By Scott Johnston
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/19/09
The Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky., is known as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports.”
Horse racing’s crown jewel has also been referred to as “The Run for the Roses.”
Upon graduating next year, it also will be the home for a rising Philly lacrosse standout, Emmaus defenseman/long stick midfielder Mike Bender.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Bender has given a verbal commitment to accept a full scholarship to play Division 1 lacrosse for the Silver and Scarlet of Bellarmine University.
“Mike is all energy all the time – he plays the game with passion and skill, loves to be near the ball and loves to create chaos and that’s why he’s been so valuable to Emmaus the past couple of seasons,” said Bender’s high school coach Jef Hewlings. “When Mike is around the ball, good things usually happen. He is a tenacious defender that doesn’t leave the ball carrier alone and when he gets the ball on the ground he usually comes up with it and creates offensive chances for us.”
Bender plans to study Business Administration at Bellarmine, considered the premier independent catholic university in the south.
He chose the southern school over Towson, Delaware, Salisbury, Md., Sacred Heart and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC).
Bender helped the Green Hornets finish 19-5 and claim the Lehigh Valley Conference and District 11 championships in 2009. Emmaus also reached the quarterfinals of the first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs.
Bender was selected to play in the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association (EPSLA) Showcase and spent the summer playing for the highly-ranked Duke’s Lacrosse Club with teammates Ty Souders and Alex Kuehner.
Last month, all three played key roles in helping lead Duke’s to its fourth straight championship of the Champ Camp Tournament at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The tournament, featuring teams from 18 states including the District of Columbia and the Canadian province of Ontario, is considered as the top summer tournament on the boys’ club scene.
It’s also were Bender first got noticed by Bellarmine coach Jack McGetrick.
“He saw me play there and then three or four days after that I had gotten a call from him and he had invited me and my family down to the campus,” said Bender. “Once we got there, I just fell in love with the campus. It’s beautiful. I also like the fact that it’s also a smaller school (2561 undergraduates/573 postgraduates). It just seemed like the perfect fit.”
Bellarmine added men’s lacrosse as a sport in 2004, but did not compete until the 2005 season. The Knights also feature a brand new $5.1 million on-campus stadium that seats 2,100 people.
After winning six of their first eight games in 2009, the Knights lost six straight to end the season with a 6-8 mark overall. The team also went winless (0-5) in the Great Western Lacrosse League (GWLL) that featured Ohio State, Air Force and Quinnipiac along with nationally-ranked Notre Dame (No.3) and Denver (No.20).
Notre Dame won the conference and received the automatic bid to the NCAA Division 1 men’s lacrosse tournament before losing to Maryland (7-3) in the opening round.
Following the season, the Irish left for the newly-formed Big East Lacrosse League. The remaining schools, along with Bellarmine, will join existing members Fairfield, Hobart and Loyola in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).
Bender is the third Emmaus rising senior to commit to a Division I college. The other two are midfielder Tate Klidonas (Hartford) and defenseman Souders (Lehigh).