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College Lacrosse: CCBC Essex Sets Sights on National Title

Ranked third among junior colleges nationally, the Knights open their season at 1 p.m. Sunday when they host Army Prep.

It took several weeks for Brandon Kendrick to get over how last season ended for CCBC Essex.

The Knights had a successful season as they went 16-2 and advanced to the NJCAA national title game. However, a 17-4 drubbing at the hands of Onondaga Community College (N.Y.) in the championship game left Kendrick (Mount St. Joseph) with a reason to come back this season even more motivated.

“We had a great team last year, but I felt the sophomore class let us down in the end,” Kendrick said. “I don’t want another bitter ending to our season. I believe we have what it takes to win a national title.”

CCBC Essex, which opens its season at 1 p.m. Sunday when it hosts Army Prep, is currently ranked third in the nation in the latest NJCAA poll. If the Knights are to make a run at a national title, Kendrick is expected to play a large role in that.

The sophomore midfielder was a NJCAA second-team All-American and was the 2010 MD JUCO Offensive Player of the Year after he scored 26 goals and dished out 31 assists.

Kendrick is just the latest in a long line of great players to come through the program. The Knights had four NJCAA first-team and five second-team All-American selections last season. This includes long stick midfielder Neil Willis, the 2010 MD JUCO Defensive Player of the Year.

“We have a great tradition at Essex,” Knights coach Shawn Burke said. “When I coached at Howard Community College before I came here, we always looked at Essex at who we wanted to model our program after.”

Burke said he is very excited about the level of talent on his team, with many of his players expected to move on to four-year schools.

He added while lacrosse continues to grow both locally and nationally at the youth and high school levels, the limited number of Division I programs (61 entering the 2010-11 season) leaves many talented players seeking opportunities to display their skills at a level beyond high school.

“By the sheer number of players available, you’re very likely to find players with the ability to play Division I, II or III lacrosse but there just wasn’t a scholarship available,” Burke said. “Part of our job is to provide the players with additional exposure to four-year colleges and going deep into the postseason is part of that.”

One player hoping to use his time at CCBC Essex to attract four-year schools to him is midfielder Travis Crane. The former Eastern Tech star began his career at UMBC.

Crane is currently enrolled in both CCBC Essex and UMBC and is on pace to graduate in May with a Bachelor’s degree in finance and an associate in general studies. He will still have two years of athletic eligibility after this season and hopes to continue his lacrosse career while earning an advanced degree.

“Essex attracts such great players every year and coach Burke is the best in the nation in my mind,” Crane said. “I believe I can bring some leadership to this team and I don’t see any reason why we can’t win a national title.”

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