By Jimmy Allinder
Spencer Cohen understands where he goes to college can have a huge impact on the rest of his life.
The senior at Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen is an outstanding lacrosse player and has decided to walk on, if that’s what it takes, in order to play the sport. It could be at an NCAA Division III school or on the club level. Either way, Cohen knows academics will impact his decision.
“I haven’t narrowed down my top schools yet, and I’m not quite sure what I plan as my major,” he said. “It’s been kind of stressful because I want to find the perfect school where I can play lacrosse and gain a quality education.”
Academics followed by lacrosse is how Cohen prioritizes his upcoming decision. He has achieved a 3.8 grade-point average, which translates into a near A+ average and makes him more than qualified to be accepted at an outstanding institution.
Cohen is considered one of the team’s most valuable players even though he isn’t among the its point leaders. He registered five goals, two assists and was credited with 27 ground balls this past spring, but those stats don’t reflect an extremely important facet of the game: faceoff wins.
Opponents square off at midfield to begin a game, following halftime or after a goal is scored. With sticks intertwined, they prepare to scoop up the ball when the official blows the whistle. The position requires special hand-eye coordination and quick reaction when the ball is dropped, which Cohen possesses. Since he made the varsity team as a freshman, he was inserted only as a “FOGO” — Face Off and Get Off — but things changed as he gained experience.
“I started to get more playing time as a midfielder, and I eventually became a regular,” he said. “It’s a position that requires a lot of running, which is not my favorite thing to do, but I accepted the responsibility because I felt I could bring energy to the team when I used my speed to race up and down the field.”
Cohen also sees his job as being one of a number of leaders for his team.
“I do my best to keep the level of intensity up throughout practice,” he said. “Lacrosse is all about maintaining a fast pace throughout the game and being able to transition from defense to attack. If my teammates enhance those skills, I’m helping them get better and they’ll enjoy the game more.”
Cohen was introduced to lacrosse in the fourth grade after playing in a summer recreation league. He also played basketball and baseball but found the speed and physicality of lacrosse to be more challenging, enough so that he asked his parents to sign him up to play at the club level.
“They never heard of the sport, but being supportive parents, they located a club team in our area and I never looked back,” Cohen said.
In addition to being a Falcon, he now plays for an elite club team called Team Turnpike. He says the level of competition has enabled him to improve his skills even more. As for conditioning, Cohen works out at the gym nearly every day doing cardio, long runs, sprints and biking.
Asked to name an individual who has had the greatest impact on him, Cohen surprisingly named Kobe Bryant, who recently retired as a professional basketball player for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.
“Since I was a young kid, I studied him closely,” Cohen said. “He had a way of combining a strong work ethic and positive attitude, and it was obvious he loved to play. I’ve always looked up to Kobe and have tried to emulate him, hoping that one day I can achieve a degree of success at whatever I do.”
Cohen says he has never encountered problems balancing lacrosse with academics.
“Playing lacrosse has forced me to budget my time if I expect to do well,” he said. “I’ve developed a schedule for completing my assignments, and it’s sometimes been difficult getting to the gym. However, I’ve adapted by pushing myself harder in practice.”
Cohen’s goal next spring is helping the Falcons recapture the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) title it relinquished to Monroe Township High School this spring after winning the championship the two previous seasons.
“It was an unreal feeling to win the GMC title twice in a row,” he said. “Losing [it] last season was a not a good feeling because we beat them our first match during the regular season.
“One thing about me is that I search for ways to handle adversity. The plan is to make sure our team works together during the offseason and come into 2017 better prepared. We’re ready to fight for what we rightfully believe is our crown.”