The stories of two of the all-time best lacrosse players from Ohio are book-ended by the same person.
Brendan Shook had to start the 2001 lacrosse season at Johns Hopkins under a new coach.
The senior captain from Columbus, Ohio, and Upper Arlington High School, had been a defensive star on Blue Jay teams that had reached the Final Four in each of the two previous seasons.
In 2000, Hopkins had lost 14-12 in the semifinals—to eventual national champion Syracuse.
But only a week after that loss, Hopkins coach John Haus resigned.
He then took over the head coaching job at North Carolina, where he’d been a two-time All-American defenseman, and had won national championships in 1982 and 1983.
Haus, in turn, was replaced at Hopkins by another defensive star returning to his alma mater: Dave Petriemala.
Cornell and Ohio Lacrosse Connection
A second bookend for Dave Petriemala’s career is provided by another player on this list of all-time Division 1 greats from Ohio.
In the aftermath of the COVID-curtailed 2020 season, Petriemala was replaced at Hopkins by Peter Milliman, who came to Baltimore from Cornell, just as Petro had 20 years earlier.
So what’s the other Ohio connection?
Milliman’s departure from Cornell resulted in the elevation of a Cornell assistant to head coach: Cincinnati’s and St. Xavier’s Connor Buczek.
Buczek had begun his coaching career with the Big Red as an unpaid assistant while enrolled in Cornell’s MBA program.
He appeared to be on the verge of taking a job on Wall Street when he accepted instead a full-time assistant position.
But even before all that, Buczek had a playing career at Cornell—as you can see below.
“Ohio’s NOT a Lacrosse Hotbed?”
But first let’s address the obvious question.
Why is Ohio even included on this site—which is supposedly devoted to D1 lacrosse from the perspective of areas “outside traditional hotbeds”.
And how’s it even possible to compile a list of 17 “greats” from a non-hotbed state?
The answers seem obvious, but are actually a little more involved.
Ohio clearly qualifies as a hotbed by several measures.
There were over 70 D1 college lacrosse players from Ohio on 2019 rosters.
In 2020, there were over 80.
In both 2019 and 2020 Ohioans were represented in each of the ten D1 conferences.
On the other hand, a lot of growth in the sport has occurred relatively recently.
The state sanctioned lacrosse at the high school level only as late as 2015—and it went into effect only in 2017; this is a full twelve years after Michigan, for instance, had formally sanctioned the sport.
Keep in mind that a state like South Carolina, considered a laggard next to neighbors like Georgia and North Carolina, sanctioned lacrosse at the high school level in 2009.
As of 2020, there are about 150 boys programs in the state; only 10 years ago, that number was 101.
Cleveland State became the state’s second D1 program in 2017.
Like California, Ohio may be a lacrosse hotbed; but it still doesn’t qualify as a traditional one.
(Read more about the two sides of college lacrosse in Ohio).
Ohio’s 17 All-Time Best D1 College Lacrosse Players
Pat Donnelly entered the Naval Academy on the heels on an impressive high school career.
Prior to arriving in Annapolis out of Maumee High School, he’d never played lacrosse.
Donnelly would go on to become one of an astounding 22 lacrosse All-Americans at Navy during the 1960’s who’d never picked up a stick prior to entering the Academy.
In addition to First-Team All-American honors, Donnelly would win the 1965 Schmiesser Award, recognizing the nation’s top defenseman.
And yes, college lacrosse has undergone radical change and growth since the 1960’s.
Still, it would difficult to overstate the dominance of Navy teams of that era.
Navy won eight national championships during the 60’s, including three in a row.
And on the football side, Donnelly also had some success.
He was a star fullback on an Academy team that was also a national powerhouse.
His quarterback, as well as close friend and roommate, was another midshipman from Ohio: the Heisman Trophy winner and future Dallas Cowboy legend from Cincinnati, Roger Staubach.
The line of succession for Maryland goalies seemed pretty well established.
Dan Morris, who’d come to the Terps out of Dallas Jesuit, ultimately took over the starting role in 2017 as a junior, after having to sit behind (though no doubt also learn from) two First-Team All-Americans.
The first of the two was Niko Amato.
And then there was the guy who had to sit behind Niko Amato: Kyle Bernlohr.
Like Morris, Bernlohr would make the most of his opportunity.
Coming out of Western Reserve Academy in Hudson (near Akron), Bernlohr had chosen Maryland over Ohio State.
In 2015, after three years of waiting, the redshirt junior would finally get the full-time starting job.
He was a First-Team USILA All-American that season, and helped Maryland reach the championship game of the NCAA Tournament (they lost to Denver).
In 2015 Bernlohr led the nation in goals-against average (6.57, nearly a full point better than the runner-up) and ranked third in save percentage (.589).
He also won the Ensign C. Markland Kelly Jr. Award, recognizing the nation’s top goalie.
The previous year’s recipient, unsurprisingly, had been Amato.
But in 2016, Bernlohr did something that even Amato hadn’t been able to achieve.
He led Maryland to a national championship—something that had eluded the Terps since 1975.
In the process, Bernlohr was recognized in 2016 USILA Second Team All-American, a First Team All-Big Ten honoree, and a Tewaaraton Award nominee.
Behnlohr has also played professionally in both the MLL and PLL, and served as an assistant coach at Cleveland State.
In 2013 Mark Koontz was selected as one of the 42 Best Lacrosse Players on Wall Street.
But that’s probably not going to rank as the signal achievement of his lacrosse career.
The future Goldman Sachs trader—now a partner at a financial firm based in Charlottesville—could claim a couple of other honors before that.
Koontz had been a high school teammate of Steve Dusseau at Upper Arlington.
He was part of a wave of talent—especially defensive talent–representing the Golden Bears and central Ohio.
In 1999, his freshman season at Virginia, Brendan Shook was playing close defense for Hopkins, Bryan England was at Loyola (a team he would eventually captain), and Brett Harper was a freshman at Maryland.
At Virginia, Koontz would play defense alongside yet another Upper Arlington grad, who joined the program as a freshman in 2001.
Koontz had seen a considerable amount of action in his freshman year; it was also the season that, after three straight Final Four appearances and two overtime losses in the finals, the Cavs would finally win a national championship.
Koontz was a Second-Team USILA All-American in 2000 as a sophomore.
He was a First-Team selection as a junior.
His star-crossed senior season began when he fractured and dislocated his left wrist—playing touch football.
A Baltimore Sun account of a early-season game noted somewhat incredulously that Koontz was not only able to hold his own against Syracuse star Josh Coffman, but also fire off a lengthy clear out of his defensive end—which then hit the pipe of the SU goal.
And he’d done this while still wearing a cast covering his left thumb and forearm.
Cast and all, Koontz was still named ACC Player of The Year that season—the first defender to receive the honor.
He also, again, named a Second-Team USILA All-American.
Craig Kahoun’s college career doesn’t provide a lot of immediate touchstones for many current D1 lacrosse fans.
Three seasons he was all-league—in a conference that no longer exists.
And he was the all-time leading scorer, and three-time captain—for a program that, too, is no longer with us.
That now-defunct D1 program was Butler.
The long-gone conference was the Great West Lacrosse League, which had included not only Butler but also Notre Dame, Ohio State, Denver, Fairfield, and Air Force.
The more surprising fact about Butler’s D1 lacrosse program to most current fans—beyond the fact of its mere existence—is that it was once a dynamic program with realistic national ambitions.
Kahoun had been drawn to Butler out of Worthington High School over schools like Towson and UMASS by the opportunity to help build a new program begun in ’92.
Butler had seemingly fulfilled that promise.
In Kahoun’s senior season (’96), The Bulldogs had gone 9-4, including victories over Delaware, Rutgers, Colgate, and Michigan State (another departed D1 program).
They’d also performed respectably against teams like Georgetown and UNC.
Kahoun’s contribution to that growth was unmistakable.
He was an Honorable Mention USILA All-American in ’96—Butler’s first—and ended his career with a total of 204 points, and 149 goals.
Kahoun would go on to become head coach at Butler from 2000-04 (current Ohio State coach Nick Myers was an assistant on his staff).
While coaching at Butler, Kahoun also simultaneously played in the MLL.
Butler’s program would ultimately die a painful, protracted death.
But before then Cory Kahoun helped build on the early success forged by his brother Craig.
Cory had followed Craig out of Worthington and onto the Bulldog roster in ’96, overlapping his brother in just that one season.
Bulter was 10-4 in ’97, and in 11-4 in ’98.
Also in ’98—only the 6th year of program’s existence– the Bulldogs qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
In the opening round they faced Maryland at College Park, and trailed 12-8 heading into the final quarter.
But the Terps then took control, scoring 3 goals in opening two minutes of the 4th en route to a 18-10 final.
Kahoun scored 4 goals against the Terps, and was an Honorable Mention All-American at midfield that season.
In ’99 he was selected as both the Great Western Lacrosse League Player of the Year, and and also that season, a Third-Team All-American.
Now a police officer in Columbus, he played in the MLL with Craig, and also in the NLL.
Ben Randall was Ohio State’s first back-to-back First Team All-American.
He was also the Buckeyes’s first First-Team All-American.
(It remains one of life’s great conundrums that Randall could be a First-Team All-American in 2017, yet only Second-Team All-Big Ten).
The defenseman actually came to the Columbus from Mason High School via Long Island.
He’d transferred from Stony Brook, where he had shown tremendous potential.
Even as a freshman, he’d stepped in as the Seawolves’s top cover defender, starting every game and leading the team in caused turnovers (including 5 in a game vs. Albany).
In Columbus, he would become a Tewaaraton Award nominee, and come to be regarded as one of the nation’s premier defenseman— something OSU’s numbers would reinforce.
In his senior season, the Buckeyes allowed just 8.6 goals per game, good enough to rank 14th in the nation.
But it was in his junior season the Buckeyes reached the program’s high-water mark, going 16-5 and reaching the NCAA finals.
Randall would go on to play in the MLL; he’d been the first defender selected in the league’s draft.
Hughes was another player on this list who spurned the hometown Buckeyes.
But the Buckeyes had actually been after him to play football.
An extraordinary athlete at Upper Arlington, Hughes had actually been selected “Mr. Ohio” in both lacrosse and football, and he chose instead go to Virginia and play lacrosse.
He was a three-time All-American at defense at UVA, and a member of the Cavaliers’s 2003 team that defeated Johns Hopkins for the national championship (and that also featured Matt Ward, Chris Rotelli, John Christmas, Brendan Gill, and Tillman Johnson),
Hughes also captained the Cavs in his senior 2004 season.
He later played in the MLL, including a stint with his hometown Ohio Machine.
It’s one measure of the quality of Upper Arlington’s lacrosse program that Max Schmidt won four state championships there during his high school career.
An even more impressive one is the number of Golden Bears that managed to penetrate the upper reaches of D1 college lacrosse along with him.
In 2009, his sophomore year at Maryland, the Terps’s roster alone included two other former Golden Bears players in addition to Max Schmidt, defenseman Grant Oliver and LSM Chris Rhine.
(And that list did not include his teammate and fellow All-American defenseman Brett Schmidt, who was actually from the Philadelphia area).
Schmidt was a four-year starter at defense for the Terps, and a three-time All-American, who went on to play several seasons in the MLL.
He now coaches at Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas, which has produced some of the best D1 college lacrosse recruits from Nevada.
Connor Buczek is now the head coach at Cornell.
Correction: Connor Buczek is now the interim head coach at Cornell
But you’d have to think that a guy who once dislocated his shoulder during a game, popped it back in, and then proceeded to score a goal, probably isn’t spending a lot of time stewing over a job title.
Buczek’s shoulder injury could originally be traced back to Ohio, where he’d been a standout in both football and lacrosse at St. Xavier in Cincinnati.
Buczek arrived at Cornell as former member of the United States U19 team, the all-time leading scorer at St. Xavier, and Inside Lacrosse’s 35 top overall recruit.
But all that had been at attack.
At Cornell he transitioned to midfield, and would become the first Big Red middie to score 40 goals in a season.
He’d also become the program’s all-time top scoring midfielder, with 155 points, including 106 goals.
In addition to being a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection three times, he was also a two-time Tewaaraton Award nominee and a three time USILA All-American (and twice First-Team).
It would be difficult to find a lacrosse career more centered on the state of Ohio than Anthony Kelly’s.
He went from St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland to Ohio State to the Ohio Machine (among other MLL teams) to coaching jobs at OSU, Denison, and Hilliard Davidson High School in Columbus.
Kelly came on the scene a little too early to see the FOGO position elevated by a wave of face-off specialists like Trevor Baptiste, and T.D. Irelan, and Sam Talkow of Florida.
He also seemed to be ready-made for the FOGO fireplug, no-stick stereotype.
He was, after all, an intimidating 6-4, 240 lb presence nicknamed the “A-Train”.
And he unmistakably brought immense skill to the “X’.
He won 54% of face-offs in 2000, and 59% in 2002, good enough to rank 11th nationally.
Over the course of his OSU career, he won 139 face-offs, for an overall win percentage of 56.%.
And though he led OSU in ground balls each on his 4 seasons—the only player in program history to do so—he also had some finesse, and was also a scoring threat.
Kelly would eventually be recognized as one of the most accomplished face-off specialists in the game, as indicated by his six-time selection as an MLL All-Star.
Kelly continues to live and coach in Ohio. With OSU teammate Greg Bice, he operates the training and coaching program Resolute Lacrosse.
Just as a final note, Kelly’s roots at OSU were longstanding: his grandfather had been on the track team there with Jesse Owens.
Another Upper Arlington product, Dusseau lead Notre Dame in goals each of his four years, ending his Irish career with 113.
Dusseau was also an Honorable Mention USILA All-American honoree at attack in 1999, and a multiple first-team all-league selection (the Irish were then playing in the Great Western Lacrosse League).
Steve Dusseau rounds out the second set of brothers on this list.
And he is indisputably the all-time best lacrosse player produced by the state of Ohio.
Alongside Mark Koontz, he’d won three state titles at Upper Arlington.
Spurning Notre Dame, which both his brother, Chris, and father had attended, he entered Georgetown in 1999.
He scored 130 goals from the midfield in his Georgetown career, and led the Hoyas to the NCAA finals in 2001 and 2002.
In doing so, he compiled a resumé that’s still imposing 20 years later:
A three-time All-American, and two-time First Team USILA All-American.
Two-time Tewaaraton Award Finalist.
2002 USILA Player of The Year.Team USA member.
What the honors don’t convey is the impact Dusseau could have on an a game.
There are accounts of Dusseau having to operate, Lionel Messi-style, while being guarded by a statistically significant percentage of the opposing team.
In one particular game, Bucknell deployed a zone defense and double and triple-teams—all aimed at thwarting Dusseau.
Georgetown ultimately won the game 13-7.
Dusseau had 9 goals.
Brendan Shook was another graduate of Upper Arlington, where he won three state championships and was honored as Ohio Player of The Year in 1997.
Even at 6-4, 215 lbs., Shook was a remarkably agile defender who managed to successfully transition from LSM to close defense during his final two seasons with The Hop.
He was an Honorable Mention All-American as a junior in 2000, Shook later went on to play in the MLL.
Yet another product of Columbus and Upper Arlington, Harper was considered one of the most accomplished LSM’s of his era.
He was a three-year starter at Maryland, and captained the Terps his senior year.
Harper demonstrated the impact a skilled LSM can have in a representative performance vs. Virginia in the NCAA quarterfinals in 2003.
Harper managed to hold Chris Rotelli pointless.
Just to put that in perspective, even almost 20 years later, Rotelli, who was a two-time, First-Team All-American and a Tewaaraton Award winner, is still considered one of the best midfielders in the game’s history.
Scott Loy may be best remembered by fans of both schools for his nail-in-the-coffin goal that put Syracuse up by a convincing 6-1 score in the second quarter of the 2013 NCAA finals against Duke.
The game turned into a blow-out.
Which Duke won… 16-10.
The irony was that Loy’s ultimately meaningless goal obscured a career in which he was a reliable clutch scorer for the Orange.
He’d had an exceptional career at St. Francis DeSales in Toledo, recognized as Ohio Player of the Year in lacrosse, and selected to all-state teams in lacrosse, football, and hockey.
But you can’t offer up any D1 lacrosse post-season laurels in making a case for Loy.
Still he was a two-year first-line middie at one of the nation’s truly elite programs.
That should count for a lot—along with the fact that like Kyle Bernlohr he was, at the time, a pioneering talent, emerging not from the central part of the state, but from the northwest.
At one point Ben Randall was of three Mason High School alums in the MLL: the others being Matthew Bertrams, and Adam Osika.
Osika was a highly accomplished, two-way middie at Albany who, at 6-3, 210, was also a formidable dodger and shooter.
Osika was First-Team All-American East selection in his senior year, 2017, and was also honored that season as an Honorable Mention USILA All-American.
It would be hard to compile a list like this and not include a member of the Kennedy family.
The family patriarch, Tom, founded the lacrosse program at Moeller in 1987, and went on to compile a 139-57 coaching record there.
All four of his sons played D1 lacrosse, but Pat seems like the most logical selection here.
Pat Kennedy can’t claim the All-American accolades that the almost all the remaining players on this list received.
But he deserves recognition as one of the earliest Ohioans to gain playing time at a truly elite D1 program.
He arrived at Syracuse in 1998 as a freshman out of Moeller (where he’d recorded 344 points at attack) to join a team that included both Casey and Ryan Powell.
His senior season would mark the freshman year of yet another Powell, youngest brother Mikey.
During his career with the Orange, Kennedy went to four Final Fours, and won a national championship (in 2000).
Kennedy would go on to play with the Ohio Machine in the MLL.
His coaching career has included stints at Culver Military Academy (as an assistant), and as head coach at the Episcopal School of Dallas, which has produced some of best D1 lacrosse players from Texas, including Nakeie Montgomery and Foster Huggins.
Kennedy is currently coaching at Pope John Paul II High School in Tennessee.
David Parry is the founder and editor of LaxAcrossAmerica. A New York-based digital marketer and copywriter, he played Division 1 lacrosse as a walk-on at Brown.