By Mark Kitchin
At the ripe old age of 28 being inducted into a Hall of Fame was the last thing on Matt Poskay’s mind. However, the former A.L. Johnson and University of Virginia lacrosse player has achieved more in a decade than some individuals attain in a lifetime.
So it’s more than fitting that Poskay has been named to the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame class of 2013. Poskay and five others inductees will be feted at a luncheon at the Mercer Oaks Country Club in Princeton Junction on Sunday.
The Hall of Fame is a joint venture between the North Jersey and South Jersey chapters of US Lacrosse, the national governing body of the sport. This year’s group is well balanced and has contributed to the sport in numerous ways and on a variety of levels. It includes Lauren Plasha Berg, a player and official who initiated the West Deptford girls lacrosse program, Dale Oehler, a player, coach and administrator who was pivotal in starting lacrosse at Rumson-Fair Haven, former Hunterdon Central and Rutgers University player Richard Prakopcyk who coaches various youth and off-season teams for North Hunterdon, Florence High School graduate Gina Carey-Smith, a former record-setting goalie and current goalie coach at The College of New Jersey and Lauren Simone Farrell, a Delran High graduate and standout for national champion Princeton University teams.
South Jersey chapter administrator John M. Kalinowski will also be given the Dick Rizk Unsung Hero Award for his service to the sport.
“It’s an extreme honor,’’ Poskay said. “When you think about the lacrosse talent that has been coming out of New Jersey and the great people, to be part of something like this is an extreme honor and an extreme privilege.’’
Poskay felt it was unusual because in many ways he still has a lot to give lacrosse. As a member of the Boston Cannons in Major League Lacrosse, he is a four-time All-Star and considered one of the league’s most talented players. He is also going into his second season as the men’s lacrosse coach at Wagner College. He is a little bit surprised to be going into a Hall of Fame at this point in his career.
“It wasn’t all that long ago that I was playing in New Jersey,’’ Poskay said. “That makes it more humbling. It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s hard to look back on your career when you are still doing it. I always just worked on getting better and doing what I needed to do.’’
Poskay is amazed at the growth of the sport even since his high school days. If the 2002 Clark school graduate harbors any regrets, it is that some New Jersey high schools that didn’t have lacrosse when he was playing have recently picked it up.
“There were some schools that we played in football that would have been fun to play in lacrosse,’’ Poskay said. “Once a guy picks up a stick, he’s hooked. The sport is really picking up in numbers.’’
Matt Poskay (photo courtesy of Wagner College)
He’s pleased to be entering this year’s class with such an accomplished group. Members like Oehler, who recently helped bring back men’s lacrosse at Lebanon Valley College where he played collegiately, are just as happy to be in the same company with Poskay.
“It’s a fun class to be inducted with,’’ Oehler said. “Matt is still playing. He was a prolific player and scorer. It’s humbling to be in his class.’’
Oehler has also been involved in the sport in both Connecticut and Pennsylvania. His experiences in helping start the lacrosse program in Rumson-Fair Haven are having a positive effect even now. The current president of the South Jersey chapter of US Lacrosse often advises others on how to start and build lacrosse programs in their towns.
“We benefited from a lot of local talent,’’ Oehler said. “One thing led to another and eventually we had to contact the high school and the Board of Education. There were a lot of challenges and it was a lot of work. The good news is the (Rumson-Fair Haven) high school team has become a premier program in the Shore Conference.’’
Here are some brief biographies of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees:
Lauren Plasha Berg
Berg has been an outstanding New Jersey official and coach and has been instrumental in growing the girl’s lacrosse program in West Deptford. She learned her lacrosse in Garnet Valley, (Pa). After a stop at Franklin & Marshall, she moved onto Northwestern University where she started and played three seasons of lacrosse including the schools’ inaugural year. She has been a referee since 1993 and currently officiates youth through college level games. In 2003 she founded the West Deptford lacrosse program and helped it grow in all levels. She successfully petitioned the town’s Board of Education to make girls lacrosse a varsity program. From 2008 to 2012 she served as Vice President of the New Jersey South Chapter of US Lacrosse. She currently coaches at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware.
The Wilton (Conn.) high school and Lebanon Valley College standout was selected as an outstanding contributor to the sport in the state of New Jersey on the youth level. He coached the travel team at Rumson-Fair Haven for 12 years and the New Jersey South Under-13 festival squad for eight seasons. He is an original and continuing board member of the town’s Youth Lacrosse Association and played a pivotal role in getting the high school’s varsity program approved. In the mid 90’s he was one of the original members of the reconstituted New Jersey chapter of US Lacrosse. He is a board member of the New Jersey South Chapter of US Lacrosse and is currently the chapter’s president. He recently returned to his roots at Lebanon Valley College and helped them to re-instate the sport that they dropped in 1985.
Poskay was a prolific scholastic scorer at A.L. Johnson in Clark. He is the All-Time leading point scorer in New Jersey lacrosse history with 468 in his varsity career. He also set and still holds the record as the nation’s all-time leading goal scorer in a career with 362 goals. He was selected 4-time first team All-State player, three-time All-Conference player, two-time New Jersey All-American. He moved on to have a stellar career at the University of Virginia, which won the National Championship in 2003 and 2006 with him in the lineup. He scored 41 goals his senior year at Virginia. He continues to excel with the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse. He has been a league All-Star four times. In 2010 he was League MVP and MLL Offensive Player of the Year. When not playing, Poskay has been coaching. He served two years as an assistant coach at Johnson Regional and two years as an assistant at Drew University in Madison. He is currently in his second year as head coach of Wagner College.
The three-year varsity standout at Hunterdon Central was a scholastic All-American in 1973 and 1974. He was first team All-State in 1974 and was eventually named to the Newark Star Ledger All-Century team. Prakopcyk played collegiately at Rutgers University and was a 1978 team captain. He was given the school’s Robert Collett Award for Mental and Physical Spirit that year. He has coached for the Bethlehem (NJ) Youth Warriors since 1999 and has been directing North Hunterdon High School teams during their winter and summer off-season programs since 2003. His efforts were so recognized by area coaches that he was chosen the NJILL Pitt Division Man of the Year in 2005. He was also designer of the proposed 9/11 Monument commissioned by the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Carey-Smith made her mark between the pipes. She was a four-year starter and a two-time All-American at Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey). The Lions won three NCAA championships with her help. She still holds school records for most career saves (638), fewest goals allowed in a season (71) and fewest allowed in a career (314). Her career won loss record was 69-4. She saved her best for her senior season and was selected for the Ensign C. Markland award given to Division IIIs top rated goalkeeper. The Florence High School graduate was also an All-American field hockey standout at the school. She has been the TCNJ goalie coach since 2005.
Lauren Simone Farrell
The Delran High School athlete was named South Jersey Player of the Year by the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1998. She went on to a stellar career at Princeton University. She was a three-time All-American, earning first team status in 2002. She played in NCAA Final Four, three times. Her teams advanced to the finals in 2000 and 2001 and captured the National Championship in 2002. The team captain that year, she was also named Tournament MVP for her performance. A first-team All-Ivy selection in 2000, 2001 and 2002, she ranks fifth for most points in a career at Princeton, second for points in a season, third for assists in a career, fifth for assists in a season and sixth for goals in a season.