Honoring MLL Pioneers

By: Steve Guglielmo, March 18, 2016

Honoring MLL Pioneers

Every year since 1957, the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame has inducted individuals based on their outstanding lacrosse achievements and overall contribution to the sport. There are strict guidelines in place to ensure that only the best of the best are enshrined. The mission of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame is to honor men and women, past and present, who by their deeds as players, coaches, officials and/or contributors, and by the example of their lives, personify the great contribution of the sport of lacrosse to our way of life.

This year’s eight inductees certainly fit that bill. The 2012 induction class comprises Jen Adams, Roy Colsey, Brian Dougherty, Missy Foote, Kelly Amonte Hiller, Jesse Hubbard, Tim Nelson and Cindy Timchal. These legends, approved by the US Lacrosse Board of Directors, will be officially inducted in a ceremony on Saturday, October 20, at the Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, MD. There, they will join the more than 350 lacrosse greats that are in the Hall of Fame, located at the Lacrosse Museum at US Lacrosse Headquarters in Baltimore, MD.

Pioneers of the Game

According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport in the United States. Over the last ten years, participation in the sport is up a staggering 218.1 percent. While each of this year’s inductees are pioneers that laid the groundwork for this explosion in popularity, Colsey, Dougherty and Hubbard, in particular, were pioneers for the professional game and the creation of Major League Lacrosse.

“Kids have asked me if I always wanted to be a professional lacrosse player,” says Roy Colsey. “I always tell them, ‘That wasn’t a possibility when I was growing up.’ MLL didn’t come around until I was in my mid-twenties. When the league began in 2001, it was the most amazing thing. It has really given the most talented lacrosse players in the world the opportunity to continue to play after college. Now, kids are growing up dreaming of playing professional lacrosse. It’s great for the game.”

More than ten years later, MLL has helped drive lacrosse from being a niche sport played only in the Northeast into the mainstream consciousness. Every year, more schools in more states add lacrosse programs. “The sport is growing so quickly,” says Brian Dougherty, “And we’ve only scratched the surface. I think the sport is poised to explode.”

Brian Dougherty

“Be the best.”

These three words sum up Brian Dougherty’s entire attitude during his lacrosse career. “I didn’t want to just start,” he says. “I wanted to be the best ever.” And Dougherty’s record speaks for itself.

In his nine seasons in MLL, he set nearly every career Goalkeeper record. He is the career record-holder in games played (105), minutes played (5,945), saves (1,752), goalkeeper wins (60) is second in save percentage (.579), and third in goals against average (12.84). He was a six-time MLL all-star and MLL Goalie of the Year three times. He also won MLL Championships in 2003 with the Long Island Lizards and 2004, 2006 and 2007 with the Philadelphia Barrage.

And that doesn’t even begin to describe his immense achievements outside of the league. He dominated at the University of Maryland, twice being named a first-team All-American and winning the Ensign C. Markland Kelly Jr. Award as the nation’s top goalkeeper. He was also named the Lt. Raymond Enners Award winner as the nation’s most outstanding player in 1995. That same year, he led Maryland to the NCAA Championship game where they lost to Syracuse. Even in defeat, Dougherty was named the MVP of the Championship.

“I never would have imagined any of this growing up in Philadelphia,” Dougherty says. “I used to walk around with my stick and people would stop me and ask ‘Is that a fishing net?’ They had no idea what lacrosse even was. I wasn’t thinking I was going to play professional lacrosse. I just wanted to get as good as I could possibly be. I had no premonitions that the game could lead me here. It’s surreal and special at the same time. It’s a truly humbling honor.”

Though retired, Dougherty is still very involved with the game. He now coaches college lacrosse and has seen first-hand the jaw-dropping growth and expansion of the game. “I see kids from California, Texas, Florida, all playing lacrosse. When I was in high school, there were four lacrosse teams in the entire state of Texas,” he says. “It has taken off and I have had a front-row seat. The MLL has raised the profile of the game. The product on the field is unbelievable. The skill level is off the charts. It’s like watching Dwayne Wade and LeBron run a fast break, but for 60 minutes. It’s really special and it’s no wonder why kids are drawn to the sport.”

Roy Colsey

Syracuse University is arguably the most successful college program in lacrosse history. They have turned out more MLL players than any other school and have a consistent knack for producing superstars. Even with that pedigree, Roy Colsey is one of the best players to come out of Central New York. Though he was nearly 27 when the league began in 2001, Colsey still managed to produce 268 points in his career. He scored 173 goals, including 33 two-point goals, a record until last week when it was broken by Kyle Dixon. He also chipped in 62 assists en route to becoming a four-time MLL all-star.

He was clutch as well, elevating his game in the playoffs to the tune of 25 goals, 8 assists and 3 two-pointers in seven postseason games. In 2006 he was named the MLL Championship MVP as the Philadelphia Barrage won its second of three championships with Colsey. He ranks second all-time to Tim Goettelmann with 12 game-winning goals.

Colsey was a closer even in college, being named an All-American four times, including three-times being named to the first team. He was the 1995 recipient of the McLaughlin Award as national midfielder of the year and led Syracuse to national championships in 1993 and 1995.

While thrilled about the game’s booming popularity, Colsey is not the least bit surprised. “I see very few kids pick up that stick and then put it down,” he says. “When I see a kid pick up a lacrosse stick, I know that it’s forever. So, seeing that, the growth of the game is completely understandable to me.” He adds, “As more kids are playing across the country, you are starting to see more parity at the college level. And then, of course, at the professional level, you see lacrosse at the highest level. It’s no wonder that these young kids look up to these guys. It’s a game that gives so much more than it takes, and I think that the growth in numbers is here to stay.”

Jesse Hubbard

Jesse Hubbard’s ascent to lacrosse legend and becoming one of the best finishers in lacrosse history comes from his work ethic. He is one of the most driven and competitive players to ever play the sport. “My goal growing up was to play high-level Division I lacrosse and compete for a championship,” says Hubbard.

To help achieve that goal, Hubbard invested countless hours working on every aspect of his game. “My high school coach always told us to never think you’re good enough. That stuck with me. Even if you are dominating your high school or your middle school, you can’t get complacent. If you think you’re good enough then you will never reach your full potential. That is why I worked so hard to improve.”

That hard work paid off in spades, as Hubbard achieved his goal of competing for a Division I championship and then some. In one of the most storied collegiate careers the game has ever seen, Hubbard became a three-time All-American at Princeton University and helped lead the Tigers to three straight National Championships from 1996-1998 and an Ivy-League Championship every year of his career (1995-98).

Under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Bill Tierney, Hubbard set a school record for goals in a season in 1996 with 53. He finished his career as Princeton’s all-time leader in goals scored (163) and second in career points with 211.

While at Princeton, Hubbard also met Dave Morrow who told him about plans to start a professional outdoor league. “I am so grateful to Jake Steinfeld and Dave Morrow for giving me the chance to continue my lacrosse career after college,” he says. “I never would have thought that I would get the opportunity to play professional outdoor lacrosse when I was growing up.”

In 2001, Hubbard joined the New Jersey Pride and continued to light up the scoreboard. He scored 44 goals in his first season and 54 in his second season. Hubbard would finish his eight-year MLL career with 247 goals, including 16 two-pointers, second all-time to Tim Goettelmann. He also ranks fifth on the all-time points list with 352.

Jesse was a six-time all-star and was MLL’s leading scorer three times, from 2001-2003. “Being a part of the infancy of MLL was so exciting,” Hubbard says. “These days it’s assumed that players will play professionally after they graduate. College kids are itching to play MLL because it’s the pinnacle of the sport in terms of the talent and competition. I mean, there are first-team All-Americans getting cut ever year. It’s a testament to the growth and success of the league.”