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Loudoun isn't known for lacrosse yet, but the Maltz family is

By Matt Brooks
Sunday, April 11, 2010; LZ01

Derek Maltz heard the roar of the crowd and felt a rush of adrenaline as he stepped onto the field at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., at the 2008 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship. It was where he had wanted to be since he first picked up a lacrosse stick as a boy on Long Island.

Maltz, then a sophomore at Stone Bridge High School, was not there to take the field for Syracuse, which was playing Johns Hopkins. He was attending a celebration of the anniversary of Syracuse's first national championship team, which included another Derek Maltz.

Twenty-five years earlier, Maltz's father, also named Derek, experienced the same euphoria with a jersey on his back and a stick in his hands. The elder Maltz, a walk-on as a freshman, earned a spot as a sophomore on the 1983 Syracuse squad that went on to win the program's first national championship. Trailing perennial power Johns Hopkins 12-5 in the third quarter, Syracuse used a furious rally to force overtime and earn a 17-16 victory.

For Maltz Sr., the memories of those four years at a developing powerhouse are as vivid as ever. And he'll soon have the chance to relive them, through his son. In November, the Stone Bridge senior attackman signed a national letter of intent to play lacrosse at Syracuse and carry on the family tradition.

"It's what I've wanted to do my entire life," Maltz Jr. said. "To finally realize that, it's just an incredible feeling."

Maltz has sneaky quickness and clinical finishing ability around the cage; he possesses the skills his father lacked but made up for with hustle and tenacity. But the elder Maltz said it takes head-turning skill to be noticed these days, especially for a public school kid in Loudoun County, where lacrosse is still in the early stages of growth.

"The credibility is being built up with the high school programs in this area, but there's still a long way to go," he said. "When we played as kids, you had Baltimore, you had Long Island, maybe a little Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina -- but you never had this kind of participation. It's a challenge for public schools in this area to catch up, but the growth has been really quick."

Loudoun on the radar

When the Maltz family moved from Long Island to Loudoun in 1999, the county had one lacrosse league. Now there are three in eastern Loudoun alone, and the Western Loudoun Lacrosse league will probably split in the coming year.

The elder Maltz credits an influx of coaches from elite college programs with helping to increase participation in the sport in the county.

"Some really good coaches and fathers with a tremendous amount of lacrosse in their backgrounds have come forward to organize these programs," he said. "You've got a national champion from UNC in Pete Lenotti coaching Dominion; Dave Smith, his assistant, who played at Virginia; and Derek's coach at Stone Bridge, Scott Mitchell, who was captain at Binghamton. These guys and a number of others are bringing that experience to the area which gets kids interested and enables them to develop into college prospects."

Loudoun Valley girls' coach Jay Harkey played at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and both Maltzes cite Harkey's son J.D., a junior middie for the Retrievers, as a breakthrough athlete whose success paved the way for other aspiring Division I players.

Loudoun Valley senior middie Chris Daddio, who played club lacrosse with Maltz in middle school, is also headed to Syracuse next year. Valley's Garrett Swankowski is going to Virginia, and Broad Run's Andy Londos will play for Mount St. Mary's.

"When you look back a few years, it was pretty unheard of to see a big-time recruit out of Loudoun County," the younger Maltz said. "That says something for the kids in the area working hard at it -- strong-willed kids who will do anything to play at the next level. The competitiveness of everyone around here is just pushing everyone to get better. Loudoun County is getting on the radar."

'One-man wrecking crew'

With 11 seniors on the roster, this is the year the Bulldogs expect to break out and challenge AAA Liberty District heavyweights Langley and Madison. They rely on Maltz to lead a balanced attack that includes his younger brother Dylan, the lone freshman on the team. But it's no secret that Stone Bridge's success is closely tied to Derek Maltz's play; through three games, he was leading the team with 13 goals and seven assists. (Dylan Maltz was second on the team with 12 goals.)

"He needs to be leashed in a way, because he wants to be on every single run, midfield, attack -- he won't come off," Mitchell said of Derek. "He's the type of person that needs to be pulled back every once in a while, because he'll just keep going."

That quality was on full display Tuesday against defending Virginia state champion Langley. Moments after Dylan Maltz had tied the score at 10 early in the fourth quarter, Derek Maltz limped off the field with a cramp in his left leg. Eager to get back into the fray, he stretched out his leg while chugging water and devouring a banana. For a moment, he appeared ready to reenter, but then his exhaustion struck again, causing him to double over on the sideline and vomit. Unfazed, he returned to the field a few minutes later and scored his third goal of the game in the final seconds as the Bulldogs (2-1) lost, 13-11.

"He's kind of a one-man wrecking crew," said Langley Coach Earl Brewer, who focused his defense on bottling up Derek Maltz. "He's a real warrior."

That ability is what caught the eye of scouts at showcase events and tournaments with area club team Blackwolf Lacrosse over the past two years. As Maltz continues to hone his body and skill set, he'll begin to feel the rush of that May afternoon in Foxborough once again. But when he takes the field with Syracuse, a 10-time national champion, for the first time next year, he realizes he'll be doing more than just continuing the family legacy, he said.

"I'm just trying to show every young kid that if you work hard, you can go places, no matter if you're from Loudoun County, Long Island, Baltimore or anywhere else," Maltz said. "You don't need to come from a hotbed area to succeed at the next level. Hopefully, they look up to me, and we'll start to see more kids from this area earning scholarships at top programs."

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