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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 16, 2007

A busy year in the life of a lacrosse player

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — The summer’s been easy for Mike Camardo. It’s a break he well deserves.

The 2006 Guilderland High School graduate wrapped up playing lacrosse at the highest level and needed the rest the summer has provided.

The first year for any college student presents trials and tribulations on top of the adjustment period. Add in the rigors of playing a Division I sport and doing it so far away, and you have Mike Camardo’s first year at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

"It was kind of intense," Camardo told The Enterprise this week. "Right when I got there, we had a big scrimmage. We all got together and played without coaches. I saw the talent and how much better everybody was.

"Within the first week," Camardo added, "the older guys were excited and ready to go."

Though it was Camardo’s introduction to Division I lacrosse, the practice game provided a fun time in a week of seriousness.

Camardo moved from his home in Altamont to a dorm room six hours away in a setting that was completely new.

"There was one kid from Saratoga I played with at Empires two years ago," Camardo said of a teammate from the Empire State Games. "The whole team of lacrosse guys that I was introduced to, you got to know fast. I had a group of people to hang out with, and that’s a nice advantage."

Camardo also got help from one upperclassman — Dan Carmack who played the same long-stick midfielder position as Camardo.

"They definitely helped us along," Camardo said of all the upperclassmen. "There was a senior who played my position [Carmack]. At first, he took me under his wing quite a bit."

Meeting people was the easy part. Camardo had about 25 to 30 new people he quickly became associated with.

"Competition harder"

But there was a part of playing lacrosse at UMBC that surprised him.

"I didn’t know a lot of what to expect," Camardo said. "The competition was a lot harder, and everyone was there to play. I didn’t know that it would be as time-consuming as it was and everything that had to go into it."

The fall semester is not as busy, and helped ease the transition into collegiate sports for Camardo.

But the schedule was still a busy one.

The UMBC players had to be in the weight room on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays around noon, Camardo said.

The team members also had to partake in eight hours of mandatory study hall each week, which Camardo went to on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s at 7 a.m.

And then there were fall practices. A couple of weeks into the semester, practices began for four or five days a week.

"We got weekends off unless we had a tournament like Lacrosse for Leukemia," Camardo said.

Fall practices lasted a couple of months, ending in November.

Crunched in around lacrosse, lifting, and study halls, are classes. Camardo took four classes in the fall semester — calculus, biology, Western Civilizations, and a class call PHED 202.

"It was for athletes," Camardo said. "It was nice and easy and dealt with being a student-athlete. It was three credits.

"Most classes were three days a week," Camardo added. "I took 14 credits."

Camardo has not chosen a major yet.

"At the start of the second semester I want to figure out the direction I’m going," he said. "I would like to get into coaching and teaching. That would be fun. I also thought about law school."

Winter practices came at the end of fall ball and lasted before exams began in December.

"We were not allowed to have team practices," Camardo said. "But we did a lot of individual practices. The long-stick middies practiced with the defensive coach.

"And at 7 a.m., we were running in the gym because a couple of guys broke some team rules," Camardo said. He added in a matter-of-fact tone, "We would do all that and then go on with our day."

Those small group practices would end the week before exams and then it was time for winter break. But there is a purpose behind all the work in the fall.

"It’s to get into shape," Camardo said.

"Full blown"

The spring semester started early for the UMBC team. The players reported to school a week early — Jan. 22 — and the team went right to work.

"It was full blown from there on," Camardo said. "We went six days a week for the pre-season. The first day back, we had a running test."

The UMBC players had to run a mile under six minutes. Then they had to run 12 full-field sprints with each having to be completed in 16 to 17 seconds. Then, the players had to run eight 40-yard dashes, each under six seconds.

"It was a wake-up," Camardo said. "If you didn’t run during the winter, it hurt."

The spring was a much busier semester than the fall.

"There was no time to do anything," Camardo said.

Camardo took 15 credits of "easier courses."

He took a sociology class, another history class, and a course called the science of water with a lab. Camardo said that class was tougher than it sounded.

He also took a philosophy course and got a credit for lacrosse.

"If you play a sport," Camardo said "you get a credit-and-a-half. It’s a gym credit that I needed."

After the pre-season comes the fun part of the year. Games.

However, the Retrievers’ first game of the season was cancelled.

"We had another week of pre-season," Camardo said. "And that was not too cool."

UMBC did not play its first game until late March.

In the meantime, Camardo still had a busy schedule. He had early classes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tuesdays and Thursdays were still left for study hall.

Practices were every weekday, starting at either 3:30 or 4 p.m. and lasting until 6:30 or 7 p.m.

"It was lacrosse every day," Camardo said. "The pre-season was not fun, but, when the games started, it became a lot of fun. I enjoyed it quite at bit."

"Love the sport"

A schedule like that sounds rough for a lot of people, but Camardo loved it.

"I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have any lacrosse practice or anything," he said.

There wasn’t any time for a social life in the spring, Camardo said. But for Camardo, lacrosse was a much better alternative.

"I definitely love the sport," Camardo said. "And, if you don’t love it, you don’t belong there. It’s like a job, and you are paid to go there. You’ve got to come and work hard every single day, or they won’t take you back."

During the season, practices were monotonous.

Mondays were run days with little stick work. Tuesdays were more skills-oriented and physical.

On Wednesdays, the players got the scouting report of the team they would be playing on the weekend.

"We would get information on every guy on the other team," Camardo said. "We would get the hands, weight, and size of their key guys and their favorite moves. We would find out what the coaches want the defense to do and what their offense does."

Then the team would practice plays that it would use against the competition.

Thursday, Camardo said, was all about the other team. The scout offense would go up against the defense and the scout defense would go against the starting offense.

"We would run all the plays the other team does" Camardo said.

On Friday, the practice was short and would go for one hour or an hour-and-a-half and was mostly just to get ready for the game.

Of course, if the game was away, there would be travel time involved as well.

"You knew what to expect," Camardo said. "That was pretty nice actually."

Season builds

All the hard work translated into a great season, Camardo said.

"It started off a bit slow," he said. "But we definitely picked it up."

UMBC won its first two games of the season, beating Brown and the Air Force Academy in Denver, Colo. during the Retrievers’ trip out west.

The Retrievers lost to the University of Denver in the second game of that trip and came home to get smacked by Johns Hopkins, the eventual national champions.

UMBC beat the University of Pennsylvania but lost to the University of Maryland on March 17. The Retrievers had a 3-3 record but then beat Ohio State on March 25 and then won six of their next seven games. They lost to the University at Albany on March 31 and did not lose again until the Great Danes beat them for the America East title on May 5.

UMBC then beat Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament but lost to Delaware in the quarterfinals.

Camardo got injured in the Denver game. He broke his wrist by "falling on it weird" but missed just one game.

"I tore a ligament and some cartilage," he said. "There was a bone that could block the blood flow they had to check on and, when that was not broken, I was able to play."

Camardo also was given an opportunity as Carmack, Camardo’s mentor, was struggling with his own injuries.

"He was all-league the year before," Carmado said. "But he was always battling injuries to his quads and hamstrings.

"I played a little bit in the first few games, but he could run forever," Camardo added. "I got in a little bit and I played on man-down [after penalties] since the beginning of the season."

"A surprise"

Camardo wasn’t expecting to play long-stick midfielder when he arrived to UMBC in the fall.

"I didn’t think I would play in every game," he said. "I didn’t know that in the pre-season or in the fall. When I came back from winter break, my coach called and said that I had a surprise waiting for me in my locker. It was a long pole."

Carmack got hurt during the season and Camardo was given the starting job at long pole.

As the starting long-pole midfielder, Camardo had some big experiences as he earned his rookie stripes.

He got to play in a championship game and experience the NCAA playoffs, including playing at Maryland’s historic Byrd Stadium in the first round and the Naval Academy’s stadium in Annapolis, Md.

"We beat Maryland at their place," he said, "and the last time that happened was 10-something years ago. It was nice to be the small school in Maryland that no one has heard of and beat the Terrapins."

Though UMBC lost to Delaware in the quarterfinals at Navy Stadium, the experience was great for Camardo.

"Playing in it was awesome," he said of the stadium. " We played in front of 10,000 people."

The outcome of the season exceeded Camardo’s expectations.

"I didn’t expect to make the quarterfinals in my first year," he said. "In the beginning half of the year, I was battling for a place on the team and when I started to start was also when the team got better."

Camardo came home for the summer and hasn’t played that much. He is working at Altamont Country Kennels and has been running and lifting.

He has played in a couple of lacrosse tournaments.

Heading back

He will be heading back to school on Aug. 25 where he will be sharing an apartment with three other lacrosse players. He loves living in Baltimore.

"It’s warmer and it’s a lacrosse town," Camardo said. "It’s not just family members that go to games. Everybody is into it down there. Lacrosse is on the front page of the sports section in the Baltimore Sun and it gets a lot of coverage.

"It’s cool watching high school games down there," he added. "The MIAA is the best in the country."

Camardo has many Maryland teammates and he gets kidded for being from upstate New York.

"Nobody knows where Guilderland is," he said. "They know Long Island and Syracuse, but they think I live in a field."

As this school year approaches, Camardo knows what to expect and that will make life much easier than it was in his first year of college.

"I know what’s going to happen," he said. "There are no surprises and that will be good."

Hynes keeps skills on ice during the summer

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Tyler Hynes took no break for summer vacation.

Instead of resting while not in school, he took part in the summer pastime of — ice hockey"

Hynes took to the ice instead of lounging around this summer and the 13-year-old had one of the greatest experiences in his young life.

Hynes tried out for and made it to the USA Hockey Select 14 Player Development Camp. The camp was held in July in Rochester and featured the best 14-year-olds in the country. Hynes will turn 14 in November.

"It’s definitely the biggest thing I’ve ever done in sports, period," Hynes said at his home in Guilderland on Friday. "It was a lot of fun and I had more down time than I thought. We have two on ice sessions."

Hynes went to the camp after rehabbing an injured shoulder.

There were 12 teams of players at the camp with 21 players on each team. Hynes played on the black team coached by Al Bloomer, USA Hockey’s National Coach-in-Chief.

Hynes and his team played against five of the other 11 teams during the week-long camp. Practices were also held each day.

"He started half the day on Sunday and went until the next Saturday," Hynes said. "We did some off-ice stuff, like team-oriented playing."

Each practice was planned with a specific focus such as days spent on offensive and defensive concepts and practices spent on individual skills.

"We played a game a day," Hynes said. "We played five different teams."

Try outs

Hynes tried out for the camp in April in Syracuse. Youth hockey in New York is split into four different zones — Northern, Western, Eastern, and Central. Hynes skated as part of the Northern zone. He went to Massena for the Northern zone tryout and was one of five skaters and one goalie who qualified to try out in Syracuse with the other top players in their zones.

"It was one day and we played two games," Hynes said. "And we did some off-ice workouts like pull ups and quickness and agility drills."

Three states — New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan — have enough hockey players to be their own district within USA Hockey — and Hynes was selected to represent the state at the national camp.

"The Massachusetts zone had its own bus," Hynes said.

"Just 1 percent of the hockey players in the age group got to go to Rochester," Hynes’s mother Robin said. "There were 150 kids. One in 538 kids that participate in youth hockey get to go to the camp.

"He is the only player from this area to go to nationals," Robin Hynes added.

Only three players from the Northern zone in New York made it to the USA Hockey camp.

Hynes said that it was great to meet players from different parts of the country. Next year, Hynes hopes to make the Select 15 camp in St. Cloud, Minn. He’ll have to try out all over again.

Born to skate

Hynes started playing hockey when he was 3.

"I was a fat little kid," he said. "I needed exercise so I threw on skates."

"We did a lot in the summer," Robin Hynes said. "My parents are into winter sports. The first time he was on skates, it was like he was born on them."

Skating is in Hynes’s genes. Robin Hynes’s mother and father were world-class skaters.

"In the 1940s, they both were on the national team in speedskating," Robin Hynes said.

Norma and Mike Heidt of Long Island were Olympic-quality athletes but did not get to compete at the highest level.

"The 1944 Olympics were called off," Robin Hynes said. "That would have been their claim to fame."

A member of the Heidt family did get to compete in the winter Olympics.

Adam Heidt finished fourth in the 1998 Nagano Olympics. It was the best finish for an American male in the single luge.

Hynes does not limit his athleticism to hockey. In the spring and summer, he plays baseball. He was on the modified team at Guilderland and also played on the Babe Ruth 13’s All-star team that advanced to the finals of the Eastern New York State tournament.

Hynes also played soccer when he was younger, but gave up that sport for hockey.

"I had to quit soccer because hockey is all-year round," Hynes said. "Baseball fit in the two months of break I have from hockey."

There is also another reason for playing baseball as well as hockey.

"My dad loves baseball," Hynes said. "He has always helped coach my teams. We won districts and finished second at states."

Expert help

When Tyler’s parents realized he was a good skater, they took him to see Dave Randall in Troy.

"He does a good job with kid’s skating," Robin Hynes said. "He is the hockey-skating guru of the Northeast. He is in our backyard in Troy. We would go over there a couple of times a week."

Dave and Seth Randall run North American Hockey Systems in Troy.

When he was 6, Hynes played in the house league — recreational league — at the old Bethlehem Ice Group Arena just outside of Delmar.

He played travel hockey for the Capital Youth Hockey League for a few years.

"Last year, we did not have a team," Hynes said. "The team broke up."

So Hynes decided to join the Westchester Express travel team.

"I went down for a try out and I made it," Hynes said.

Hynes will play for Westchester, based in Brewster, this fall and will try out for the high school team at Guilderland in November even though he will be an eighth-grader.

The Westchester team will provide travel opportunities for Hynes. The Express play in two big tournaments — the Silver Stick Tournament and the Nike-Bauer Tournament — and also play in Chicago.

"The best teams in the country are in those tournaments," Hynes said. "Also the number-one and number-two teams in the country are both in the Northeast. We play them a lot."

The Westchester team plays a split season. It starts in the fall and goes until November when the players on the team can try out for their high school teams. When the high school season is finished in February, the Westchester team gets back together and plays in the state tournament for travel teams.

College is his goal

In the future, Hynes could chose either to go to a prep school or play for a junior team such as the Capital District Selects.

He even has thoughts of playing juniors in Canada, but that would deter him from one of his main goals.

"If I play juniors in Canada, I can’t play in college," Hynes said.

Canadian junior teams pay their players small amount, but that would violate NCAA rules.

"I want to play Division I hockey on a scholarship," Hynes said. "That is my main goal."

There are only 60 Division I hockey-playing colleges in the country — including local colleges Union and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

"We want him to remain a good student," Robin Hynes said. "A lot of the best players don’t have the best grades."

Hynes has balanced books and hockey even though he is dedicated to the sport.

"I have always liked it," he said. "I realized I loved it during my first year of travel. I played pretty well."

"We knew he was a good player," Robin Hynes said. "But we realized that he could play with the best of the best when he made the USA camp. He had a great try-out and we thought, ‘Wow, he could be something.’ Before the tryouts, for us, we thought he had a 20-percent chance of making it to the camp. But then he started taking it to guys, we thought he had a 70-percent chance."

Hynes was just happy to be back on the ice. He had broken his shoulder and came back for the tryouts for the national camp.

Before the tryouts, he was just doing cardio-vascular workouts.

"It really helped out, actually," Hynes said of his injury. "I went to the tryouts in primo shape."

The right-handed shooting winger took advantage of his opportunity to get back on the ice, by having a couple of good tryouts.

Hynes loves the creativity of hockey and likes the play of Sidney Crosby of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins. He also likes the Nashville Predators and Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin.

"I like to take after Sidney Crosby," Hynes said of the NHL’s reigning most valuable player. "He is not the biggest player but he can take a hit. He’s skillful but tough."

Hynes plays hockey nine months out of the year and five to six days a week.

"At the end of the season," Hynes said, "I’m not happy it’s over, but it is a nice break."

He also gets excited about the baseball season; as a pitcher and third baseman, he has also been successful.

But when the weather turns cold, he is excited for the hockey season to begin. Hynes is attracted to the creativity that a hockey player can have on the ice.

He also has found something that he is really good at and can compete at the highest level.

"We’re beginning to see what he can accomplish," Robin Hynes said.

"And I want to keep working towards it," Tyler Hynes concluded.

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