Rick Sowell: Fierce Competitor, Loyal Teammate


Before he led three schools to the NCAA tournament as a coach, Rick Sowell starred at Washington College. Sowell was the USILA Division III National Midfielder of the Year in 1985.

As we continue our celebration of Black History Month, we’re pleased to share the story of Rick Sowell. For some, Sowell is best known for his role in coaching, and for good reason. Sowell is one of just three coaches to lead three different programs — Dartmouth, Stony Brook and Navy — to the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship tournament, joining Jack Emmer and Tony Seaman in that exclusive club.

But before his success behind the whistle, Sowell helped lead Washington College on a magical two-year run with dominance on the field. His college coach, Terry Corcoran, shares some of Sowell’s background and comments from his former teammates at Washington College, on the impact he had with a stick in his hands.

Ricky Sowell played for Horseheads High School in Upstate New York from 1979 to 1981. It wasn’t hard to tell that he had a bright lacrosse future ahead of him. Upon graduation from Horseheads, Rick matriculated to Cobleskill Community College where he led their program to a national ranking in his freshman and sophomore years.

In the fall of 1983, Rick left Upstate New York to attend Washington College, a small liberal arts college on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with a long and rich lacrosse tradition. The next two years were nothing short of magical in Chestertown as Rick led the Shoremen against some of  the top college programs in the country including Johns Hopkins, Navy, Loyola, Washington & Lee and Hobart.

Rick led the way as the Shoremen finished as NCAA Division III finalists in 1984 and 1985. He will always be remembered for being the catalyst in the Shoremen’s victory over Navy in Annapolis in 1985 and his five-goal performance, including the game winner in OT, against Hobart in the 1985 regular season.

Not surprisingly, Rick entered the field of coaching. He coached three Division I lacrosse programs to the NCAA tournament and was part of the U.S. coaching staff that captured the 2010 world championship with a win over Canada in the gold medal game in Manchester, England.

The respect and loyalty that Rick’s Washington College teammates still have for him today is obvious in their comments below.

Rick Cote, Financial Partners of Upstate NY (Washington College Class of 1986): "I’ll never forget WC’s Dr. Guy Goodfellow’s class, “The Black Experience in America.” Goodfellow described Rick as a modern-day Jackie Robinson for his WC achievements on and off the lacrosse field. Our win over Hobart was truly his finest moment playing for WC — five goals! His coaching career speaks for itself. He has risen to the highest ranks and enjoyed immense success."

John Nostrant, Gilman Lacrosse Coach (Washington College Class of 1986): "Rick was a fierce competitor, loyal teammate and friend and a guy who wanted the ball in his stick in any clutch situation. He wanted to win on the lax field, on the court playing intramural hoops, whatever he was playing, he wanted to win. As he transitioned into coaching, those same characteristics stayed with him and have helped him win at Dartmouth, St. Johns, Stony Brook and Navy. He demanded the most out of his teammates just like he demands the most out of his teams. Tough, but fair. He has touched so many as a player and a coach."

Kevin Giblin, Mount St Mary’s Assistant Lacrosse Coach (Washington College Class of 1985): "Ultimate competitor on the field. He could shoot on the run as well as any middie in the game. A good friend."

Steve Beville, Cortland State Lacrosse Coach (Washington College Class of 1985): "Rick has always been a great teammate, classmate and friend. In 1985, Rick had what I consider to be one of the greatest single-season performances by a midfielder at any level. So many clutch performances! Rick Is also at the highest level of the coaching spectrum. His teams play with passion, discipline and are prepared."

Greg Baker, Attorney (Washington College Class of 1984): "Great player. Leader on and off the field. Always represented himself and Washington College at the highest level. A true role model."

Mike Papa, Medronic Corp (Washington College Class of 1985): "Fearless leader. He gave the entire team the confidence that we could play with anyone. I looked up to Rick while playing with him in junior college and was the deciding factor for me to attend WC."

Mike McGuane, Manager EJ Design (Washington College Class of 1988): "Whether we were playing Hobart or Hopkins, he had very few equals athletically, but when it came to grit and competitiveness he had no equals. However, his greatest attribute was as a team leader because you knew you were going to battle with a warrior, and that gave everyone confidence."

Tom Gaines, CEO Solargaines (Washington College Class of 1986): "Rick didn’t start playing the game at the youth level. I believe he started in high school. He worked very hard to make himself a great lacrosse player. He improved each year and made himself the most dominant player on the field through hard work. In his senior year, he was the most dominant player on the field in each game." 

Rick’s work ethic and success as a player and coach is well recognized by his former teammates, coaches, and all that knew him. However, it was his friendship that always was and still is valued the most. Great player, great coach, and great friend.

Terry Corcoran was the USILA Division III Coach of the Year in 1985 (Washington College) and 2005 (Skidmore). He was also an assistant coach for the 1990 U.S. men's team, which won the world championship in Perth, Australia.

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