JACKSONVILLE - Scooping the ball off the turf in the first half of Jacksonville Universityís 15-11 loss to Utah at D.B. Milne Field on February 29, former Fleming Island High lacrosse ace …
JACKSONVILLE - Scooping the ball off the turf in the first half of Jacksonville Universityís 15-11 loss to Utah at D.B. Milne Field on February 29, former Fleming Island High lacrosse ace Hayden Lavangie sprinted upfield. Sunshine glinting off of his green and white helmet, the Dolphinsí long stick midfielder pulled away from the Utah attack man giving chase and headed toward the opposite goal. Entering the box as two Utes defensemen converged, Lavangie could have dodged or pulled up to wait for more teammates to join him. Instead, the six-foot, one-inch, 195- pounder lowered his shoulder and bowled over the Ute in front of him, and was himself knocked to the turf by the second black and red-clad defenseman. As the announced crowd of 3,747 gasped at the contact, Lavangie got off a bounce shot that was saved by Utah goalie Liam Donnelly.
The real drama was not whether Lavangieís shot would find the net, but whether the fifth year senior would ever again be in a position to shoot at all after the injuries he has endured the last three years. A shoulder injury caused Lavangie to miss his entire sophomore year at JU. A torn hamstring right before his junior year that forced him to miss multiple games in 2018, and a surgery on his right knee last year limited his playing time. Asked about his willingness to sacrifice his body, Lavangie brushed the risk of
injury aside as he explained why he went for the shot.
ìDoing that sends a message to the other team, and to your own team,î he said after the game. ìThen other guys follow suit.î
Lavangie, currently the only Clay County high school male lacrosse player to have played at the Division I level in college, spent countless hours at rigorous rehabilitation sessions with a Jacksonville physical therapist to repair each injury. Though he still attends rehabilitation sessions with a trainer each week, Lavangie declared himself at full speed and says there are currently no health-related restrictions on his play.
Lavangie earned a starting spot as a short stick midfielder last season, but since the first game this season has been the Dolphinsí long stick midfielder, a position oriented towards defense.
ìLSM was a position where we were limited,î said Dolphins head coach Dave Galloway. ìWe talked about it as coaching staff and thought he [Hayden] would be the best fit.î
Protecting Lavangieís knee entered into Gallowayís calculus.
ìThe ability to play defense with a six-foot pole rather than a three-footer gives him more wiggle room,î
said Galloway, who intends to keep Lavangie at the LSM position moving forward.
Lavangie has experience with the long stick, having used it occasionally in the Virginia youth leagues where he learned the game. Nonetheless, it is a big change for a player who made a name for himself on offense at Fleming Island High School. Lavangie graduated in 2015 as the Golden Eaglesí all-time leading scorer with 175 goals and 140 assists. His physical style and willingness to take a hit should
make the transition easier. Saturday, Lavangie played solid man-toñman defense all game long against the Utah midfielders, and forced a turnover with a poke check that caused an errant pass. And, as he showed Saturday, he will still be able to occasionally attack on offense.
Having graduated with a degree in Business Administration last Spring, Lavangie could have hung up his spikes but chose to return for a final season. He will not set any scoring records for the Dolphins, but
hopes to leave a different and equally significant legacy.
ìI really want to leave an impression on the guys,î he said. ìWe talk a lot about culture, and how doing the small things translates into something pretty big.î
He must be having an impact, as his teammates elected Lavangie as a team captain at the start of the season. Galloway himself respects Lavangie for his perseverance and dedication.
ìHe is incredibly tough,î said the coach. ìI have never seen anyone play at the level he does after all those injuries.î
The Dolphins, now 3-3, with an 18-1 win over Hampton on March 6 and a season-ending 18-8 loss to eighth-ranked Duke on March 10, played out a possible end of their season before a nationwide stop of all NCAA sports because of the coronavirus outbreak.