Seems Like Old Times
October 20, 1998
By David Driver
reprinted with permission from Cavalier Corner
“It was like a hippie team that rose to the top,” said Rick Beach, with a laugh.
HHr is much shorter these days for the former Virginia men’s lacrosse players who won the national title in 1972. Their ball handling isn’t quite as adept, and their steps are more measured. But make no mistake these guys not far from 50 can still play.
The “Old Glory,” with 10 Virginia alumni on the team (most from the 72 team), won the world title in the Grand Masters Lacrosse Games on July 21 at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The world championships are held every four years.
“We were the only (world) team that had a core group of players,” said Dr. Tom Schildwachter, who played on Virginia’s unbeaten team in 1971 and was an assistant coach on the 1972 team that won the Division I crown. “We had two hard practices (prior to the worlds). It was hot as hell. Everyone is a little bit slower, but there were some really great players.”
“It was about 120 degrees on the field for the title game,” said Beach, a New Jersey resident, who scored the first goal in the championship game in the over-45 division for Old Glory.
Old Glory won all five of its games in the event. Of the 28 players on the team, 11 were former Virginia players, according to Beach.
“We had an edge since we had a nucleus of players,” said George Turner, who sells real estate in Annapolis, Md.
Several of the former Cavaliers who live in the Baltimore area hosted their ex-teammates from out of town during the world championships.
The title win came over the USA Stars, 7-4, during a week that the former Cavs will remember not only for their win but for the lacrosse nirvana that came to Charm City.
Former Cavs Greg Traynor (class of 95), David Curry (97) and Michael Watson (98) played for the winning U.S. team in the “regular” world championships. Chris Sanderson (98) was the starting goalie for Canada and was named all-world at the end of the tournament.
“It was a good atmosphere,” said Schildwachter, who has a practice in Charlottesville and helps coach St. Anne’s-Belfield. “There were some really great players. The level of competition was good.”
“It was exciting lacrosse,” said current Virginia men’s coach Dom Starsia, who played in the 35-and-over division. “You had some competitive teams.”
What made the world championships even more meaningful was that the players’ families were also involved. Many of the former Cavaliers now watch their sons and daughters play the sport, and several coach at the youth level.
Starsia’s son played on the youth field while he took part in master’s action this past July. Schildwachter’s oldest daughter plays at the University of North Carolina.
Turner, a member of the 1972 team, is part of a three-generation family that has played lacrosse.
His father played the game in the 1930s in the Annapolis area, and his brother played for Navy in the 1950s. Turner has coached in an Annapolis youth league, and he has two boys that play.
But the men are drawn to the past as well.
Virginia was unbeaten in 1971 during the regular season but lost in the first round of that tournament to Navy.
Then, in 1972, Virginia won the title over Johns Hopkins by one goal in College Park, Md. And it was at Johns Hopkins where the Grand Masters team won the world title this past summer.
The 1972 team is the last Virginia men’s lacrosse squad to win a national title, though the Cavaliers have had several solid teams since then.
That, along with the fact that members of the team have kept close ties, gives the squad a special place in Virginia athletic history.
“They keep bringing us back (to Charlottesville) to honor us and give inspiration” to current Cavalier teams, said Turner, with a laugh. “I guess we haven’t inspired them enough! It’s time for someone else to carry the torch.”
At the Final Four of the Division I men’s championship in 1997, held at the University of Maryland, the Virginia team was recognized for its national title 25 years ago.
“They are very active alumni and active with us in lacrosse,” said Starsia, who played midfield in college at Brown and said he played against the Cavs in 1973. “It is kind of neat.”
Rodney Rullman, the goalie on the 1972 title team, was eligible to play for Old Glory in the world championships but played in the 35-and-over division with Starsia and Steve Byrne, a current Virginia assistant, on a team called Sailin’ Shoes.
“My biggest memory (of 1972) was I was a first-year goalie playing on a team of upperclassmen,” he said. “I lucked out to play with a group of upperclassmen. Those guys carried me.”
In 1973, Virginia lost in the NCAA semifinals, and in 1974 the Cavs lost in the quarterfinals; they did not get a bid in 1975, the fourth year for Rullman on the team.
Rullman, also an assistant at St. Anne’s-Belfield, is a branch manager of a stock brokerage firm in Charlottesville with 17 employees.
He said the extent of his practicing the game is getting in front of the net at St. Anne’s and letting players take shots at him.
“I haven’t played summer ball or club ball in 15 years,” he said.
But he found the time to play this summer in Baltimore, perhaps to bring back memories of the glory days.
Rullman said lacrosse was a close-knit sport in the early 1970s.
“The fifth quarter was when we all got together after the game,” said Rullman, who like Beach played high school lacrosse on Long Island.
“It is very fraternal,” said Beach.
And very motivating. Beach said his team hopes to defend its title in 2002 in Australia.