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Tim Rohan: Paul was key factor in program's rise to varsity status

Daily Sports Editor
Published May 25, 2011

Cherie Hrusovsky took a seat at a table near the back of the room with a smile on her face. She seemed excited and, considering her past 48 hours, that may have been a surprise.

A mother of two Michigan club lacrosse players, Cherie had never been to a press conference before, but the subject matter wasn’t foreign to her.

Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon was minutes away from announcing the addition of men’s and women’s lacrosse programs at Michigan — lacrosse had been the focal point of her boys’ lives for the better part of nine years.

Her youngest, Joe, was sitting in a hospital on Monday. Cherie took off work and hopped in the car with Joe’s older brother, Anthony, and drove through the night from their home in Lake Forest, Ill. — a suburb of Chicago — to be there to make sure Joe could check out of the hospital.

They don’t remember him being hit, but Joe suffered Pneumomediastinum — air pockets around the heart, as his mom described it — after the club team’s national semifinal game last weekend and was admitted on Monday after having chest pains.

By Tuesday, he cleared one last test and was released. He’s fine now. Good thing, because his club lacrosse coach, John Paul, had invited him to be at the press conference announcing the big news on Wednesday. And when Paul heard his former player, Joe’s brother Anthony, would be in town, he asked him to come along too.

It’s funny to Cherie, actually, because Joe got his older brother into the sport of lacrosse growing up, she says.

When Anthony was a freshman in high school, he had excelled at the traditional sports and wanted to find something to play in the spring. Joe had played lacrosse since fifth grade and suggested Anthony try it out — but the older brother was afraid of failing at the new and strange game. He got over it, plus all of his friends were playing lacrosse, so Joe taught Anthony how to cradle and catch the ball out in the street in front of their house.

Anthony joined his high school team and eventually had very successful junior and senior seasons, which made him want to play in college. Thanks to the urging of his family, he sent John Paul an e-mail. Paul, who has coached the club team for the past 14 seasons, hosted Anthony in Ann Arbor, took him to a football game and gave him the pitch — he treated recruiting as if he were running a varsity program, without scholarships.

Both brothers quit all of their other sports to focus on lacrosse. The Hrusovsky's were one of your normal Midwest families, now, with the kids growing up playing lacrosse in the driveway.

Anthony played four out of his six years at Michigan, while earning his Masters degree in Architecture, graduating this past May. He looked on as Brandon took the podium. His brother Joe sat with his teammates, sporting a mullet the players had decided to grow for the playoffs. They were both on the 2009 MCLA National Championship team together, and Anthony played a role in the team’s 2008 championship.

Paul was wearing a suit and a tie. It was a big day for him, as Anthony called the program Paul’s “child.” Although Brandon hadn’t yet named Paul the head coach of the newest Michigan varsity sport during the press conference, he all but said Paul would be hired.

Cherie had missed two or three games all of last season, so she thought, “why not” show up to the press conference.

Admittedly, like Brandon, she too had to learn the game of lacrosse at first. When Anthony started playing, she and a few other lacrosse mothers had to Google, “Lacrosse for dummies” to get the rules down. At that point, it was still a growingly popular sport in Chicago, especially more so in the Western suburbs in the North Shore area. Just last year did it become a sanctioned high school sport in Illinois; previously it had been a club sport.

Just like how Michigan used to be, when it won back-to-back-to-back MCLA National Championships from 2008-2010.

Joe and Anthony’s old high school eventually got its own lacrosse field after they left and now takes the sport much more seriously with the growing popularity. Michigan doesn't have its own field yet, but Brandon said he expects to find the team a "home."

And recently, their high school added a coach who has taken their program to new heights. The sport that has expanded from the East Coast is expanding to the Midwest with Michigan’s addition of lacrosse serves as exhibit A.