczyk said.
"But he's come back really strong and is our leading scorer. He's a great feeder -- one of the best assist men in the nation at the Division III level -- rides real well and goes to the cage strong. He just does so many different things for us."
Carver also played the attack position in high school, but Washington College coach Terry Corcoran moved him to midfield his freshman year, and he has flourished into a solid two-way player.
"Going from high school to college was a major step -- it's a totally different ballgame," Carver said. "As for switching to midfield, it wasn't very difficult, and I really enjoy it."
Corcoran praises Carver's hard-nosed ways, which suits a defensive midfielder. The 11-year coach also is quick to mention the junior's big-play capabilities, including a clutch third-period goal in a 12-10 win against Washington & Lee last month.
"Jamie's our top defensive midfielder and a player who comes up with some clutch plays for us," Corcoran said.
"He goes up against a lot of the top offensive threats and always gives it everything he's got. He's a kid who gives you 150 percent and can run all day."
Carver has nine goals and one assist and is second on the team in ground balls with 52. Although he said there is nothing better than scoring a goal, he has learned to appreciate the other side of the game -- defense.
"Definitely, getting a goal is the most rewarding feeling -- there's just nothing better," he said.
"But coming up with a big play on defense, checking a guy off the ball and then scooping up a ground ball and getting it to an attacker and watching him score -- that's a good feeling, too."