Lacrosse: A Marvelwood Tradition

By Zach Maizel ‘04, Director of Athletics, with Glenn Sanchez P’18, ‘19, Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations

This article originally appeared in the 2018 edition of the Blue & White magazine

Lacrosse has been an integral part of The Marvelwood School since its founding. This popular sport has its origins in the tribal games of the Native Americans in the northeast United States and Canada where it was used as a ceremonial ritual, a kind of symbolic warfare to give thanks to The Creator. Games would last two to three days from sunup to sundown, with teams of 100 to 1,000 men on fields that were 1,600 feet to 2 miles long. The French adopted a version of their own, calling it La Crosse (the stick), from which William George Beers started the Montreal Lacrosse Club in 1856. One hundred years after Beers, known as the father of modern lacrosse, started the MLC, Robert Bodkin founded The Marvelwood School and brought lacrosse to Cornwall, the School's original campus.

Lacrosse has been a popular prep school sport around New England, and in the early years of Marvelwood, the program proved fruitful. It took just six seasons for the Marvelwood lacrosse team to achieve prominence on the New England stage, winning the Division 2 championship in 1965. With the sport growing, the New England lacrosse governing body added a Division 3 grouping for smaller schools such as Marvelwood. In 1967, Marvelwood won the Division 3 championship. The school was then subsequently promoted back up to Division 2. Under Robert Bodkin’s coaching and leadership, they dominated their league and won another Division 2 championship in 1970.

As the School in Cornwall grew, new athletics options were added, and lacrosse programs around New England became increasingly competitive. It would be another 21 years before the Pterodactyl lacrosse team would taste glory again, but once they did, they never looked back. In 1991, Coach Hugh Cheney led the program to its first Division 3 New England Championship in two decades, and positioned the program to be one of the top prep teams in New England for the better part of the decade. A generation of Marvelwood players knew nothing but success, as the team won the Division 3 championship every year from 1991 through 1995, and again in 1997.

Over the years, players came and went, but the outcome remained the same, as opposing teams were no match for the Marvelwood firepower. In an epic display against Hamden Hall in May 1992, Dave Budge ‘92 registered one of the greatest single performances for the Blue and White, and quite possibly all-time for New England lacrosse, scoring an improbable 15 goals and 16 points in a high scoring affair with the larger school opponent. Another massive contributor to the cause in the 90s came from the school’s all time assist leader Gus Kellogg ‘95, who registered 67 assists from 1992-95, 46 of them coming in the 1994 championship season. A young attack-minded coach, Glenn Sanchez P’18, ‘19, joined Hugh Cheney and subsequently took over the team with Henry Woodward.

As the century came to a close, Marvelwood continued to produce great players on the New England lacrosse scene, but could not get over the hump to secure another New England championship. The strength of the squad shifted a bit in the 2000s and it was the goalies who brought home the accolades for the team from Skiff Mountain. Pete Farrell ‘04 came to Marvelwood in the fall of 2002 from Falmouth, MA, and immediately showed off his athletic prowess as a key contributor to the varsity soccer and basketball teams. Once the snow melted and the fields were playable, Pete showed his most pronounced talent in goal on the lacrosse field. While the goals might not have come easily in the 2003 season, Marvelwood was always in the game because of Pete’s cat-like reflexes and command of the defensive box. Marvelwood came up just short of the Division 3 championship that season, with The Harvey School being the new dynasty for the early 2000s in the small school arena.

In the 2004 season, a young man from Rhode Island joined the team whose father, Lucian Forbes ‘64, had played under Robert Bodkin. Iain Forbes ‘05 was also a skilled athlete, but no Marvelwood sports fan truly knew what they were in for in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. With the already stout defense in front of New England’s best goalie, Pete Farrell, Iain gave the Pterodactyls the teeth they needed on offense. Game after game, Iain was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring an incredible 72 goals on the season, leading the squad to the Division 3 New England championship in May of 2004. After another worldly performance in 2004, no one could have imagined that Iain would amplify in 2005, but he went on to score another 83 goals, finishing his career as the school’s all time scoring leader at 155 goals. Had a few calls gone our way in the 2005 championship game against Harvey, we may now be talking about back to back championships in the mid 2000s.

As the next decade transpired, the constant point of strength on the field for Marvelwood was the goalie position. Each year, Marvelwood reloaded with a talented athlete as the back stop. The team again went through a bit of a drought, but always seemed to stay in the game due to acrobatic saves from their plethora of defensive talent. As Coach Sanchez moved on from the program in 2012 and Zach Maizel ‘04 took over for him in 2013, good goalie play continued, but it was Coach Kane Szydlowski’s introduction to the program in 2016 that got the offense motivated. Along with his hard-hitting assistant coach, Christian Becker, Szydlowski laid the groundwork that led to the success of the 2018 team.

Szydlowski moved on from Marvelwood and the reigns were handed to Christian Becker, who had fallen in love with the sport at an early age in Norwalk, CT, which is smack dab in the middle of Fairfield County, one of the most intensely competitive lacrosse areas in the country. The FCIAC has perennially produced nationally ranked and champion teams, including Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich and Ridgefield, which molded coach Becker with game after game of tremendous competition. He brought this knowledge and competitive fire to Skiff Mountain and instilled it in his players as they made their championship run in 2018.

The 2018 team was led by offensive spark plugs, Nathan Winter ‘19 (left) and Alex Sanchez ‘19 (below), but it was the renewed commitment to defense that Becker emphasized. Another important piece was an elevated level of competitive drive that Becker expected from his ranks. With excellent chemistry on the squad and a continuously evolving knowledge of the game, our season’s toughest opponent in the league, Woodhall School, was no match for the ferocious attack that Marvelwood came at them with in the championship game, losing by a wide margin 16-2 to our players in blue. The goalie position again became a focal point for Marvelwood, as Edward Duffy ‘20 stepped between the pipes all season for the first time and gave up just two goals in the final two games to help the championship cause.

The connections from this team to past teams was evident. Coaches Becker and Sanchez, who stepped back into the program, made sure to keep the sense of history and legacy at the forefront of their minds. Edward’s father, Patrick Duffy ‘80, had played for Marvelwood under Coach Peter O’Neill, and James Payne ‘84, the father of Mason Payne ‘21, played for the legendary Hugh Cheney. While Mason was new to the sport and did not feature as prominently as Edward for the Pterodactyls, his presence as a legacy was a vital piece of the success and commitment of this highly successful team.

The most noticeable connection to the past in the 2018 championship team is the Sanchez family. When Glenn Sanchez stepped away after 18 years and four New England Championships at the helm, his legacy was cemented as the longest tenured and most successful lacrosse coach in Marvelwood history. We all knew, however, that he wouldn’t stay away for long. Growing up in the hotbed of lacrosse on Long Island, Glenn starred for Smithtown West before taking his talents to Yale University, after which he came to Marvelwood and worked with Hugh Cheney, molding a New England lacrosse powerhouse.

Glenn took over the program in 1994. When his son, Alexander, was born in 2001, we all knew the young man would have a lacrosse stick in his hand soon enough. Fast forward to 2015 and Alex’s freshman at Marvelwood. Having come up through the local youth lacrosse league, Alex joined the Marvelwood team, showing that he inherited his father’s attacking prowess. Glenn rejoined the coaching staff, bringing his infectious and fun-loving energy to the team.

The success of the 2018 lacrosse team was a combination of skill, commitment, competitive fire, and a sense of history and legacy. From father to son, from coach to coach, and from coach to player, this sport has always been a major part of the Marvelwood story and has been proudly handed down from generation to generation. On May 16, 2018, another chapter was added to our storied history. A full hour and a half before the championship game, Coach Becker gathered the team in the locker room, and told them: “Do your job, work like you’ve never worked before, let’s get this win!” I think that’s something Robert Bodkin would have smiled down on, seeing that the program he began 60 years ago is thriving.