SUMMER 2002: A Lacrosse Family Affair

By Nelson Coffin

Jason Werner has never inspected ancient Roman ruins, walked the famous Piazza della Signoria in Florence or plied grand Venetian canals in a gondola. Yet the recent Severn (Maryland) School grad found himself in the gateway of Italian sports history at the World Championships a couple of months ago, despite never having set foot in the old country.

Regardless, Werner started on the attack unit for the Italians in their first-ever international competition, helping the fledgling club to a 5-1 record and second-place status in the International Open Division in Australia. "The experience was great," said Werner, 18, who finished with six goals during the tournament against players several years his senior. "Most of the guys were 21 or 22 or older. It has really helped me get acclimated to college ball by going against bigger, faster guys."

2002 Maryland Summer League Champs Lax World included two father-son duos

Werner just finished his first week of fall practice at Mt. St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md., although performing with and against older guys is nothing new to him. After all, he played on the Lax World squad this summer with his 44-year old father, Tony, and several other supposedly creaky codgers. That gray-around-the temples team won a club championship with a defense that included the elder Werner and 46-year-old Marc Hoffman wielding long sticks. Those old-timers were also on hand in Perth, guiding Team Toyota to the Masters' title with the salty veterans Werner and Hoffman playing key roles.

Having his dad in Australia was important to Jason, even if they weren't on the same team. Having mom, Beth, on hand Down Under was another bonus for the youngster. Beth and Tony took advantage of their time in Western Australia to enjoy and aid - indigenous wildlife. The couple navigated the 200 miles of rough road (when there was one) between Perth and an isolated outpost called Useless Loop, where they helped the environmental organization Earthwatch in its marsupial rescue program.

Jason didn't make that trip. He was too busy making sure the Italian stickers' debut went off smoothly, despite the initial contact with his teammates not coming until the night before the opener. How Werner qualified for the Italian team was a little bit luck with a dash of ancestry thrown in. Marc Hoffman heard that the Italians were looking for players and Werner was definitely hoping to play in the event. "I was going anyway," said Werner, who totaled 49 goals and 16 assists for the Admirals in his final year at the Annapolis-area private school. My (maternal) grandfather was 100% Italian, so that was my connection. I really couldn't say no."

Tony's path to Perth and post collegiate play is no less interesting. He Played at Baltimore County's Glen Burnie High in the mid-1970's. After a short stint at UMBC, he spent 20 years on the Anne Arundel County Police force, before pondering his options for re-entering collegiate lacrosse. "I felt like I didn't want to be a police officer for 30 years," said Werner, who began playing club ball while a cop.

One thing led to another and Werner eventually enrolled at Catonsville Community College and moved on to Salisbury State, where he played for Jim Berkman. Younger teammates bolstered his confidence at the Eastern Shore school. Goalie Erik Miller, for instance, told Werner that the older newcomer could definitely play at the Division III level. "A lot of the younger guys were standoffish at first," said Werner, who teaches seventh-grade history at Severn. "But once we started playing, I manned the crease area for them."

Being on the same summer-league team with his son was a dream come true for both Werners. Marc and I had been talking about playing with the kids from the time they were 14 or 15," said Werner, noting that Hoffman's son, Josh, is also a Lax World defender. "It's been amazing to be on the same field with my son." Jason shares his Dad's enthusiasm for the rare relationship "Looking down the field and seeing my dad still out there playing is an inspiration to me," said Jason. Between the sensational Lax World season and the World Games, this will be a Werner family summer not soon to be forgotten.

Carc's sporting the new REBEL/STX Uniforms!

September 20, 2002