A little rejection can go a long way. Ask Brendan Schneck.
Schneck, a senior midfielder for Johns Hopkins' top-ranked lacrosse team, seemingly does everything right. He has scored 20 goals and assisted on five others this season. He is seeking to become a first-team all-America for the third time. Last season he won the Enners Award as the outstanding player in Division I and led Hopkins to its third straight NCAA title. He and his teammates will bring a 6-0 record and 16 straight wins into Saturday's game with visiting Army.
But it has not always been a sea of glory for the Long Island native every coach would love to have controlling his offense.
The ninth of 10 children, Schneck started playing lacrosse in 10th grade. On the advice of his high school coach, he played a variety of positions, including goal.
"At the time, the coach told me there were just too many good attack men around," Schneck said. "He told me if I wanted to get a scholarship in college, I should become a goalie."
Schneck thought he was good enough to play out front, but he gave his coach's suggestion a temporary try. He didn't win all-county honors at any position. He felt he deserved to, but wrote off his omission as politics.
The college recruiters, he said, "weren't beating down my door with scholarship offers." Schneck went to Navy, and although he became an all-America attack man his sophomore year, it was the problems he encountered in his first year that made him believe that the Navy lacrosse program was not for him.
He didn't start during the regular season, but his playing time increased as time went on. In an NCAA quarterfinal playoff game against Pennsylvania, Schneck accounted for nine points, but still did not start the semifinal game. "You just wonder why I didn't get a chance to start that late in the season."
The experiences only made the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder work harder. "I guess in the long run, it made me better," he said.
One of those who overlooked Schneck earlier was Hopkins Coach Henry Ciccarone. "There are so many good lacrosse players out on Long Island. I had never even heard of him in high school."
Schneck forced Ciccarone to take notice. His sophomore season, he scored five goals against Hopkins as a Navy attack man.
After that year, Schneck had a long telephone conversation with his brother Lance, who was attending Adelphi. Lance told Brendan that he had considered several other schools and had decided to transfer to Hopkins. Brendan went with him and the Blue Jays acquired Lance, a sturdy defenseman, and Brendan, a quality attack man. The defenseman they needed. Attack was already a solid position. Brendan ended up as a midfielder.
"We can move him back up front and he would still do a tremendous job," Ciccarone said. "But for the good of the team, it's best he stay at midfield."
Schneck had problems getting used to the position. He was a force at close range. He had to learn to shoot at a distance and on the run. "It took me a while to adjust coming to the top of the cage," he said. He still worries about his defense, but Ciccarone doesn't.
Schneck combines speed and size in the middle, although his best attribute might be his ability to shoot with equal accuracy left-handed or right-handed. Last year he scored 44 goals on 115 shots.
"I'm not overpowering," said the economics major, "but I'm not a guy they are going to overpower either."
Few can either overpower or match him when the pressure is on."He comes up with the big plays against the big teams," Ciccarone said. "In the tight situations, he's not afraid to take over.
Notoriety does have its price, and Schneck, who scored six goals earlier this year in a 15-13 victory over Virginia, is discovering the cost. He has been the target of extra elbows and holding tactics, and opponents have been trying to devise defenses to stop him. Cornell tried a box-and-one defense last weekend, but found out that Hopkins has too much talent to get away with that. Jeff Cook scored three goals late in the first half, propelling the Jays to a 17-16 win.
"As far as I'm concerned, they can shut me out all season as long as we keep winning," Schneck said, although admitting that that attitude can sometimes make it hard for him. "I try not to be (statistics-conscious), but people expect me to score three or four goals every game. I had one goal in the Cornell game and people said, 'What happened?'"
What happened is that, in different ways, people are finally giving Schneck the respect he has earned.