Not patient on pause

The Baltimore Sun

For many lacrosse players, the first 48 hours of the week - which usually begin after Saturday's slate of games and end with Monday's practices - seemingly take forever.

That was especially true for Shane Koppens, who spent many waking moments reviewing his scoreless performance in Loyola's 8-6 upset loss to Massachusetts last Saturday.

"I couldn't wait to practice on Monday," the fifth-year senior attackman said. "I wanted to get out there and score the first goal in practice. I don't like not playing up to my potential."

That approach illustrates Koppens' competitive spirit and desire. Despite sitting out the first two games of the season in exchange for a fifth year of eligibility, Koppens leads the No. 19 Greyhounds (5-3) in assists (10) and points (22) and ranks third in goals (12).

Koppens, who has averaged 19.5 goals and 45 points in his previous two seasons, figures to be the focus of No. 2 Syracuse's defensive attention when the Orange (6-1) visits Diane Geppi-Aikens Field at noon Saturday.

"I don't really think about pressure," said Koppens, who could face Sid Smith or John Lade. "I know that when I'm out there, I'm probably going to draw their No. 1 guy, which is going to free up the other great dodgers on our attack. I don't think there's much pressure because I think I can get them the ball."

Although opposing defenses give Koppens his due, he's still somewhat of an unknown commodity in some lacrosse circles - and even in his own league.

The 2008 Offensive Player of the Year in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, Koppens watched the league's coaches vote Rutgers' Justin Pennington as the 2009 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Koppens' name is rarely mentioned in the discussion for the Tewaaraton Trophy, which is awarded annually to the game's best player.

That's a mistake, according to Matt Ward.

"I think he doesn't get some of the recognition that a lot of players do, and that's probably the fault of others," said Ward, an ESPN analyst and the 2006 Tewaaraton Trophy winner. "He's a very skilled, lefty attackman, and he's had a great season. He's put up a ton of points. He missed the first two games of the year, but in terms of points per game, he's right up there. He should definitely be getting a little more attention on the national level."

It wasn't always a smooth ride for Koppens. After he enrolled at Loyola as a freshman in 2005, coach Charley Toomey said he had many conversations with him about getting to class on time and getting along with his older teammates.

With each passing year, Koppens has shed his shyness and has learned to become a leader, Toomey said. Koppens has not only made an impression on his younger teammates but also on Toomey's 8-year-old daughter.

"Every night when I put her to bed, there's a picture of her and Shane next to her bed," Toomey said. "That is her favorite player because he takes time with little kids. That's the type of person that he is. They gravitate to him - whether it's a freshman or an 8-year old."

Toomey doesn't hide the fact that the ball goes through Koppens' stick on offense. That's why Koppens is intent on making amends for his play last Saturday, which was only the fourth time in his career he was held without a point.

"I don't like making mistakes," he said. "When I do, I want to get right back out there and make a better play. This past Saturday, I didn't contribute to the team, and that's something I want to do."

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