By Joe Santoliquito
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 9/22/19
Joey Sankey was pared down to nothing but black spandex tights and his bare feet back in the dressing room area of Talen Energy Field in Chester on Saturday afternoon.
The former Penn Charter and North Carolina star could care less. He gave all of his equipment away including his sweaty sox after his Archers team won a Premier Lacrosse League consolation game over Atlas, 25-7, to earn the first pick in next year’s PLL draft.
The inaugural year of the PLL was a highly successful one for the league.
It was, too, for Sankey, who found out just over a year ago that he had testicular cancer, went through four rounds of chemotherapy, lost his hair, and everything else that goes with those grueling treatments — and here he was, playing lacrosse again in the most highly competitive lacrosse league in the world.
He finished treatment in Dec. 21, 2018 and since January had been getting himself ready for this PLL season. He returned in August.
It didn’t really matter if Sankey’s Archers’ team won or lost on Saturday. It didn’t really matter if Sankey played well or not — he did anyway, with a goal and two assists.
The victory came in the fact that Sankey was even on the field.
“What I missed was the competition and the camaraderie, because the lacrosse world is a very small world where everybody knows everybody,” said Sankey, a 2011 Penn Charter grad and 2015 North Carolina grad. “I missed competing and playing as hard as I could.
“Those are the things I missed when the game was taken from me. I’m an appreciative person to begin with, and I know how lucky I’ve been when you go through something like that. I lost my hair and everything, but I gained weight during the chemo from the steroids they gave me.”
He gained about 15 pounds, though he was working out the whole time. He blew up to 175 pounds and mentally focused on trying to get himself in playing shape. Sankey currently runs a club lacrosse program in Philadelphia called Team 11, which has eight teams that run from the ages of fourth grade to juniors in high school.
“Joey’s an inspiration every time you see him suit up,” said Archers coach Chris Bates, also the Episcopal Academy head coach. “To battle through what he did, then go toe-to-toe with the big boys, he’s been a great spark. Our locker room appreciates what Joey’s been through and our guys get fired up by that.”
The club program keeps Stankey involved with the sport he’s passionate about.
Sankey played in the Major League Lacrosse for three years with the Charlotte Hounds. He had success there, but he had to take time off due to two surgeries on his left knee.
Sankey does vividly recall what it was like sitting in the doctor’s office on September 18, 2018 with his parents, when doctors told him he had cancer.
“It was hard seeing my parents (Harry and Sophie) react to it than when I heard it,” Sankey said. “I saw how much it hurt them hearing it, that was the tough part, not as much what I felt personally. It’s a very treatable type of cancer.
“My mom was a wreck, and it was one of those things when I saw her emotional, that made me strong. I was good. My doctors were great. People have talked about this a lot, and I’m just trying to get past it and move forward.”
But it has changed Sankey.
And for the better.
“I feel healthy now and I feel great; I don’t want anyone’s pity, but if I could help someone from my experience, that’s great,” Sankey said. “I have gained from it. You do come out a different person. I took lacrosse for granted a few years.
“I think the experience made me realize how much I miss lacrosse and I miss how much I played it. Lacrosse is a very small community, and I received a great amount of love and support. The amount of people that reached out and supported me was amazing.
“But it didn’t really surprise that much, because it’s lacrosse.”
Archers 25, Atlas 7
ARCHERS 5 8 9 3 – 25
ATLAS 2 3 2 0- 7
ARCHERS vs ATLAS
Score Quarter Team Time Scorer Assister PP SH
1‐0 1 ARC 11:53 Manny Kelly
2‐0 1 ARC 11:38 Alexander Manny
3‐0 1 ARC 10:34 Holman Ambler
3‐1 1 ATL 10:08 Law Tinney
3‐2 1 ATL 8:29 Brown Crawley
4‐2 1 ARC 6:58 Cuccinello
5‐2 1 ARC 1:56 Holman Ambler
7‐2 2 ARC 10:34 Simon ‐ 2PT
8‐2 2 ARC 6:55 Holman McIntosh
9‐2 2 ARC 6:23 Epp Manny
10‐2 2 ARC 6:04 Ratliff Manny
10‐3 2 ATL 5:01 Crawley
11‐3 2 ARC 4:35 Manny Sankey
11‐4 2 ATL 3:40 Noseworthy Rabil
11‐5 2 ATL 1:33 Rabil
12‐5 2 ARC 0:46 Manny
13‐5 2 ARC 0:01 Cuccinello
14‐5 3 ARC 9:03 Holman
15‐5 3 ARC 8:23 McIntosh Sankey
16‐5 3 ARC 8:09 Simon
17‐5 3 ARC 7:37 Cuccinello Amber
18‐5 3 ARC 4:52 Holman
18‐6 3 ATL 4:40 Cloutier Tinney
19‐6 3 ARC 4:28 Manny Ratliff
20‐6 3 ARC 4:20 Manny Fowler
20‐7 3 ATL 3:59 Hodgson Tinney
21‐7 3 ARC 3:51 Holman
22‐7 3 ARC 0:13 Manny Ghitelman
23‐7 4 ARC 8:57 Sankey Cuccinello
24‐7 4 ARC 7:02 Manny Ratliff
25‐7 4 ARC 5:50 Ambler Manny