Sticktoitiveness describes the college lacrosse career of Hofstra midfielder Steve Serling, who has persevered through two disabling injuries and is a sixth-year graduate student.
Serling already had starred at Lafayette for three seasons and had one year of eligibility left when he arrived at Hofstra last season to seek a master's degree in finance. He had nine points in the first four games before suffering a lacerated spleen.
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It was his second injury to the organ; a ruptured spleen forced him to miss the 2009 season at Lafayette. Serling came back in 2010 to score 37 goals and was named offensive player of the year in the Patriot League. The South Side High School graduate left Lafayette with 72 goals and 24 assists.
"It was a pretty disappointing experience," Serling said of last year. "This was my opportunity to play at a big-time program. It was definitely a blow. I felt like my career would be over."
Hofstra coach Seth Tierney knew Serling had plenty left but let him decide if he wanted to give it another try.
"We decided not to talk about anything," Tierney said. "I told Steve I'm going to support whatever he does, allow him some time to think about some things."
Serling, who will turn 24 in May, decided to return.
"It was a unique opportunity for me to go back to school and play an extra year of lacrosse," he said. "Both opportunities were important for me. This gives me the opportunity to finish my master's degree and, due to the unfortunate experience of getting hurt last year, I'm able to play lacrosse again. I'm looking forward to that opportunity."
Serling isn't just filling a spot on the roster. The team voted him a co-captain and Tierney thinks he can play a vital role on offense.
"He could be a first-team All-American," the coach said. "He could get the Hofstra team to a place that it's never been and he could have a lasting impact not only on the guys this year, but certainly the juniors and freshmen that will be involved in this program."
Junior midfielder Ian Braddish said of Serling, "He's been a real inspiration, coming back for a sixth year helping us try to get where we want to go this year."
Serling is prepared to be a leader. "I don't really feel the pressure," he said. "I'm a guy that has a couple of years of experience under my belt and I just will do whatever it takes to help the program."
Hofstra is going for a fifth straight NCAA bid.
"Our goals remain the same," Tierney said. "We need to win the CAA, then we need to get to the NCAA Tournament and start to win NCAA games. We built a foundation here four years in a row. That's something to be proud of. But now we blew out the candles, we celebrated that. Now we have to move on."
Hofstra at a glance
Last year: 13-3
Coach: Seth Tierney (sixth year, 49-26)
Players to watch
Midfielders: Steve Serling (three goals, six assists), Ian Braddish (16, 17), Adrian Sorichetti, (12), Mike DeNapoli. Faceoff: John Antoniades. Goalkeeper: Andrew Gvozden (6.01 goals-against average, led nation).
Feb. 18 Sacred Heart, 12:30, p.m.
Feb. 25 at Princeton, 1 p.m.
Feb. 28 Fairfield, 7 p.m.
March 3 at Harvard, 3 p.m.
March 10 Notre Dame, 3 p.m.
March 17 Delaware, 1 p.m.
March 20 St. John's, 7 p.m.
March 24 at Drexel, 5 p.m.
March 31 Towson, 7 p.m.
April 3 Dartmouth, 7 p.m.
April 7 St. Joseph's, 1 p.m.
April 14 at North Carolina, 1:30 p.m.
April 21 at Massachusetts, 4 p.m.
April 28 at Penn State, noon.