Freshman duo carries on legacy of fallen teammate

September 11, 2012

By Dave Albee

Jake Fritz, Kevin Powers play in memory of Tyler Lucas

High school teammates Jake Fritz and Kevin Powers are making an impact as teammates at Dominican and are carrying on the memory of high school teammate Tyler Lucas, who died in an automobile accident. Contributed by Dominican University of California

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — When Jake Fritz and Kevin Powers, high school teammates and longtime friends, led a freshmen lacrosse class to Dominican University of California last academic year, they came with high expectations.

They aimed to play. They aimed to score. They aimed to please.

“We knew that there were no seniors graduating (from last year’s team) and we knew they had a few games where they were one or two goals short,” Powers said. “We knew with the contribution of our freshmen class we would be able to win some of those games.”

Master plan changed

Play, score and win they have, but there has been something missing for Powers and Fritz from the time they pledged to come to Dominican and make a difference. They expected to come here with Tyler Lucas, their best friend and teammate at Issaquah High School.

That was the master plan. Lucas and Fritz, friends since sixth grade, came together on their recruiting trip to Dominican at the beginning of their senior year in high school, and when they returned they recruited Powers to come back with them. They all verbally committed to leave Washington state for the sunnier climes of Northern California.

“It just kind of all worked out,” Fritz said.

Except Fritz and Powers never expected Lucas to lose his life, at age 18, in an automobile accident on Feb. 1, 2011.

A special fraternity

Head Coach Ned Webster flew to Issaquah and delivered a eulogy for a player he never had the chance to coach. It was more than a tragic death of a recruit, but a great loss in the extended tight-knit lacrosse family. Lucas was a member of a special fraternity before he got to college.

Update

Kevin Powers was fifth in the nation in NCAA Division II lacrosse in points. Jake Fritz passed him in the final game of the season to win the Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse scoring title.

“Only those who’ve played lacrosse and know its history seem to truly understand why it is such a special sport. A bond seems to exist with others who’ve played,” said Webster, who recruited Lucas first, leading to an Issaquah domino effect for Dominican.

“It’s not unlike the community that surfers seem to share, how lacrosse players can look at another and know they’ve felt that same special feeling, that excitement, that adrenaline rush knowing that amazing things can happen each time you step on the field, whether it be a spectacular pass or a big shot or momentum-changing hit,” he said. “A lot can happen in a short amount of time when you play lacrosse, and I think that’s a simple explanation of why it’s the fastest growing sport in the country.”

Seeing it through

It’s a sport that demands toughness and commitment, and Fritz and Powers were committed to Dominican no matter what. They wanted to see through what Lucas had envisioned at a place he deemed right for him.

Fritz and Powers kept their promise. They signed a letter of intent to play at Dominican — at the Lucas’ house in front of their families and Lucas’ parents, Jim and Patty.

“They kind of hinted they wanted us to sign the letters of intent at their house. We were happy to make them a part of it,” Fritz said.

“We hung out there all the time. It was just like another day,” Powers said.

A special one.

Lucky to be

But that day was only the beginning of the extent of Tyler Lucas’ impact on his friends, his teammates and the lacrosse community, and how he touched them all. Though he never played a single game for Dominican, the Penguins last season wore one-inch “TL 17” decals on the back of their helmets, a purple-and-gold tribute (Lucas’ high school colors and uniform number) on black and gold.

The stickers were designed to honor Lucas, but they evolved into a fundraising campaign for juvenile diabetes research. Lucas was diagnosed with the medical condition in middle school, yet he kept playing lacrosse.

Dominican, with Powers and Fritz, continues to wear the decals on its lacrosse helmets.

“I always tell my guys that the decal is a reminder of how lucky we are to be alive playing the game that we love,” Webster said.

A second family

Jim and Patty Lucas surely love it. So much so that they are following Powers and Fritz at Dominican. They root for the Penguins and regularly communicate with Tyler’s high school teammates via email, text and Facebook. They attended a scrimmage in San Rafael last fall and during the season Jim flew twice to see the Penguins play at home.

“They are like our second family and he’s like our second dad and Patty is like our second mom,” Powers said.

“We’re like his kids, too,” Fritz said.

“I formed a connection with Tyler during the recruiting process, so it makes sense that I share a similar connection with Patty and Jim. You can see Tyler in them,” Webster said. “They love Kevin and Jake like sons, they love the sport, they love our program, and it really makes me so happy to know that I will have them as friends for many years to come because they are such good people, and they have an awesome energy about them.”

The Big Three

Powers and Fritz feel that energy in particular. It gives them extra incentive when they have the chance to play in front of Tyler’s dad and mom. It isn’t an obligation. It’s an honor.

In a way, the Dominican freshmen have been the Penguins’ Dynamic Duo this season. With Tyler Lucas’ spirit, they feel like the Big Three.

They are doing what they expected and hoped to do. Play. Score. Win. Like family.

Used with permission from www.dominicanathletics.com — The Official Website of Dominican University of California Athletics.

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