In two years, Eric Boyle grew almost a foot, and opportunities grew with him.
He went from a 5-foot-5 junior varsity lacrosse player to a 6-foot varsity contributor to a 6-foot-4 star on the Annapolis High School varsity team. And last month, Boyle's size -- and his skills -- landed him something he never imagined possible just a year ago: a Division I lacrosse scholarship.
Boyle, who will be a senior at Annapolis, verbally committed to Towson University, officially marking his speedy rise into the top echelon of local high school lacrosse. When Boyle was a high school freshman, his coaches described him as a mediocre lacrosse player. Now, two years and 11 inches later, they call him a rising superstar with nearly limitless potential.
"I was always somebody who played on like the B and C teams," said Boyle, who scored 48 goals for Annapolis in the spring. "I was never really a standout. When high school came around, I realized that this is the time when maybe I could do something and people would notice. I still can't really believe how it turned out."
Neither can the people closest to him. Eric's father, Chris Boyle, is still struggling to grasp his son's growth spurt. One month, Chris's shoes were a size too big for Eric; the next month they fit perfectly; a month later Eric had outgrown them.
His lacrosse skills seemed to expand just as quickly. Boyle surprised himself by making the varsity team as a sophomore and enjoying some playing time as Annapolis's fourth attackman. He entered his junior season with what his family considered high expectations. Then he exceeded them.
In part because opposing defenses keyed on established Annapolis attackman Alex Hopmann, Boyle led the team in goals and also had 27 assists. During the Panthers' remarkable three-game playoff run -- which included an upset win over Broadneck -- Boyle scored 12 goals and had seven assists.
"He came up huge for us in every big game," Annapolis Coach Joe Keenan said. "He always found a way to make a key play. He's somebody who even surprised me during the season. He kept getting better and better, literally every game. You don't see that happen very often."
It didn't take Boyle long to realize his newfound size could be a major advantage. As the season progressed, he began to use his wingspan to shoot over opponents instead of trying to dodge around them.
"I can go over you and overpower you to score," Boyle said, "so I don't need to go around you."
Even as Boyle grew, his coordination never faltered. A good basketball and soccer player, Boyle thinks he might have become even more athletic during his growth spurt. Almost every weekend during the summer, he goes surfing with friends -- a hobby he picked up from his dad several years ago. Surfing honed the balance that he relied on during the lacrosse season.
"He's an amazing all-around athlete," Keenan said. "He's fast, strong, coordinated -- everything you could want."
Said Boyle: "All of my skills just started to come together at the same time. I knew I wanted to play bigger."
This season, he dreamed bigger, too. Boyle sent out letters to colleges to pitch himself. When coaches came to watch, they quickly started pitching their schools. Towson recruited Boyle hard early in the season, and the school seemed almost perfect to him. It was close to home, and it had a top 10 lacrosse program. Plus, Chris had graduated from Towson, too.
"My stock definitely went up this season, big time. It went up as I grew," Boyle said. "I still can't really believe that I'm going to play college lacrosse. It seems almost unrealistic to me. It's going to be a while before it sinks in."