#LMRanks: Hersman Perseveres and Leads for Tommies
|Despite battling the lingering effects of a bout with Lyme Disease, Will Hersman helped St. Thomas earn its fourth MCLA D2 title in five seasons a year ago. (Cecil Copeland)|
The ball trickled over the sideline. St. Thomas maintained possession. It was a big moment in a big game. Liberty had pushed the Tommies, who have won four MCLA championships in the last five years, into overtime in the 2013 Division II semifinal.
Will Hersman picked up the ball, glanced over toward Tommies coach Pete Moosbrugger and gave a three-word pep talk.
"I got this," he said.
Five months earlier, it was Moosbrugger offering words of encouragement. The 5-foot-10 Hersman, aided by his time as a defensive back on the Tommies' football team, had played his first two years at a rock-solid 180 pounds. He was one of the most gifted athletes in the MCLA with a blend of speed and endurance, and he loomed large in St. Thomas' 2012 title run with five goals and two assists in the playoffs.
But when Hersman walked on the field for the first time last January, he was a shell of his former self, barely tipping the scale above 140 pounds.
Originally diagnosed with a pulled hamstring during the football season, Hersman's condition worsened. Numerous stints in the hospital and massive weight loss left him virtually bedridden. Eventually, his doctors pinpointed the cause.
Hersman had Lyme disease. With treatment, the malady subsided by lacrosse season, but not without consequence.
"He was emaciated," Moosbrugger said. "He came to tryouts and I said, 'Will, you're not even running. Let's get you back healthy and your body ready to play athletics. You're not doing the conditioning test and you're not practicing. Even though the doctors have cleared you, you're not healthy.'"
"Anytime you are laid up in a bed for pretty much three months straight, you're going to lose a lot of muscle mass," Hersman said. "My conditioning just wasn't there. The strength came back the quickest along with the weight. Once I was able to start eating and lifting weights again, that came back easier. But my legs — anytime you are out running around or playing a lacrosse game for the first time in several months after being in a hospital, it definitely took me a while to get my legs and conditioning back."
Hersman played sparingly in the first two games but did score two goals against Westminster, the team the Tommies eventually would defeat in the national title game.
|This article originally appears in the January 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.|
As the season wore on, Hersman built up his conditioning. "When I really truly felt like I had it back was during the conference championship game against St. John's," Hersman said. He scored four goals against the Johnnies.
By the time the MCLA playoffs rolled around and Hersman found the ball in his stick in overtime against Liberty, he had returned to his normal self — the guy St. Thomas turns to in crunch time.
"When a player looks at you like that and says, 'I got this,' and then runs to the goal and scores? You talk about guys who want the ball in the most critical times and guys who are putting their names on the line to make things happen," Moosbrugger said. "There's nobody we want to have the ball more than Will."
Hersman missed another football season in the fall. During the preseason, he snapped a ligament in his ankle that required surgery. He was on crutches in the fall and expected to wear a boot for several weeks. "The recovery is going well so far, especially compared to last year," Hersman said. "I fully expect to be in top shape when we start this spring."
Can the best player on the best team in MCLA Division II be ready to lead the Tommies to their fifth title in the last six years?
Hersman's got this.
Will Hersman, St. Thomas, Sr. M - 38%
David Hall, Grove City, So. A - 25%
Jacob Helmer, St. John's, Sr. A - 15%
Dustin Seguin, Concordia (Calif.), Sr. A - 14%
Danny Kransberger, Grand Valley State, Sr. G - 6%