Roanoke College

'78 Lacrosse team celebrates new win

  • '78 Lacrosse team celebrates new win

  • 12/08/09
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  • John Sullivan '79 was the Most Valuable Player when he played in goal for the 1978 NCAA Champion Roanoke College lacrosse team. He made the final save of the game and threw the ball high in the air as the clock ran out on a very special win.

    The ball came down, but that special feeling has kept "Sully" and his teammates on a high for the 31 years since that game. That group of players has been like a family, and in January a dozen former teammates made the trip to Amityville, New York, to watch their old goalie attain the rank of sergeant on the Amityville Village Police Force in Suffolk County, N.Y.

    Players came from as far away as Kansas to surprise their friend. Bob Rotanz '78, who still lives in Salem and is a proprietor of Mac & Bob's Restaurant, organized the surprise get-together with Sullivan's brother, Jim Sullivan '81. Most of the group had dinner the night before the ceremony and then watched Sullivan get his promotion after 23 years on the force.

    "I knew Bob was coming," says Sullivan. "Bob and I are best friends, and I was excited he was coming."

    Then others started to arrive. Jim McEnerney '78 flew in from Kansas, and when John and Bob returned from picking him up at the airport Dave Schmelz '78, Mike Rowley '80 and Brian Becker '80 from Baltimore were waiting at his home. Then there was a knock on the door, and Andy O'Keefe '80 and Richard Graham '80 were on the doorstep. Others who joined the celebration included former teammates Bruce Solomon '80, Tony Reyes '78, Bruce Pomper '80, Keith Griswold '79 and the College's Athletic Director Scott Allison '79.

    Sullivan was promoted the following evening as his former teammates proudly watched.

    "Sully doesn't have any kids. We're his family," says Allison. In fact, that 1978 team remains one big family. The players get together every year for a golf trip and remain close friends.

    "It's a bond that's hard to explain," says Rotanz. "We enjoy each other's company, and we tell the same stories over and over. To be honest, it sort of drives our wives nuts."

    Sullivan, a Long Island native, was a police officer in Salem before moving back to New York. He came to Roanoke College because of the lacrosse team and because it offered the courses in criminal justice he needed.

    "I love the job," he says. "Ever since I was a kid I wanted to do something to help people."

    And he did, helping RC win a championship in 1978 and now helping the folks in Amityville that he's proud to serve.

    "After all these years, Sully's still making saves," says Rowley.