It’s often difficult to draw positives out of a loss. Especially when the loss ends a team’s season. It’s even more difficult when the loss is close. But despite the men’s lacrosse team’s 11-10 loss to Virginia in last season’s NCAA quarterfinal, head coach Jeff Tambroni was able to take solace in the fact that despite the fact that the nation’s top scoring threat, John Christmas, loomed on the opposing sideline, it was the Cornell defense, particularly longstick defender Tim DeBlois, that shone that day.
DeBlois, then a sophomore, kept Christmas in check all game long. In fact for 59 minutes and 50 seconds, Christmas was unable to produce anything offensively. And despite the fact that Christmas was finally able to break through in the waning moments of the fourth quarter to break a 10-10 tie and advance the Cavaliers into the final four, the game was a major success for DeBlois, who proved himself as a member of the upper echelon of defenders in the nation that day in May.
“There was probably as much riding on that game as any game he ever played,” said Tambroni, “and he was going up against who we feel was one of the most athletic and certainly one of the most talented attackmen in the country. He did a fantastic job.”
And though that game represented DeBlois’ coming out party, it is hardly atypical of the type of contributor the junior has been to the Red over his three years.
“I think if you ask anyone on our team on the defensive end or on our coaching staff, I think everyone would certainly allude to the fact that without him, it would be a struggle for us on the defensive end,” said Tambroni.
DeBlois is a highly athletic defender, one who is capable of giving opposing attackers fits as well as provide an offense spark in the backfield.
“When he has had the opportunity to cover a smaller, craftier, athletic attackman, he seems to be at his best,” said Tambroni.
This ability has enabled DeBlois to play the perfect compliment to senior tri-captain Ryan McClay’s all-world defensive ability.
“He’s a wonderful compliment to Ryan McClay,” Tambroni said. “McClay gets so much attention, but Timmy, I think, is certainly overshadowed by Ryan’s presence.”
However, according to DeBlois, no one player is responsible alone for the team’s defensive success.
“Our defense is so much predicated on team defense, it’s not just my responsibility to keep the other team scoreless,” he said.
And DeBlois is quick to point out that without McClay’s influence, he would likely not have enjoyed the success he has so far.
“Having the opportunity of watching him play and just seeing what he does on and off the field in terms of putting in extra work or doing things a certain way,” he said, “I’ve just been lucky to have a role model like him ahead of me for three of my four years to kind of just emulate.”
This is the type of humility that is so characteristic of DeBlois, who brings as much to the Red off the field as he brings on the field.
“He’s the package student-athlete,” said Tambroni. “Here’s a guy who’s been a starting defender for two and a half years, he’s got a 3.9 GPA. I think when you look at him, you see scholar-athlete written all over him. He brings the true symbol of what we want our guys to look like when they get out of here.”
DeBlois’ success both on the lacrosse field and in the classroom is a direct result of his strong work ethic, which Tambroni cites as another intangible that makes DeBlois stand out.
“He’s worked very hard in the summertime to be one of the best athletes on the team,” Tambroni said. “He was very driven after his freshman year in a part time role to come back over the summer and be one of our best athletes.”
Much of this drive came following the Red’s 9-8 overtime loss to Brown in 2001, DeBlois’ freshman year.
“I just played well,” he said. “I think after the game I felt like, wow, I can play with these guys. Instead of watching some of their teams in awe, I knew I could compete with them and it was a big boost to my confidence.”
This newfound confidence has provided DeBlois the impetus he needed to excel, something that he has certainly done over the past two years.
“He really made a leap into what we feel as one of the top 10 defenders in the country,” said Tambroni. “He brings a lot to us back there, and as a junior he has a lot of experience. We’re happy to have him back for another year.”
Archived article by Owen Bochner