BJ Burlace had already absorbed one gut punch this spring.
Burlace’s freshman season with the Yale men’s lacrosse team was cut short when the Ivy League cancelled spring sports on March 11. That decision shocked the collegiate sports world at the time, but two days later the NCAA followed suit due to the coronavirus crisis.
On Tuesday afternoon, Burlace learned he would not be representing the United States on the international stage this summer as planned.
The Edgewater resident was taking an online class in the basement of his house in South River Landing when he was interrupted. “My dad called me upstairs to take a look at an email he’d just gotten,” said Burlace, the Capital Gazette Newspapers Co-Player of the Year in 2019.
That email was from US Lacrosse announcing the 2020 Men’s Under-19 World Championships would not be held as scheduled. World Lacrosse and the Limerick 2020 Organizing Committee decided jointly to not conduct the championships this summer because of the worldwide pandemic.
Word spread quickly among the United States Under-19 national team members through group text messages.
“All the guys on the team are definitely disappointed because we’ve put in a lot of work,” Burlace said. “Everyone is really bummed, for sure. Given the circumstances, it’s probably the best decision.”
Burlace, a long stick midfielder, is one of six Baltimore-area products on the U.S. Under-19 squad. Calvert Hall had four players make the team in midfielders Cole Herbert (North Carolina), twins Grant and Connor Mitchell (Ohio State) along with defenseman Jacob Snyder (Ohio State).
McDonogh defenseman Jackson Bonitz (Navy) and Boys’ Latin midfielder Brendan Grimes (Johns Hopkins) are the other current or former MIAA A Conference standouts on the roster.
World Lacrosse has initiated a consultation process with governing bodies for the 20 nations that had planned to participate in the event to assess a full range of options. Later this week, World Lacrosse will host two virtual “town hall meetings” to obtain further feedback and recommendations regarding the future of the Men’s Under-19 World Championship.
Burlace’s path to the United States Under-19 team began when he was a senior at St. Mary’s and received a letter stating he was among 100 players invited to try out. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder participated in three separate training camps that were each followed by a round of cuts.
Ohio State head coach Nick Meyers, who is serving his second straight stint leading the U.S. Under-19 team, conducted a weekend camp this past fall that featured scrimmages against Culver Military Academy and The Hill School. Team USA then participated in the Spring Premiere in San Antonio, Texas in early January before US Lacrosse announced the final 23-man roster.
“It was a pretty grueling process, so it was a huge deal when I found out I made the team,” Burlace said. “I was really looking forward to wearing the red, white and blue uniform and representing my country. That is something I had dreamed about my whole life.”
Steve Hogan, Chief Executive Officer for Florida Citrus Sports, was quite outspoken during a recent interview with the Orlando Sentinel about bringing the Army-Navy game to one of the most visited cities in the world.
Now Burlace cannot be sure it will ever happen. World Lacrosse could simply decide to cancel the Under-19 championships for this cycle and begin preparations for the next tournament in 2024.
“They haven’t told us a ton to be honest,” Burlace said in apparent reference to US Lacrosse. “I’m praying at some point they do find a way to reschedule the tournament. This is a crazy situation, an unprecedented time.”
Burlace has been picking up the lacrosse stick almost every day and playing in the backyard along with younger brothers Colin and Gavin, who are a junior and freshman, respectively, at St. Mary’s High.
Brian Burlace, a former University of Maryland All-American and veteran defensive coordinator for St. Mary’s boys’ lacrosse, has told his eldest son to look at the big picture and hope for the best.
“BJ had been looking forward to this and working hard toward it. To have the rug pulled out from under him at this stage is tough to handle,” Brian Burlace said of the Under-19 World Championships being cancelled.
“In the grand scheme of things, there’s a lot more going on in the world than a lacrosse tournament. When you watch the news and see what’s happening, you realize sports is not life or death," added Burlace, the 1992 Schmeisser Award winner as the best defenseman in Division I and a Chesapeake Chapter of US Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee.
BJ Burlace will turn 19 years old in April, which would mean he would be 20 if the world championships are indeed held in the summer of 2021.
“I told BJ not to worry about the things you cannot control. This is something out of his control, so there’s no need to stress about it. Worrying is not going to change anything,” said Brian Burlace, who is now wondering whether he can recoup the $12,000 in air fare he spent to get his entire family to Limerick, Ireland for the world championships.
Yale men’s lacrosse owned a 3-1 record and was ranked fifth in the Inside Lacrosse Maverik Media Poll at the time its season was cancelled. Burlace had not played in a game and would retain a year of eligibility as a result. However, the Ivy League does not permit redshirts, which would mean the St. Mary’s High graduate would be classified as a sophomore in 2021.