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Springfield Youth Club honors retiring faceoff legend Gurenlian with Alumni Award

Monday, 7th August 2017

Categories Boy's/Men's, Club, Pro  

By Matt Chandik, Posted 8/7/17

Greg Gurenlian came in to Major League Lacrosse in 2006 after leaving Penn State as its all-time career leader in faceoff wins. Eleven years, one championship and an MVP award later, he said he never stopped trying to improve himself.

Springfield-Delco grad and former Penn State and MLL great Greg Gurenlian speaks to the Springfield Youth Club after accepting Alumni Award (Photos by Matt Chandik)

“I have taken notes every single game on the day of the game my entire career, learning something from every possible thing,” Gurenlian said. “That’s what I think that’s what somebody who becomes great does. For me, I was always continuing to get better.”

Saturday marked the final game of Gurenlian’s standout MLL career, a 17-14 New York Lizards win over the Charlotte Hounds. Gurenlian won 20 of 33 faceoffs to finish his last season with a 58.3 percent winning percentage. Sunday, he was back where it all began, being honored at Crowell Field by the Springfield Cougars Youth Lacrosse Club as its 2017 Campbell Alumni Award.

It was a fitting place for Gurenlian to be less than 24 hours after the curtain fell on his professional career, because Springfield High School is where he got his start and began the process into becoming the most dominant faceoff midfielder in the world’s premier league.

“The Beast” hasn’t forgotten where his roots are, either. He spoke to the club’s young players about a wealth of topics and ended by expressing his pride and admiration for the back-to-back state championships (2016-17) that the Springfield-Delco high school team claimed.

“That’s what it’s all about. That’s what life’s about: it’s about cycles,” Gurenlian said. “These kids are where I was, and I benefited from people who came before me. You pay it back. That’s just what you do.

“I come back here so I can tell these kids something they need to hear. If I can get one or two kids to sit there and say, ‘you know what? I believe this guy. I’m going to do what he just said,’ they’re going to be able to come back one day and do this for another kid. Life is about people helping you succeed and then you go pay it forward to another generation.”

Greg Gurenlian with parents Pam and George

Gurenlian retires as the MLL’s all-time leader in faceoff wins with an astounding 2,024 triumphs at the X, as well as ground balls, with 1,004. In 2015, he was the first faceoff midfielder to win the MLL MVP award in a year where he broke the league record for faceoff percentage by 9.1 percent with his 73.2 percentage, besting the 63.2 percent that he posted in 2013. He has four of the best six season percentages in MLL history.

Not bad, considering…

“I was told when I first started playing by a lot of kids who were younger than me that I was wasting my time,” Gurenlian said. “My first year, I stunk, because who’s really good when they start?

“I tried facing off because I was trying to do anything I could to get better at this sport. Faceoffs kind of came naturally to me by happenstance when I took a couple in a game and won them all, and then I wanted to learn about it.”

In many ways, Gurenlian typifies Springfield lacrosse. His resilience and toughness carried him a long way, even when things didn’t go his way. He wasn’t always the very best guy in the area in high school or college, but he continually got better. His pro career got off to an inauspicious start, but true to form, he continued to power through until he developed into an MLL legend.

“I played for Rochester and nobody knew me. I got traded to San Francisco. I was in an environment where they really cared about me, and then that team folded. I finally got with the Lizards, and then I blew my knee out. It was like whenever I got going, something bad would happen,” Gurenlian explained.

“When I blew my knee out, that’s when I realized that I wanted to be a full-time lacrosse player. I didn’t want to just play on weekends. That’s when I created the Faceoff Academy system. When you look at my stats, the year after I blew my knee out, I was completely different because I learned from my mistakes and I got better.”

Springfield High coach and Youth director Tom Lemieux said Gurenlian’s example and accomplishments made him a logical choice to be tabbed the latest Campbell Alumni Award winner after such luminaries like Greg Campbell, Kyle Sweeney and Kevin Keenan. Lemieux started the club four years ago as a way to keep Springfield kids playing together, and he’s found that reaching back out to alumni helps continue the growth of the club.

“When we started the club, we wanted to keep everybody involved, from kids at an early age to kids who have played here and played at the next level,” Lemieux said. “Every kid here plays at Springfield. We don’t take anybody from outside Springfield. No dads coach. It’s all our staff and alumni.

“We really want to make sure we’re teaching the right way to play. The kids love being around the alums. They’ve all done such good things in the game and it’s not only about lacrosse. It never is with Springfield. It’s about the person you’ve become and giving back.”

Less than 24 hours after his final game, an MLL legend was giving back to the town that raised him. What more could you ask for?

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