Junior goalie Austin Graham is having a standout year for the Plattsburgh State men’s lacrosse team. Graham is from the lacrosse hot bed known as Yorktown Heights, New York.
Like many other young Cornhuskers, Graham started his lacrosse career at the age of three.
“Pretty much all of my friends at the time started playing which made me want to play,” Graham said. “If you grew up in Yorktown you most likely played lacrosse. There is a culture of lacrosse in my town and almost everyone plays.”
After his first season of playing lacrosse, Graham decided he wanted to play the goalie position to follow in the footsteps of All-American goalie Joe Colarusso.
“Coach Joe actually became my goalie coach in my senior year of high school, where he taught me a lot in just that one year,” Graham said. “He helped me find a love for the game that I still have to this day. Playing goalie became a lifestyle.”
At the end of Graham’s high school career, he finished by winning a state championship.
“That was probably the greatest moment of my entire lacrosse career so far,” Graham said. “I hope winning a SUNYAC championship will top winning a state championship.”
Deciding he was going to become a Cardinal was an easy choice for Graham to make for a number of reasons.
“I knew a lot of people who were already here and I knew of more kids that were planning on coming to Plattsburgh,” Graham said. “I thought Plattsburgh was a good distance from home but was still a SUNY school that had a great lacrosse program.”
Head coach Joe May saw the potential in Graham early on in his career.
“Austin has a ton of passion for the game of lacrosse, and I saw this when I first saw him play at Yorktown,” May said. “When he came here there was a couple of upperclassmen in front of him, which made him a better teammate. Not being an impact on the field but making an impact off the field.”
Assistant coach Brett McClelland thinks Graham’s strengths have sprouted from his high school days.
“Coming from Yorktown, he always had to work hard to get on the field because every guy on those teams is a potential Division I player,” McClelland said. “I think that is why he is succeeding now because he has bought that into the system and he comes to work every day.”
Senior defensemen Bryan O’Riley admires Graham’s ability to save the ball and is happy he always has his back.
“Having Austin in the net makes my job a lot easier because majority of the time he makes the save,” O’Riley said. “Even when we have a defensive breakdown and the other team gets a 1-on-1 with Austin, he makes a crazy save, which brings a ton of momentum in games.”
One thing Graham said he learned from playing goalie is communication.
“Me being in the net, I am the last line of defense. I have to be the eyes of our defense and point things out and talk to my teammates,” Graham said. “The communicating aspect of lacrosse has showed me how to work together with people to accomplish a goal. Like a ‘do it for the next guy’ mentality.”
Playing the goalie position is not for everyone, but Graham thrives in between the pipes.
“My favorite part about playing goalie is the pressure. As a goalie, you can’t do very much when the ball is headed toward you,” Graham said. “The pressure forces me to bring my A-game every single day.”
Looking back at PSUC, it won’t be the games that Graham remembers the most.
“I don’t think playing will be my favorite memories of Plattsburgh,” Graham said. “I think the people and my teammates here is what I’ll remember the most.”
Email Kyle Espejo at firstname.lastname@example.org