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Q&A with Quint Kessenich

One of the most recognizable personalities in lacrosse, Quint Kessenich was a four time All-American goaltender, and two time winner of the Ensign C. Markland Kelly Jr. award as the nation’s best goalie. A 1990 graduate of Johns Hopkins University, joined ESPN in 1993 as a lacrosse analyst. He has covered the Men’s National Championships since 1995. Kessenich’s responsibilities have expanded to college football, basketball, various other NCAA championships and even some horse racing.

Quint also continues to work as a lacrosse analyst for Major League Lacrosse games, is a frequent contributor on and for Inside Lacrosse, and serves as a lacrosse columnist every spring for the Baltimore Sun. He established the ESPN Lacrosse podcast in 2010 and it quickly became the industry leader for lacrosse news.

“Q” has some interesting ties to the Capital District area and now that the college lacrosse season is over he took some time to catch up with us.

We recently just had UTAH become the westernmost & first PAC 12 school to add Division I lacrosse to its athletic program. Big picture what does this mean for US Lacrosse & who do you think might well become the NEXT school to go Division I?

QK: Utah’s addition to the Division I landscape is gigantic news and could be the catalyst for more west coast growth in the Pac 12 and beyond. Schools like Stanford, USC, UCLA, Colorado State and BYU have been successful at the college club level, and this will encourage them to take a closer look at elevating to D1.

In this year’s National Championship semifinal game between Maryland/Denver we saw two amazing goals (Colin Heacock’s & Connor Donahue’s) taken off the board in the final minutes due to crease violations. The calls were the correct calls as laid out under the current rules.

As a former goalie, do you feel that goalies of today are too protected by the current rules? Still keeping player safety in mind would you be for changing the crease rules to bring back the “dive” play and giving offensive players the opportunity to still land in the crease AFTER the ball has already crossed the goal line?

QK: I’m in 100% favor of legalizing the dive shot. The issue of goalie safety was fabricated by rules makers. If adding a secondary arc (2 yard radius) in front of the goal line to protect goalies would satisfy safety concerns, make that a no fly zone, but landing in the top of the crease is OK….I could see rules makers returning the dive shot to the college game. It’s an instant highlight when executed in the MLL.

Most people might not know, but you were also a big time wrestler in high school winning two county championships at Lynbrook. We saw UAlbany’s freshman Face Off middie TD Ierlan have tremendous success this past season.  TD was also a star wrestler at Victor. How do you think his wrestling backround allowed him to be so successful? What skill sets transfer over the most to facing off at the Division I level?

QK: Being whistle ready, dealing with success and failure, mental and physical toughness, core strength, hand and wrist strength, work ethic, mastery of technical challenges and performing in the spotlight…just some of the cross overs for TD from wrestling to lacrosse.

In 1987 as a freshman goalie for Johns Hopkins, you helped lead your team to their 7th National Championship with 21 saves in the final game beating Tim Goldstien and Cornell 11-10. What was it like stepping in between the pipes your first season playing for such a legendary program? For you what was the turning point of that National Championship game that propelled you guys to that win?

QK: I didn’t get my first start until week 6 of my freshman season. We opened up at 3-2 and I was inserted into the lineup at North Carolina to help the clearing game. The hardest part of that first season was dealing with the successes and failures on the field, while continuing to plug along in the classroom. Hopkins course work was difficult.

At that time I was still hurting from the passing of my father during the prior year. So I had a lot going on. The lacrosse part of the equation was the easiest. I was very fortunate to have world class coaches like Doc Matthews, John Haus, Brian Holman, John Krumenacker, Jerry Pfeifer, Fred Smith, Bill Tierney and of course Don Zimmerman. My teammates were always helpful and supportive. That senior class of 1987 was one of the greatest in history, winning three titles with players like Brian Wood, Steve Mitchell, Craig Bubier, Damon Stuart, Bruce Chanenchuk, Larry LeDoyen, Mike Webster, and Stuart Jones. Playing in an era where Hopkins felt like it could and should win the national championship every year kept the daily standards high.

Your alma mater Johns Hopkins has not won the National Championship since 2007. Your former teammate and friend Dave Pietramala came under a lot of scrutiny at the end of this past season, especially after the early first round exit and really bad loss to Duke 19-6. What do you see as the biggest need for Hopkins, and what does the team need to do this upcoming season to try to get back to the Final Four?

QK: Hopkins has to improve a few areas if they are going to make a return to championship weekend. Midfield defense would be at the top of that list. That position was a glaring weakness in 2017 and put stress on all aspects of their team defense. Goaltending has to be upgraded. Face-off depth was an issue last spring as well. And then improving or maximizing overall team speed and athleticism has to be addressed. The Jays were pushed around or run around by teams like Maryland, Duke and Ohio State last year. It’s been back-to-back seasons of 0-3 finishes, so the staff must address their calendar and do a better job of peaking and not fading in May.

You actually have some ties to the Capital District area. You made your writing debut with the horse racing newspaper called The Saratoga Special, writing for brothers Joe and Sean Clancy. How did that come to be? What did you takeaway from that experience that has helped you with your current role for inside lacrosse today?

1988 Mohawk Lacrosse Club All-Stars

QK: My family has a summer cabin in the Catskills, five miles outside of Woodstock and I spent the first eighteen summers of my life there. But, I first came up to Saratoga in the summer of 1988 to paint houses while I was in college. One day it rained and I followed all the folks down the street to the racetrack. I’ve been back every year but one since. So in 2002 while at home in Baltimore I would read Sean’s articles and they were terrific, connecting the reader to sights, sounds and emotions of Saratoga. So I sent him an email and told him I’d be up the following year to write. My schedule would allow me to work everyday except Saturday’s when I would be away covering MLL. It was an amazing experience, producing two full articles a day, working from 6am to 11, taking a nap, covering the races from noon to 7pm and then writing until 9pm, hitting the town then collapsing asleep at midnight, only to do it again the next day.

Where it was most beneficial was in developing relationships with people who had no idea who I was. To walk up to Todd Pletcher, Bill Mott, Allen Jerkens, D. Wayne Lukas or Steve Asmussen and earn their respect and trust was the challenge. I was very much out of my comfort zone and grew from that experience. It ultimately led to some horse racing coverage on ESPN including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont and Irish Derby.

While watching one of the ESPNU broadcasts this Spring, I remember a conversation you and Paul Carcaterra were having about one of the players summer internships and how ridiculously hard it sounded. You stated that you spent your summer painting houses in Saratoga, NY. I immediately started to chuckle because I know one of those houses was my former college coaches – Steve O’Shea. Tell me a little about your relationship with Coach O’Shea and playing in the Mohawk summer league with your brother Pace that summer.

QK: It was 1988 and they snuck me into the draft using my middle name. So when Steve and the “Newts” drafted me the entire league protested. They agreed to let me play, I just wasn’t allowed to play goalie. So I played midfield and faced off, ultimately making the All-Star team and defeating the Iroquois National team. Growing up I had always split time between midfield and goalie until ninth grade. The quality of play at Albany was strong, and we had major amounts of post game fun at Sutter’s or the Across the Street Pub. Steve has become one of my closest friends, a real mentor.

This April the NCAA passed legislation stopping early recruiting in lacrosse that seemed to be spinning out of control with early verbal commits. The new rule prohibits recruiting contact with prospective student athletes and their families before September 1st of their junior year in high school now. What are your thoughts on the decision and how do you see it helping/hurting the college game?

QK: It’s fantastic. Kids and families were getting squeezed by the early recruitment as 8th and 9th graders. The summer showcase grind, the pressure to perform as a 14 year old, those are counter productive to overall adolescent development. The sport needs to welcome players who pick up a stick as middle school students. I stand up an applaud the new legislation. Give the summer back to families, and keep the college coaches away from kids.

UAlbany had a great season this past year and there are very high expectations for this upcoming Spring. They already have even been talked about as possibly a preseason #1 ranked team. The team returns Tewaaraton Finalist Connor Fields, Faceoff specialist TD Ierlan, and goalie JD Colarusso. They also have one of the top recruits in the nation coming in with Tehoka Nanticoke. What do you expect from UAlbany this upcoming year and what do feel will be their biggest hole to fill?

QK: The Danes are stacked in 2018. They must find a two-way middie to replace Adam Osika, and tighten up the defense. I felt that their defense in 2017 was good, hiding behind a weekly face-off advantage, and when they didn’t win draws in the playoffs, top quality opponents (UNC and Maryland) exposed them. The Danes are going to run and score in 2018, but will their defense be championship weekend ready?

For more info follow Quint Kessenich on Twitter.

Mike Tesoriero
Shaker graduate, Herkimer All-American Attackman 1991 & UAlbany Attackman 1993 Vice President Youth Revolution Lacrosse Program & coach