Nine Greats Join National Lacrosse Hall of Fame

John Strohsacker

Front row (l-r), Rachael Becker DeCecco, Cathy Reese, Sarah Forbes, Kara Ariza Cooke, Back row, Charlie Coker, Richard Speckmann, Matt Striebel, and Ryan Boyle.

Nine lacrosse greats were formally inducted as the newest members of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Saturday evening at The Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley, Maryland. 

Seven inductees - Charlie Coker, Kara Ariza Cooke, Rachael Becker DeCecco, Sarah Forbes, Paul Schimoler, Ryan Boyle and Matt Striebel - were officially welcomed as “truly great players” while two others, Cathy Reese and Richard Speckmann, were inducted as a “truly great coaches.” 

The induction ceremony was sponsored by RPS Bollinger Sports & Leisure and the Markel Insurance Company.

Coker was a three-time All-American midfielder at Johns Hopkins and played on three USILA national championship teams for the Blue Jays from 1968-70. He finished his career with 53 goals and 21 assists after leading the team in goals and tying for the team lead in points as a senior. 

“I don’t think anybody had picked us (in 1970) to do what we did in ‘68 and ‘69,” said Coker, who also played football and wrestled at Hopkins. “That was a great year of overachieving.”

Cooke was a three-time All-American at the University of Virginia and helped lead Virginia to the ACC title as a senior in 1998. She was also a member of the 2001 and 2005 U.S. World Cup Teams, winning the gold medal in 2001 and the silver in 2005. 

She noted that she benefitted from having Hall of Fame coaches throughout her career who helped push her in her development.

“They all encouraged me to just try. Try out for a team, even if you don’t feel that you might be ready for it,” she said. “See what you can learn from the opportunity so that the next time you’ll be more comfortable and confident. It was about learning from each experience in order to be more prepared for the future.”

DeCecco was a three-time, first team All-American defender at Princeton University and was recipient of the Tewaawaton Trophy in 2003 as the nation’s most outstanding player. She remains the only defender, male or female, to ever claim the Tewaaraton award. As part of her induction speech, DeCecco read from game day notes that both her mom and dad had written for her during playing days, and also recognized the large contingent of Tiger teammates who attended Saturday's ceremony.

“My junior year was kind of a Cinderella season. We lost our first game and then never lost again,” said DeCecco, who helped Princeton win the NCAA championship in 2002 & 2003. “But my senior year was much more of a battle. We started off 0-3, and while the national championship was always the goal, we realized it was going to be an uphill battle. The struggle to repeat as champions made it that much more special.”

A native of Australia, Forbes became a three-time All-American at the University of Maryland and a pioneer in creating the pipeline from Down Under to College Park. She helped lead the Terps to three straight NCAA titles (1995-97) during her career. As an international player, Forbes was a member of the Australian World Cup Team four times and helped the Aussies capture the gold medal in 2005. She earned All-World honors in both 2005 and 2009.

“Lacrosse has brought so many friends, mentors, memories and experiences from all over the world, and given my life purpose and meaning,” said a tearful Forbes, who travelled from Australia for Saturday’s induction ceremony. “It’s taught me determination, resiliency, understanding, and compassion, and made me a better teacher, parent, partner and coach. It’s endless, what lacrosse has brought to my life.”

Schimoler, inducted posthumously, was a four-time All-American goalie at Cornell, and at the time of graduation, was the NCAA’s all-time leader with 787 career saves. Schimoler also played on the U.S. world championship team in both 1990 and 1994. He passed away from cancer in 2013. 

His widow, Lynn-Ellen, accepted the Hall of Fame honor on his behalf. She told the audience about Paul’s emotional reaction to being inducted a few years earlier into the Long Island Metro Hall of Fame.

“He was so deeply moved that he was weeping and silent for almost five minutes during his induction speech,” she said. “Tonight, I want you to know the fullness of my happy heart.”

Boyle and Striebel, teammates at Princeton, in Major League Lacrosse, and on three U.S. Men’s teams, have enjoyed overlapping lacrosse careers for nearly 20 years.

Striebel is the older of the pair, having arrived at Princeton in 1997 and promptly helped the Tigers to a national championship as a freshman on attack. He added a second NCAA title as a senior in 2001 after moving to midfield to accommodate Boyle, who joined the Tigers as a freshman playmaker that season. 

Striebel played on three U.S. National Teams, helping to claim world championships in 2002 and 2010, and enjoyed a 14-year professional career in Major League Lacrosse, earning all-star honors nine times. He finished his MLL career with 225 goals, 120 assists, and 355 points, ranking among the top 10 all-time in each category. 

“For me, at every level that I played at, there was always a player I looked at and said I need to be able to do what he does,” Striebel said. “Getting to the pros and getting exposed to a whole new group of players made me like a kid in the candy shop, picking and choosing skills that I wanted to develop.”

Boyle finished as a four-time All-American at Princeton, and concluded his college career with 70 goals, 162 assists, and 232 career points, ranking second in Princeton history in assists and third in points. In addition to joining Striebel on the 2002, 2006 and 2010 U.S. Men’s National Teams, he played 11 professional seasons in Major League Lacrosse, and seven indoor seasons in the National Lacrosse League. 

Boyle finished his MLL career as the all-time leader in assists (254) and ranked sixth in points (423). He was a part of four championship teams.

Boyle shared some sincere words with his close friend Striebel.

“Matt, I love you like a brother,” he said, “and the only thing I really care about with regards to my induction is the fact that I get to do it with you.”

Reese is a four-time winner of the IWLCA’s national coach of the year award and a 12-time conference coach of the year who has led the University of Maryland to five national championships in her 13 seasons in College Park. She ranks as the Terps’ all-time winningest coach, with a 270-22 record at Maryland, and has a career record of 301-51 in 16 overall seasons as a head coach. 

“I love the athletes that I have a chance to work with,” Reese said. “Coaching is about relationships. To share the sport and to be able to help them grow during their college careers is something that’s really special. The best part of coaching is working with a team of players who are out there striving for something that’s bigger than themselves.”

Speckmann was one of the most successful junior college coaches ever, amassing a 477-158-1 record in 40 years at Nassau (N.Y.) Community College. He retired following the 2010 season with a career winning percentage of over 75 percent. Speckmann led Nassau to 20 NJCAA men’s championships during his tenure, with his teams qualifying for the four-team finals in 39 of his 40 seasons. 

“I truly enjoyed it, it wasn’t like going to work,” Speckmann said of his career. “I feel blessed that I was able to do what I really wanted to do.”

The National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, a program of US Lacrosse, was established in 1957 to honor men and women who by their deeds as players, coaches, officials and/or contributors, and by the example of their lives, personify the great contribution of lacrosse to our way of life. Nearly 450 lacrosse greats are honored in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame & Museum, which is located at US Lacrosse Headquarters in Sparks, Maryland.

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