Feeney Continues Bucknell Men's Lacrosse's Excellent Goalie Lineage
Feb. 1, 2013
By Jon Terry, Bucknell Athletic Communications
After nearly a decade as defensive coordinator and seven years as head coach of the Bucknell lacrosse program, Frank Fedorjaka has etched his name as one of the top defensive minds in the college game. His sophisticated schemes incorporate numerous slides and switches, and they have been executed by a long line of all-conference defenseman, resulting in annual goals-against rankings that are among the very best in the nation.
One of the by-products of all that suffocating defense is that Bucknell has also become something of a goalie factory in recent years. Since 2001, the Bison have had four regular starting netminders. All four earned All-Patriot League honors multiple times, and three of them garnered First Team recognition at least once. Justin Sussman was the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year in both 2002 and 2003. Nick Sciubba was selected as the 2009 Patriot League Goalie of the Year.
The latest in this run of all-star goalies is senior Kyle Feeney, who is set to enter his fourth season as a starter in 2013. Feeney earned First Team All-Patriot League honors last season after garnering a Second Team citation as a sophomore in 2011, when he broke the school record with 13 wins and ranked sixth in the nation with a 7.24 goals-against average. As a freshman he earned the starting spot early in the year and ended up ranked No. 2 nationally in GAA (7.45) and No. 11 in save percentage (.569).
Feeney says it took awhile to grasp Fedorjaka's intricate system, but now he is one of the team's loudest voices, helping direct the defensemen in front of him.
"From my perspective I know where everyone needs to be," says Feeney, "but if I were a defenseman I would definitely screw it up. I think about that every day in practice. It is so complicated. Freshman year I was kind of thrown into it and I didn't really think about anything. I was just trying to clear my head, see the ball and stop it. I was usually really nervous. But the last couple of years I have been so much more comfortable and tried to take on a leadership role, get involved with the defense.
"It's a lot more about thinking rather than just straight-up physical ability where you are looking to take your man out of the game. It takes all seven of us working together to stop them from scoring. I've been there since freshman year, so I am one of the more vocal guys on defense out there trying to lead everyone around. Same with [defensemen] Mike Huffner and Jackson Place, they are just as vocal. A lot of talk is the key to our success. As a goalie it's nice because those guys usually force a lot of bad shots, so I don't get many hard ones. They make me look good."
Feeney's initial foray into the sport of lacrosse as a first-grader was actually an accident. His mother, Karen, went to sign him up for tee ball, but the registration period had closed. Lacrosse sign-ups ran a little bit longer, so Karen came home and said, "alright Kyle, you are playing lacrosse this year." He has had a stick in his hand ever since.
Even though his father, Mike, and mother had no background in the sport, lacrosse soon became the Feeney family sport. Kyle is the second of five siblings. His younger twin brothers are both sophomores in college. Dan is a goalie at Division III powerhouse Salisbury, and he was the backup netminder as a freshman on the Sea Gulls' 2012 national championship team. Andrew plays on the club lacrosse team at Alabama. Younger sister Claire is now a freshman on the women's lacrosse team at Winthrop, which will be playing its first varsity season this spring. The oldest sibling, Matt, now lives in Colorado and has "retired" from the sport after playing for a few years.
Feeney recalls playing goalie for the first time around the third or fourth grade. At first it was the coaches looking for volunteers to play the position, but by the time he got involved with travel teams, Feeney was a full-time goalie. "I guess I just didn't like all the running," he jokes.
As a sophomore at Greenwich High School, Feeney had only practiced with the varsity team a few times, but just before the end of the regular season the starting goalie went down with a broken collarbone. Feeney was thrown into the crease, and the team made it all the way to the state championship before falling to current Bison teammate Chase Bailey and Fairfield Prep. Feeney would remain the everyday starter as a junior and senior on one of the top teams in Connecticut. He was a two-time All-State selection and was picked as a High School All-American in 2009.
Despite those lofty accolades, Feeney was not heavily recruited. But one of his former Greenwich teammates, Jake Clarke, had gone on to Bucknell and recommended Feeney to Fedorjaka. The connection was made, Feeney quickly became hooked on Bucknell, and now he is four months away from graduating with a degree in civil engineering.
Feeney, like many Division I athletes, participated in multiple sports in high school, but he might just be the only college lax player who also captained his high school bowling team. And he was quite good. He was voted team MVP and once bowled a 289 game, just missing a perfect 300 after rolling 10 straight strikes, then finishing nine-spare.
"I did bowling because we had lacrosse running on Mondays and Wednesdays, and bowling was Mondays and Tuesdays, so I got out of a day of running just to go bowling," Feeney now confesses. "It was awesome, though. I basically got to eat food and bowl for free. There was an A, B and C team, and whoever did the best got to bowl in meets against like 20 other schools. I had never bowled competitively before. That was it, my one and only shot! Now we go bowling as a team sometimes. It gets very competitive, and if I don't do well I get a lot of heat."
The Bison head into the 2013 campaign ranked 18th by Face-Off Magazine. Two years ago Bucknell finished 14-3, swept through the Patriot League regular season and tournament without a single loss, and then had eventual national champion Virginia on the ropes in the NCAA Tournament before falling in overtime. Last year the Bison dropped some close games early in the year and ended up 9-7 as Lehigh and Colgate emerged as the teams to beat in the Patriot League.
The leaders of this year's squad have experienced both the record-setting 2011 campaign and what they describe as a disappointing 2012 season, and they are eager to get back to the top of the league this spring.
"I think we are all really excited about the year coming up," Feeney says. "Last year was a little bit of a disappointment not getting to where we got my sophomore year. I think everyone is using that to push themselves this year. The freshmen who didn't get to experience it right away have been just as intense as the upperclassmen. With Colgate and Lehigh probably going to be just as good this year as they were last year, and we have a very competitive schedule with the addition of Cornell, I think everyone is really pumped to get out there."
The Bison have lost top scorer Billy Eisenreich, a Third Team All-American last year, to graduation, but the next four highest point-producers return, including junior Todd Heritage, the senior Bailey, junior Peter Burke and sophomore David Dickson. Huffner and Place lead what should be another outstanding defense, with the veteran Feeney between the pipes.
The 2013 season starts on Feb. 9 at Delaware, and the home opener will be Feb. 23 against Bryant at Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.
Note: This story appeared in a recent edition of the Bucknell Basketball Gameday Program.