By CHRIS MACKOWIAK
Featured photo: Tucker looks for the open pass downfield vs. CNU in their 2017 match-up. Hannah Wichrowski photo
The Salisbury University men’s lacrosse team and senior defenseman Kyle Tucker returned home from a road contest at Marymount University (Va.) Wednesday night. In a 22-8 victory, SU won their sixth straight game as they continue a hopeful run towards a third-straight national title.
Fresh off his four-ground ball and three caused turnover performance against the Saints, Tucker was regrouping after the trip back to Salisbury. The Chester Springs, Pa. native entered the shower, not suspecting the next big moment in his lacrosse career.
Tucker’s teammate and SU sophomore goalkeeper Chandler Dabbs saw the news first from the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Draft. Tucker had been selected. Dabbs immediately went to tell Tucker, who was still in the shower.
“It was disbelief to be honest,” Tucker said. “I wasn’t too sure if he was messing with me or not, but then I went and checked my phone and sure enough it was true.”
Multiple social media alerts on his phone from the a professional MLL organization were enough to confirm the news for Tucker.
Tucker became the 13th Sea Gull to be drafted into the MLL. His time came in the final round as the 58th overall pick. The defenseman will not be traveling far from Salisbury, as the selection was made by the Chesapeake Bayhawks based out of Annapolis, Md.
An All-American in each of the last two seasons, Tucker started as part of the Sea Gulls’ defense the last two seasons and currently in 2018. In his 60 career starts and 84 career appearances, the senior has accumulated 216 ground balls and 120 caused turnovers alongside four career points.
“It means a lot coming from Salisbury as the only Division III player drafted; trying to bring Salisbury’s mark into the pros,” Tucker said. “They’ve already had countless people in the pros.”
The now consistent starting defenseman was not initially into lacrosse growing up. After trying out a few other sports, it was Tucker’s brother that introduced him to the long-pole.
“He played lacrosse and football,” Tucker said. “I did not like baseball at all and got bored in the spring. Lacrosse was a good substitute. I started playing and liked it a lot.”
His career blossomed during his high school days at Downingtown East High School, just west of Philadelphia, where he played as a long-stick middie. It was there that the now senior Sea Gull drew the attention of college forces including long-time SU Head Coach Jim Berkman.
Over Tucker’s four-year career, Berkman has watched the close defender grow into the starting force he has become.
“He grew a little bit after his freshman year,” Berkman said. “He got a little bit stronger and a little bit faster. He was always extremely competitive. He’s continued to get better every year which is a sign of great athlete.”
After making 22 appearances in his freshman year, Tucker has only not started in two games over the last three seasons. He currently has at least 65 ground balls and 29 caused turnovers in each season other than his first.
Now as a senior, Tucker is off a breakout season in 2017 when he was named as the IMLCA Division III Defenseman of the Year. Many other honors led to the spotlight from the professional game.
Recently, Chesapeake Bayhawks Head Coach Dave Cottle visited a Salisbury game and got to see Tucker’s play first hand. A 1978 graduate, Cottle played men’s lacrosse at SU. Berkman sees Tucker’s success as a greater message to future Sea Gulls and Division III athletes.
“He knew that he was a pretty good player and a pretty good athlete, and he’s well aware of his track record here. He’s giving a Sea Gull a chance,” Berkman said. “Despite if you play Division III, that you can still get a chance and it can happen at Salisbury.”
— Chesapeake Bayhawks (@TheBayhawks) April 19, 2018
At the beginning of the 2018 season, Tucker also garnered many honors. He named as a preseason IMLCA All-American and a USILA Division III Player of the Year Finalist. Recently, Tucker was also named a Tewaaraton Award finalist which annually honors the top male and female college lacrosse players in the United States.
The back-to-back national champion still has unfinished business in his collegiate career before taking on the professional challenge. The No. 7 Sea Gulls are currently second in the CAC, marked with a 12-3 (5-1 CAC) overall record as they head into their final two regular season games hosting Frostburg State and St. Mary’s (Md.).
“My only dream when I started playing lacrosse in high school was maybe to go to college one day for it. Once I went to college for it, all I could think about was winning a national championship here,” Tucker said.
The Bayhawks start their 2018 campaign on Saturday, hosting the Dallas Rattlers. Their next home game does not come again until June 2 when Chesapeake battles the Ohio Machine.