FALMOUTH — IV Stucker has lived in Maine for only two years, but it didn’t take him long to impress lacrosse coaches throughout the state.
His own coach at Falmouth, Mike LeBel, came to rely on his leadership, naming him the team’s sole captain this year.
Cape Elizabeth Coach Ben Raymond was so concerned about Stucker that he took the rare step of having a single player devoted to denying him the ball in their Western Class B final. The Capers won, but not before Stucker and his coaches changed tactics in midgame and made a rally.
Then there was Thornton Academy Coach Ryan Hersey, whose team didn’t even face Falmouth. But Hersey officiated some of Stucker’s offseason games and proclaimed:
“He’s a whole different caliber of a guy. He’s got very good vision, is very shifty and can use both hands. He can find people that they don’t even know they’re open.”
Stucker moved from attack to midfield for his senior season, finishing with 38 goals and 26 assists. More than that, it was his innate understanding of the sport that earned him Maine Sunday Telegram’s Player of the Year honors.
Stucker picked up the sport at age 6 while living in Baltimore, where lacrosse fever is on a level unimaginable in Maine. Everyone plays and then goes to watch one of the local college powerhouses.
Stucker played basketball and football, too, but lacrosse became his passion. He played as a 100-pound freshman at a large private school in Maryland, then spent his sophomore year living with an aunt and uncle in Dallas, and competing for a club team at one of the largest public schools in Texas, while his family prepared to move to Maine.
By the time he was a junior at Falmouth, Stucker had sprouted 7 inches to reach a height of 6-foot-3. He weighs nearly 175 pounds.
LeBel’s initial concern about Stucker was “how he was going to react to playing with less experienced talent in Maine. Was he possibly going to get frustrated with the other kids?
“But he never did. If he got frustrated, it was really just frustration with himself not being able to do more. But there was never any outward blaming of other kids. It was a pleasant surprise. But now that I’ve known him for a couple of years, it’s not surprising. It’s just the type of kid he is.”
Stucker said being able to play lacrosse eased the transition to life in Maine, where his family – he has three younger sisters who all play lacrosse – had long desired to live.
“That’s your family for the season. You hang out with them all the time,” Stucker said of his lacrosse teammates. “I think all lacrosse players in each state are kind of the same. That’s who you gravitate toward when you move there. It’s hard to explain the lacrosse culture. It’s a small sport, but it’s growing so big and it gives you something to talk about right away.”
Stucker was an all-state selection as a junior, playing attack while Charlie Fay led the Yachtsmen in scoring. When Fay graduated, LeBel asked Stucker to move to midfield. It wasn’t a problem.
A terrific passer, Stucker was able to quickly find the right matchups in opposing defenses and then work to exploit them. The Yachtsmen beat Kennebunk in a playoff semifinal – Stucker’s biggest thrill in his two years at Falmouth, he said – and then ran into a determined and talented Cape Elizabeth squad. With his team trailing 6-1, Stucker ran to the sideline and told his coaches that the offense they were running wasn’t going to cut it.
“They wouldn’t let me touch the ball,” Stucker said of Cape’s defense. “I think the biggest part of being successful as a coach and a captain is you have to be able to trust each other, and the fact that I could come off and say, ‘Yeah, that’s not working’ and not be hard-headed and say, ‘Keep running it until it works.’ We can do something else. We did. We got back into the game. If we hadn’t fallen behind so far …”
Stucker took the loss hard. He sat with his head down for a long time after the final horn, finally being lifted to his feet by a coach. What was he thinking?
“That’s the last time I’d play high school sports. That’s the last time that I’d play lacrosse with those guys,” Stucker said. “I’m able to go play again (at Division III Roanoke College in Virginia) but a lot of those guys don’t get to. I could have helped us win. I really wanted a state championship.”