Noah Chizmar had a lacrosse stick in his hands as soon as he could grip one. His passion for the sport only grew, and as an 8-year-old, he used his family’s salt-and-pepper shaker set to draw up plays on the kitchen table in their home in Bel Air.
“I used to have full playbooks of random plays I would think of,” he said through email. “I had so much fun doing it and would probably annoy my brother and parents trying to show them every single play.”
His father, Richard Chizmar, recalled Noah asking him to drive to high school games so he could watch future opponents of older brother Billy, a goalkeeper at St. Paul’s, and provide him with a detailed scouting report of shooters’ tendencies. His mother, Kara Chizmar, noted that Noah also played soccer and basketball (as Billy did), but favored lacrosse.
“He has a genuine love for the sport and works hard at it,” she wrote via email.
Noah Chizmar’s fervor has guided him to top-ranked Virginia, where he is one of the team’s top short-stick defensive midfielders. In five games thus far, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound sophomore has six ground balls, one caused turnover and three goals.
The seven-time NCAA champion Cavaliers — who recently won titles in 2019 and 2021 — improved to 5-0 after handling No. 10 Johns Hopkins, 18-13, on Tuesday night at Homewood Field. In that game, Chizmar had one assist and one ground ball.
Before the game, Virginia coach Lars Tiffany compared Chizmar to former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas, who used his football IQ to overcome perceived physical shortcomings.
“He is disruptive,” Tiffany said of Chizmar. “He’s getting it where he’s not just surviving the dodger and funneling him to an alley, but he is getting to that next step where he can get to the gloves and lift and scrape and create some errant passes.”
Chizmar’s route to lacrosse might not be that stunning considering his parents’ roots in the sport. Richard was a midfielder at Edgewood, CCBC Essex and UMBC before injuries led him to pursue a journalism degree at Maryland. The former Kara Tipton played attack at Edgewood and midfield at Johns Hopkins for three seasons.
Richard Chizmar credits lacrosse with helping him overcome two bouts with testicular cancer when he was 29 and 30 years old.
“A lot of my lacrosse background came into play there because I remember telling my doctor at GBMC, ‘Tell me what to do, and I will do it better than any patient you’ve ever had,’” he said. “That came directly from the field where I was like, ‘Just tell me what to do to get better, and I’ll do it.’”
Despite being told he would not be able to father children, he and Kara — married since January 1991 — welcomed Billy in 1998 and Noah in 2002. “We beat some odds for a few years there,” he said.
At St. Paul’s, Billy Chizmar backed up Alex Rode, who starred at Virginia, before playing at Division III Colby College. Noah was initially committed to play at Marquette and underwent surgery to combat compartment syndrome in both legs to return for his senior year of high school, but then changed his mind.
“I actually was not recruited by Virginia for lacrosse,” he wrote. “I was initially committed to Marquette University and applied to UVA for school, and was rewarded a spot on the team when I got into the school here.”
As a freshman walk-on in 2022, Chizmar developed into one of the Cavaliers’ top short-stick defensive midfielders, accumulating 15 ground balls, three caused turnovers, three assists and one goal in all 16 games. Tiffany acknowledged that he had doubts about whether Chizmar would pan out.
“I didn’t want Noah Chizmar until tryouts began and then quickly realized, ‘Oh, my goodness, we need Noah Chizmar,’” he said. “It’s difficult to pick up our defense in the first year. It takes a good year, year-and-a-half to understand the nomenclature and the schemes, and within a couple weeks, he had a very strong grasp of it.”
If there is one person who could author Noah Chizmar’s fairy tale-like emergence, it would be his father. Richard Chizmar has written several novels, including “Chasing the Boogeyman,” and screenplays, founded Cemetery Dance magazine shortly after graduating from Maryland, run a publishing company called Cemetery Dance Publications and collaborated with bestselling horror author Stephen King.
Noah Chizmar called growing up with a famous father “very cool.”
“I think the best part about it is that you would never guess my dad is someone famous,” he wrote. “He’s arguably the funniest person I know.”
Richard Chizmar is modest about his success in the literary world, but can’t suppress the fatherly pride he has when discussing the 2018 short story “Widow’s Point” that he wrote with Billy. He joked that his reputation has not preceded him in lacrosse circles.
“There’s still a lot of folks who don’t know what I do, and I’m not a hand-shaker, small-talk, squeeze-it-in ‘I just wrote this book’ kind of guy,” he said. “It’s usually they see [my name] mentioned somewhere in some kind of press or Kara lets it out that I don’t have a normal job and that’s how we’re able to get to all of these games.”
During Tuesday’s game, Richard and Kara Chizmar and more than a dozen family members and friends turned out to support Noah and the Cavaliers, who are the leading candidates to win this year’s national championship. Richard said such a scenario would be rewarding.
“In many ways, it’s kind of like a job, but the neat thing with Noah is that he’s never viewed it like that,” he said. “He’s one of those kids who just loves to play, loves to practice. Knowing that makes that possibility even more exciting. … But I don’t want to think too far ahead. We’re going game by game. I don’t want to jinx them.”