McCormack leading by example

By Jackson Alexander

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Check out more from the Collegian’s Lacrosse Special Issue: UMass lacrosse shy away from NCAA | Women’s lacrosse is returning the bulk of its roster | McMahon enters second season at helm of women’s lacrosse | Asser: Lacrosse teams a great source of UMass pride | Scribner: Everybody loves overtime lacrosse | Minutemen highlighted by veteran experience | Off the field work translates to on-field excellence for Manny | Collegian’s Special Issue in Print

Most college athletes hope to play every single game, and every single second of every single game. So it can’t be easy watching from the sidelines for two straight seasons.

That’s exactly what redshirt senior goalie Tim McCormack did to get where he is today.

During his first two collegiate years, McCormack played just two games, and saw exactly 21 minutes and 13 seconds of playing time.

That lack of playing time is usually grounds for frustration, but McCormack viewed his situation differently.

“Personally, for me, it was awesome,” said McCormack.

“It’s very hard to come into this league and play right away, and to sit behind a guy, an All-American of Doc’s caliber, was a great experience,” he added.

The redshirt senior spent his first two years waiting for his turn behind former UMass goalie Doc Schneider.

For anyone unfamiliar with Schneider’s accolades, here are a few: he was taken 13th overall in the 2009 Major League Lacrosse Draft, named 2009 ECAC Goalie of the Year, 2009 All-ECAC first team, 2009 UMass Male Athlete of the Year and 2009 Tewaaraton Trophy final nominee.

In essence, McCormack was never going to play in the two years that he spent behind Schneider.

After playing in just two games in his freshman year, the coaching staff opted to redshirt him the next year, in order to keep a year of eligibility.

He could have either used this experience as an excuse to give up, or use it to grow. McCormack chose to grow.

“It’s just been a huge learning process as far as lacrosse, and even further, in terms of life as well,” he said.

McCormack began his redshirt sophomore year as the starting goalie. Schneider – now an assistant coach – had graduated the year before, and McCormack used the lessons he learned to beat out Steve Mahle for the starting spot.

“I think he was taught by coach Schneider on how to prepare yourself,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella. “When [Tim] was a freshman, he had to get him ready to play at this level.”

McCormack started all 14 games that season and went 8-6 for the year.

He ended the season with a 10.13 goals against average and a 52.3 save percentage. Neither of those figures put him amongst the elite goalies of the league, but considering it was his first full season against tough competition, he could have done worse.

However, the following year, he was no longer simply fighting for playing time. He had the starting goalie position on lock down, but now he’d be strapped with the added responsibility of lone captaincy.

He was just a redshirt junior but he responded well to his new leadership role on the team. McCormack upped his play in net, while demonstrating extraordinary leadership qualities.

“His best attributes are probably his desire and his leadership qualities,” said Cannella.

“I like to lead by example and hopefully show some of the younger guys, that there’s other ways to do things, it doesn’t always have to be the cool way,” said McCormack.

He finished the season with a 10-6 record, posted an 8.28 GAA and held a 55 save percentage, both drastic improvements from his previous season. Between the wins recorded and the improved statistics, McCormack had officially broken into the league as an elite goaltender.

McCormack now enters his fifth and final year in a Minuteman uniform.

“You learn something new every year, you could even break it down to weeks and even days,” said McCormack of his time at UMass.

He now finds himself in the exact opposite situation he was in just three years ago.

Today, McCormack is the big man on campus with the multiple awards, and accolades, and he has two protégés waiting in the wing.

“Now I think that [Tim] is passing it on to Reed Goodhue and Zach Oliveri,” said Cannella.

Goodhue, a sophomore, and Oliveri, a freshman, won’t get the chance to play much this year after a serious injury, but they will have the opportunity to learn from McCormack.

Just listening to him makes it tough not to conclude that McCormack has absorbed the role that Schneider played just a few years ago.

“I’ve had Reed since last year and Zach this year, and they’re both great guys,” said McCormack. “I try to kind of instill in them what Doc instilled in me for two years.”

When McCormack looks back on the first two years of college, he sees an opportunity that he took advantage of and not wasted time.

“It was probably the best thing I could have done,” said McCormack.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Alexander.