Mark Millon graduated from the University of Massachusetts in the spring of 1993. In 1998, after posting 26 goals and six assists in the World Championships, he was named the World’s Best Attackman. In 2000 he began terrorizing defenders in the MLL as a member of the Baltimore Bayhawks.
And in 2003, Millon baptized Ryan McClay ’03.
On May 29, McClay — a four-time All-America defenseman and 2003 Ivy League Player of the Year — was selected fifth by the New Jersey Pride in the Major League Lacrosse draft. Just a week later he was in uniform, facing Millon.
In a battle of World’s Best Attackman versus World’s Best Defender, Millon clearly was the victor, with Baltimore reeling off 14 first-half points en route to a 20-16 victory. But it doesn’t mean that McClay has started to plan his early retirement.
“It was exciting,” recalled McClay. “He definitely scored a couple of goals on me, so it was humbling, but I think I did a pretty good job against him.”
And the Pride’s coaching staff must have agreed. Since his June 5 debut, McClay has been a consistent starter for the team. More recently, and thanks to a four game winning streak, the Pride has moved into second place in the National division.
“A lot of it has to do with the type of people on our team,” said McClay of his team’s recent success. “No one really cares who gets credit from playing.”
While the team-player mentality might be foreign to some, to McClay it is business as usual. It’s the kind of work ethic he thrived on as a member of the 2002 USA National Team, and as a defenseman at Cornell.
His vast playing experience on the national and international stage has also helped, as McClay already knew many of his teammates and even coaches for the Pride.
“I think it’s great,” said Cornell men’s lacrosse coach Jeff Tambroni of McClay’s recent success with the Pride, “and I think a big reason he was drafted by them is the relationship he’s had with Coach [Ted] Georgalas.”
While New Jersey may not be Mahopac, McClay should feel right at home, as Georgalas was his high school coach, and he later played with his son Kyle. But McClay will be the first to tell you that there are as many differences as familiarities.
“It’s a lot different,” said McClay. “This league is a lot more one-on-one oriented. After I made that adjustment, I think I’m doing a pretty good job.”
Another one of those differences is the 45-second shot clock. As McClay describes it, there are both pluses and minuses to the rule. Unlike the college game, where the offense will hold the ball to allow the defense to rest, the MLL forces teams to move the ball quickly.
“It hurts sometimes defensively,” admitted McClay, “but 45 seconds is a lot longer than it sounds. In my opinion, as far as the game goes, it’s a plus.”
Pluses and minuses aside, McClay is already doing something most graduates of 2003 will have to wait years for. He’s living his dream.
“His dream is always just to play lacrosse and be around the game of lacrosse, and certainly he’ll always have an Ivy League education to fall back on,” said Tambroni.
But in McClay’s mind, you can do both.
Already having found a group of investors, McClay and a few others will soon break ground on an indoor lacrosse facility in Brewster, N.Y. On top of that, McClay was recently approached by Cornell alum Joe Taylor to be a representative for Brine.
And if that weren’t enough, McClay always has the opportunity of returning to Cornell.
“I’m hopeful that someday we could get him back here and hire him at Cornell, but he’s got a couple options right now already on the table,” Tambroni said.
One of which is getting ready for his next meeting with Mark Millon.
Archived article by Matt Janiga