Last spring, sophomore midfielder Joe Boulukos cemented his place in the Cornell lacrosse program with 12 goals and two assists. His aggressive play and hustle later earned him a spot on the U.S. Men’s Under-19 team. It was a dream come true.
Then that dream turned into a nightmare.
During an exhibition game on June 21, Boulukos suffered an injury which ended his run with the national squad.
“When I first went down actually, I thought it was just going to be a stinger, that it wasn’t going to be a big deal,” said Boulukos. “I ended up having to get an MRI and then they found a stretched ligament and chip fracture.
“It was a really big disappointment because I had been working all year, and since the beginning of the summer to be all ready for this. Obviously it was a really big let down for me, not being able to play.”
While the injury was disappointing to Boulukos, it was something else for his coaches at Cornell — frightening.
“Anytime you hear about your one of your potential starters — or any of your players — who is injured in a lacrosse game, you’re a little bit nervous, especially since you don’t know the severity,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni.
After Boulukos assured Tambroni he would be able to play again, however, the coach’s concern shifted.
“I was also concerned because he put so much time and effort into this under-19 experience, and he was so excited to play,” said Tambroni. “But when all the work was going to turn into reward by actually putting on the USA jersey and represent the United States, he was sitting on the sidelines with a neck brace.”
Since then, Boulukos has bounced back. Though he was replaced on the roster, he was allowed to travel with the team to Towson for the World Championships. Boulukos sat with the team on the bench and was on hand when the U.S. team downed Canada in the finals.
Now he’s back at Cornell and still undergoing rehabilitation. For about two hours a day, Boulukos runs and lifts weights. He also watches the captains’ practices.
Above all, there is a newfound hunger in him. Boulukos wants to play.
“It’s definitely giving me the motivation to get back and get in the swing of things for this season,” he said. “I’ve been chomping at the bit to get back and start playing with the guys.”
Tough luck is nothing new for Boulukos or Cornell. Despite earning a share of the Ivy title last season, the team was excluded from the NCAA tournament. Instead, players sat home, watching Dartmouth and Princeton represent the Ivy League.
“I thought we kind of got the raw deal last year,” said Boulukos. “So I can’t wait to get back and play.”
While welcomed with open arms, Boulukos has now created a new concern with the coaching staff. They’re worried that he might rush himself too quickly.
“The only thing I think we have to worry about with Joe is that he’s going to want to get back on the field quicker than he should. He’s already bored watching our guys in captains’ practice,” Tambroni said.
“But I know that when the time comes he’s going to get back in and not miss a beat because of how much he played this summer.”
Archived article by Matt Janiga