Late in Saint Joseph’s 10-5 win over Mount St. Mary’s on April 1, with the looming final buzzer a mere formality for yet another impressive win in the best regular season in Saint Joseph’s men’s lacrosse school history, redshirt junior attackman Ryan McGee found himself in the most advantageous of situations.
He was matched up with the opposing goalie, while his teammate cradled the ball on the other side of the field. Mount St. Mary’s was forced to double-team the ball carrier. McGee signaled to his teammate, caught an accurate bounce pass, beat the goalie backdoor on a searing cut to the net, and easily dumped it in for another goal – one of his four in the game.
“Kind of a cheap way to get my 100th point,” McGee said with a laugh as he recalled the historic moment on that spring night on Sweeney Field.
Perhaps it was more lucky than cheap, which would make sense, after all. It was the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca who coined the phrase, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” In this case, opportunity presented itself in the form of an out-of-position goaltender and an overmatched opponent.
The preparation, on the other hand, is what got McGee and the Hawks, who finished the regular season 11-3 and 6-0 in the Northeast Conference, to this point.
You don’t score 100 points at the Division 1 level in less than three full seasons without tremendous preparation, especially when obstacles abound.
After a star-studded sophomore season in which he started all 15 games, led the team in points (52) and goals (38), and tied for the lead in assists (13), McGee found himself sitting out his entire junior season with a knee injury. The six-foot, 193-pound, White Plains, N.Y. native was forced to spend a year on the sideline, rehabbing his injury and contemplating his future.
“It was tough,” McGee said. “I tried to stay involved, support the guys, help out in any way I could. You want to be on the field and you want to be able to contribute. You take it as a learning experience and you try and come back as a better player.”
Last season, SJU limped to a 5-11 record, losing seven of its last eight games. This year, with McGee back in the fold and picking up where he left off, the Hawks are sitting atop the NEC and will host the conference tournament this week.
McGee sees the silver lining that came from sitting out last season with tremendous clarity. He sees his younger teammates having had the opportunity to play increased minutes in his absence and taking their lumps. He sees the improvement around him and the team’s collective goals beginning to come to fruition. Most importantly, he sees himself as a smarter, more patient player - one who is ready to help lead this team to an NEC title and, ultimately, a NCAA tournament berth.
“I think I’m definitely a better player this year,” said McGee. “That extra year helped me learn the game better and understand how to make better decisions with the ball. It helped the mental aspect of my game and my lacrosse IQ.”
He graduated from White Plains High School in New York with every major scoring record – total points, goals and assists. He played varsity lacrosse and hockey all four years, and in 2010, he was selected an Academic All-American. His performance on the field laid the groundwork for success at the college level, but it has been his work ethic and his ability to deal with these ups and downs that has allowed him to thrive against adversity.
As a freshman on Hawk Hill, McGee played in 10 games and dished out four assists. It was an inauspicious start to a now prosperous collegiate career. In that summer between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he put an emphasis on getting stronger in an effort to handle the physical grind of a full lacrosse season.
“It’s grueling,” McGee said of lacrosse at the Division I level. “It’s a very physical sport and it takes a toll on your body. Being able to put a little more weight and muscle on has allowed me to handle more of a beating and remain healthy throughout the season.”
McGee is on pace to break every SJU scoring record, much like he obliterated the record books at White Plains High School. But none of that matters to him, at least not now. There will come a time when he looks back fondly on his illustrious career on Hawk Hill. For now, he is just focused on enjoying these last few games with his senior teammates and doing what they set out to do at the beginning of the season.
“We started the season with one goal, and that was to win the NEC championship and clinch a berth in the NCAA tournament,” said McGee. “That’s our mission.”