March 19, 2014

Glesener's Devotion to Craft Pays Dividends for Army

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Lambrecht Archive

Just nine months removed from ACL surgury, reigning Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year is leading the Black Knights with 17 goals and 24 points. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

Army men's lacrosse coach Joe Alberici finds it hard to believe that, at a school that places so many demands upon its thousands of future military officers, a player can be as maniacally devoted to his craft as junior attackman John Glesener.

Glesener, whose triumphant move from midfield to attack last year yielded a 61-point season that earned him Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year recognition, is 10 months removed from suffering a torn ACL in his left knee. He is nine months removed from surgery that repaired the damage.

And following a hard and successful rehabilitation that forced him to skip the fall season but got him on the preseason practice field with the Black Knights on January 3, Glesener is rounding into his old self.

Alberici said the luck of good healing has certainly played a part in Glesener's comeback. But it all really started with Glesener's unusual will to get back on field on schedule for the 2014 season.

"I didn't know what to expect after the injury. I did know that John was very intense with his rehab," Alberici said. "He's missed four or five days of practice, and he's only asked for one [day off]. He's not wearing a brace. We've had to slow him down at times.

"The time he spends on his game, the hours he spends many days, shooting on his own, charting his own shots on the side, I've never seen anything like that here [at Army]," he added. "Guys don't have time to do that here, with so many things going on [academically and militarily]. To me, his drive is something pretty close to legendary."

And no one among the Black Knights is harder on himself than Glesener, who leads Army (4-3) with 17 goals and 24 points. On Saturday at no. 2 Loyola, in a Patriot League clash that featured Glesener matched up against Greyhounds senior star defenseman and former West Genesee High School teammate Joe Fletcher, Glesener went down swinging right to the bitter end of a 7-6 loss.

Glesener scored two goals to help the Army cause. But he took an astonishing 22 of the Black Knights' 45 shots, only seven of which were on goal. After Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey called timeout with 6.3 seconds left, Glasener – with Fletcher crowding his comfort zone, as he had all day – uncorked two more errant shots, as time ran out on the Black Knights in their third, one-goal loss of the year.

Glesener took the loss and his shooting futility so hard that he declined to speak with reporters after the game. Only goalie Sam Somers, who was spectacular with 16 saves, accompanied Alberici to the interview room at Ridley Athletic Complex.

"I didn't think I deserved to do any postgame interviews," Glesener said. "I wish I could have brought more out there for my team. I know I'm a better player than that. I take this very seriously."

Glesener gave Fletcher plenty of credit for his crafty foot and stick work. It's pretty much the same things he remembers about the Loyola All-American – and the only collegiate player to make this year's Team USA roster – since the year that he and Fletcher became the only sophomores to make the varsity at West Genesee.

That year, Glesener had just moved from his hometown of Danville, Ca. to central upstate New York. He and Fletcher hit it off immediately.

"Joe was my first friend after I moved. We carried water and filled buckets that year, and we experienced a state championship," recalled Glesener, who occasionally would go head-to-head with Fletcher in one-on-one battles after practice.

"What we really competed in was seeing who was going to do more work in the weight room and on our [individual] games," he added. "Before practices in the summer, Joe would get there at 5:30 a.m. with his crew of defensemen and lift with them, while I was outside working on my shooting until 7:30. If one of us missed [a workout], the other one knew it."

After narrowly missing another state title as seniors in 2010, the year Glesener was team MVP, the two men chose different paths. Fletcher came south to Loyola. Glesener attended West Point Prep for a year then reported to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

While Fletcher was shutting down opposing attackmen routinely as a sophomore and helping the Greyhounds win the first NCAA title in Loyola's entire Division I history, Glesener was establishing himself as a first-year midfielder with 16 goals and 17 assists.

The coaching staff decided Glesener, a rugged, 6-2, 185-pound, two-handed shooter, was too valuable to rotate out of the game as a first-line midfielder. Alberici decided to move him down low, where he would have more scoring chances.

Although Army finished a disappointing 8-7 last year with the game's third-stingiest defense, Glesener shined in his new role with 31 goals and 30 assists.

By the time Glesener suffered the torn ACL in the season finale against Johns Hopkins last May, Loyola was about to join the Patriot League officially. And the former leaders of West Genesee would soon circle the first Loyola-Army date on the 2014 schedule.

"[Glesener] is an incredible player, a hard dodger. It was definitely weird playing [against] him," Fletcher said. "I had a friend text me [Saturday] morning, saying 'don't kill each other, like you did in high school.' We'd stay after practice and beat on each other in one-on-ones."

Fletcher clearly won the first round. At times, Glesener moved with a tinge of uncertainty and seemed to avoid the bull dodges that are part of his physical game. At times, he looked like someone learning to trust a repaired knee and someone who could not practice for the last seven months of 2013.

"No excuses. A big part of what happened is [Fletcher] is a great defenseman, a warrior. It was like a chess match, and he won. He was a better player that day," said Glesener, who said he stewed in his performance for a full day before training his sights on Saturday's huge game against Lehigh.

"I replayed the whole game – every missed shot, every missed opportunity, every pass I didn't make," he said. "I'm usually a much better shooter on the run. I gave myself all day on Sunday to feel angry about it."

The bottom line is Army leads Division I in scoring defense (5.57 goals allowed average). But the Black Knights are scoring only 9.57 goals per game, largely because they rank 58th out of 67 schools in shooting percentage (22.6). Glesener, who by far leads the team with 88 shots, is making only 19.3 percent of his attempts.

"The thing is, you're going to get knocked on your ass sometimes. But you've got to figure out how to get back in there and finish the mission. That's what they train us to do here. That's what we have to do against Lehigh."


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