Lorne Smith was always a goalscorer. He was the guy who anchored the attack on the high school lacrosse team, defeating one team after another with his lethal shot and heady play. He was the one who got all the glory, the guy whose name was mentioned with the best to ever play in the Baltimore area.
But when Smith arrived at Princeton as a freshman, he found three other guys with similar credentials. Their names were Jon Hess, Jesse Hubbard and Chris Massey. And they were about to form one of the best attack trios in the history of college lacrosse.
Smith found himself with a new role and a new position. There wouldn't be as many goals as there were in high school. There wouldn't be as many lethal shots.
But there would be plenty of glory.
"I started playing lacrosse as far back as I can remember," Smith, now a junior, says. "Actually, I just saw a picture of myself when I was two years old, holding a stick at one of my dad's club games. So I guess I've had a stick in my hands as long as I've been able to walk."
From the very start, Smith was destined to play lacrosse. His father, Robert, played the sport in college for Western Maryland, and starting in 1988, Robert took Lorne and his older brother Bryan to see the NCAA Final Four each year. While many kids were playing little league baseball, the Smiths were playing recreation league lacrosse.
Lorne attended The Gilman School in Baltimore, where he scored 199 career points in his four years as a starter. The lacrosse powerhouse won two state titles in Smith's tenure, and he was named the Baltimore Sun Player of the Year after his senior year.
Smith was recruited by a host of topnotch lacrosse schools at which he could have been a starting attackman. But like many Princeton athletes, he had things in mind other than lacrosse.
"I think it came down to the fact that I realized I was going to use lacrosse to get into the best school that I could because lacrosse doesn't really take you anywhere," Smith says. "When you get done with school, there is no future in the sport."
Smith came to Princeton as an attackman, but with Hess, Hubbard and Massey – all of whom were a year ahead of him – playing attack, he would see precious little time at his former position. Head coach Bill Tierney decided that Smith was too talented to sit on the sidelines, however, and asked Smith to become a midfielder.
Smith made the switch, sacrificing the scoring that comes along with the attack position. But his mindset remained that of an attackman.
"I never really committed myself to being a midfielder until sophomore year," he says. "Then I decided I'd try and actually learn some of the defenses and learn the clears and learn the rides."
Smith learned more than Tierney could have imagined when he first proposed the position change. After a spectacular sophomore year in which he finished fourth on the team in points with 26, behind Hess, Massey and Hubbard, in that order, Smith was named to the All-Ivy League and All-America teams as a midfielder.
And if that wasn't enough glory, Princeton claimed its second national championship.
"To become a first-team All-American midfielder as a sophomore, having only played one year of midfield in your life, that's just all Lorne," Tierney says.
With the graduation of Todd Eichelberger '97 and Jason Osier '97, Smith is the only player returning from Princeton's starting midfield line of a year ago. With just two years of midfield experience under his belt, he finds himself as the anchor of Princeton's middle unit.
But Smith and Tierney both know that no matter how well Smith plays this year, it will be his last year as a midfielder. After the graduation of Hess, Hubbard and Massey this June, Smith will again roam behind the net as an attackman. The goals and the shots will come again.
"The one thing I really miss about high school is being on the field all the time and being able to control things and really being in the flow of the game all the time," Smith says.
Two national championships. All-America accolades. Not bad for a guy who has only played the position for two years. He may not have all the shots and goals, but there's always next year. For now, Smith will make do with the glory.