A busy year in the life of a lacrosse player

GUILDERLAND — The summer’s been easy for Mike Camardo. It’s a break he well deserves.

The 2006 Guilderland High School graduate wrapped up playing lacrosse at the highest level and needed the rest the summer has provided.

The first year for any college student presents trials and tribulations on top of the adjustment period. Add in the rigors of playing a Division I sport and doing it so far away, and you have Mike Camardo’s first year at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
"It was kind of intense," Camardo told The Enterprise this week. "Right when I got there, we had a big scrimmage. We all got together and played without coaches. I saw the talent and how much better everybody was.
"Within the first week," Camardo added, "the older guys were excited and ready to go."

Though it was Camardo’s introduction to Division I lacrosse, the practice game provided a fun time in a week of seriousness.

Camardo moved from his home in Altamont to a dorm room six hours away in a setting that was completely new.
"There was one kid from Saratoga I played with at Empires two years ago," Camardo said of a teammate from the Empire State Games. "The whole team of lacrosse guys that I was introduced to, you got to know fast. I had a group of people to hang out with, and that’s a nice advantage."

Camardo also got help from one upperclassman — Dan Carmack who played the same long-stick midfielder position as Camardo.
"They definitely helped us along," Camardo said of all the upperclassmen. "There was a senior who played my position [Carmack]. At first, he took me under his wing quite a bit."

Meeting people was the easy part. Camardo had about 25 to 30 new people he quickly became associated with.

"Competition harder"

But there was a part of playing lacrosse at UMBC that surprised him.
"I didn’t know a lot of what to expect," Camardo said. "The competition was a lot harder, and everyone was there to play. I didn’t know that it would be as time-consuming as it was and everything that had to go into it."

The fall semester is not as busy, and helped ease the transition into collegiate sports for Camardo.

But the schedule was still a busy one.

The UMBC players had to be in the weight room on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays around noon, Camardo said.

The team members also had to partake in eight hours of mandatory study hall each week, which Camardo went to on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s at 7 a.m.

And then there were fall practices. A couple of weeks into the semester, practices began for four or five days a week.
"We got weekends off unless we had a tournament like Lacrosse for Leukemia," Camardo said.

Fall practices lasted a couple of months, ending in November.

Crunched in around lacrosse, lifting, and study halls, are classes. Camardo took four classes in the fall semester — calculus, biology, Western Civilizations, and a class call PHED 202.
"It was for athletes," Camardo said. "It was nice and easy and dealt with being a student-athlete. It was three credits.
"Most classes were three days a week," Camardo added. "I took 14 credits."

Camardo has not chosen a major yet.
"At the start of the second semester I want to figure out the direction I’m going," he said. "I would like to get into coaching and teaching. That would be fun. I also thought about law school."

Winter practices came at the end of fall ball and lasted before exams began in December.
"We were not allowed to have team practices," Camardo said. "But we did a lot of individual practices. The long-stick middies practiced with the defensive coach.
"And at 7 a.m., we were running in the gym because a couple of guys broke some team rules," Camardo said. He added in a matter-of-fact tone, "We would do all that and then go on with our day."

Those small group practices would end the week before exams and then it was time for winter break. But there is a purpose behind all the work in the fall.
"It’s to get into shape," Camardo said.

"Full blown"

The spring semester started early for the UMBC team. The players reported to school a week early — Jan. 22 — and the team went right to work.
"It was full blown from there on," Camardo said. "We went six days a week for the pre-season. The first day back, we had a running test."

The UMBC players had to run a mile under six minutes. Then they had to run 12 full-field sprints with each having to be completed in 16 to 17 seconds. Then, the players had to run eight 40-yard dashes, each under six seconds.
"It was a wake-up," Camardo said. "If you didn’t run during the winter, it hurt."

The spring was a much busier semester than the fall.
"There was no time to do anything," Camardo said.
Camardo took 15 credits of "easier courses."

He took a sociology class, another history class, and a course called the science of water with a lab. Camardo said that class was tougher than it sounded.

He also took a philosophy course and got a credit for lacrosse.
"If you play a sport," Camardo said "you get a credit-and-a-half. It’s a gym credit that I needed."

After the pre-season comes the fun part of the year. Games.

However, the Retrievers’ first game of the season was cancelled.
"We had another week of pre-season," Camardo said. "And that was not too cool."

UMBC did not play its first game until late March.

In the meantime, Camardo still had a busy schedule. He had early classes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tuesdays and Thursdays were still left for study hall.

Practices were every weekday, starting at either 3:30 or 4 p.m. and lasting until 6:30 or 7 p.m.
"It was lacrosse every day," Camardo said. "The pre-season was not fun, but, when the games started, it became a lot of fun. I enjoyed it quite at bit."

"Love the sport"

A schedule like that sounds rough for a lot of people, but Camardo loved it.
"I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have any lacrosse practice or anything," he said.

There wasn’t any time for a social life in the spring, Camardo said. But for Camardo, lacrosse was a much better alternative.
"I definitely love the sport," Camardo said. "And, if you don’t love it, you don’t belong there. It’s like a job, and you are paid to go there. You’ve got to come and work hard every single day, or they won’t take you back."

During the season, practices were monotonous.

Mondays were run days with little stick work. Tuesdays were more skills-oriented and physical.

On Wednesdays, the players got the scouting report of the team they would be playing on the weekend.
"We would get information on every guy on the other team," Camardo said. "We would get the hands, weight, and size of their key guys and their favorite moves. We would find out what the coaches want the defense to do and what their offense does."

Then the team would practice plays that it would use against the competition.

Thursday, Camardo said, was all about the other team. The scout offense would go up against the defense and the scout defense would go against the starting offense.
"We would run all the plays the other team does" Camardo said.

On Friday, the practice was short and would go for one hour or an hour-and-a-half and was mostly just to get ready for the game.

Of course, if the game was away, there would be travel time involved as well.
"You knew what to expect," Camardo said. "That was pretty nice actually."

Season builds

All the hard work translated into a great season, Camardo said.
"It started off a bit slow," he said. "But we definitely picked it up."

UMBC won its first two games of the season, beating Brown and the Air Force Academy in Denver, Colo. during the Retrievers’ trip out west.

The Retrievers lost to the University of Denver in the second game of that trip and came home to get smacked by Johns Hopkins, the eventual national champions.

UMBC beat the University of Pennsylvania but lost to the University of Maryland on March 17. The Retrievers had a 3-3 record but then beat Ohio State on March 25 and then won six of their next seven games. They lost to the University at Albany on March 31 and did not lose again until the Great Danes beat them for the America East title on May 5.

UMBC then beat Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament but lost to Delaware in the quarterfinals.
Camardo got injured in the Denver game. He broke his wrist by "falling on it weird" but missed just one game.
"I tore a ligament and some cartilage," he said. "There was a bone that could block the blood flow they had to check on and, when that was not broken, I was able to play."

Camardo also was given an opportunity as Carmack, Camardo’s mentor, was struggling with his own injuries.
"He was all-league the year before," Carmado said. "But he was always battling injuries to his quads and hamstrings.
"I played a little bit in the first few games, but he could run forever," Camardo added. "I got in a little bit and I played on man-down [after penalties] since the beginning of the season."

"A surprise"

Camardo wasn’t expecting to play long-stick midfielder when he arrived to UMBC in the fall.
"I didn’t think I would play in every game," he said. "I didn’t know that in the pre-season or in the fall. When I came back from winter break, my coach called and said that I had a surprise waiting for me in my locker. It was a long pole."

Carmack got hurt during the season and Camardo was given the starting job at long pole.

As the starting long-pole midfielder, Camardo had some big experiences as he earned his rookie stripes.

He got to play in a championship game and experience the NCAA playoffs, including playing at Maryland’s historic Byrd Stadium in the first round and the Naval Academy’s stadium in Annapolis, Md.
"We beat Maryland at their place," he said, "and the last time that happened was 10-something years ago. It was nice to be the small school in Maryland that no one has heard of and beat the Terrapins."

Though UMBC lost to Delaware in the quarterfinals at Navy Stadium, the experience was great for Camardo.
"Playing in it was awesome," he said of the stadium. " We played in front of 10,000 people."

The outcome of the season exceeded Camardo’s expectations.
"I didn’t expect to make the quarterfinals in my first year," he said. "In the beginning half of the year, I was battling for a place on the team and when I started to start was also when the team got better."

Camardo came home for the summer and hasn’t played that much. He is working at Altamont Country Kennels and has been running and lifting.

He has played in a couple of lacrosse tournaments.

Heading back

He will be heading back to school on Aug. 25 where he will be sharing an apartment with three other lacrosse players. He loves living in Baltimore.
"It’s warmer and it’s a lacrosse town," Camardo said. "It’s not just family members that go to games. Everybody is into it down there. Lacrosse is on the front page of the sports section in the Baltimore Sun and it gets a lot of coverage.
"It’s cool watching high school games down there," he added. "The MIAA is the best in the country."

Camardo has many Maryland teammates and he gets kidded for being from upstate New York.
"Nobody knows where Guilderland is," he said. "They know Long Island and Syracuse, but they think I live in a field."

As this school year approaches, Camardo knows what to expect and that will make life much easier than it was in his first year of college.
"I know what’s going to happen," he said. "There are no surprises and that will be good."

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