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Men’s Lacrosse: Senior Brenneman leads team by example

Megan Golden | Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Growing up in competition with his younger brother in his East Hampton, N.Y. backyard, all signs pointed to a successful athletic career for senior midfielder and co-captain Zach Brenneman.

Zach and his brother, freshman midfielder Tyler Brenneman, often played with the neighborhood kids, engaging in any activities that involved competition.

“We had a big neighborhood community, and obviously I would always pick on Ty,” Zach said. “We used to always play manhunt, and we enjoyed playing little stupid games. They were always competitive.”

Brenneman was in the seventh grade when his father saw him with a lacrosse stick for the first time. His father, who played baseball at Geneva College, was initially thoroughly disappointed with his son’s choice of sport.

“It’s a funny story actually,” Brenneman said. “My dad came home, and I had a lacrosse stick in my hand. My dad was a baseball fanatic. He was kind of upset, but then he saw how much fun I was having, and after that he didn’t really care.”

In the first two games of the season, Brenneman has recorded four goals and two assists, leading the Irish in points. When asked about his success thus far, he shied away from the attention and quickly credited the Irish defense for the team’s 2-0 record.

“What we’re doing as a team is we’re playing great team defense. Our defense really stepped it up last game when our offense wasn’t doing that great,” Brenneman said.

Irish coach Kevin Corrigan admitted he and Brenneman have had a few encounters regarding play-calling, but he said these discussions are fueled by Brenneman’s desire to make his team better.

“I’ll be honest with you, Zach and I have at times butted heads because he’s a really strong-willed guy. He has strong feelings about the way he’s going to play, and I have strong feelings about what I want our team to be like,” Corrigan said. “I don’t mind working through this with a kid when he wants to make the team great. I probably butt heads with him more than anyone on the team, but that’s alright; that’s not bad at all.”

Brenneman said Corrigan makes himself approachable and easy to work with whenever a player has questions.

“Coach and I have a dynamic where he has a strong personality, and his ideas are always something that I take into consideration. He will talk to the players if they say, ‘This play doesn’t work,’ or ‘We can score a lot of goals on this play,'” Brenneman said. “If they ask him anything, he’ll talk. He’s a great guy, especially when it comes to anything like that.”

Brenneman said one lesson in particular stood out from the many teaching moments he has had with Corrigan.

“When he talks about how he’d rather you play hard and make mistakes than not play hard and not make mistakes, kids aren’t afraid to make mistakes,” Brenneman said. “And kids who do make mistakes are rewarded because they’re making plays while going hard and not being afraid to make mistakes.”

Brenneman said he has taken that philosophy to heart, and he works hard on the field to set the standard for his teammates.

“I’m not a vocal leader. I tend to lead by example in that I try as hard as I can, and I give it 110 percent in practice,” Brenneman said. “I bring that attitude to those younger than me and try to be that person who’s always trying.”

Corrigan said Brenneman’s hard work and drive to improve have made him the athlete and the leader that he is today.

“Zach’s best leadership is in his example of how much he cares and how much he wants to be good,” Corrigan said. “He’s more of a guy who is a motor within a team because guys see how hard he works and how hard he has worked to get where he is, and they realize that there’s no shortcut and no easy way to get there.”

That passion and work ethic, Corrigan said, is what makes Brenneman’s teammates follow the co-captain.

“The quality that Zach exudes is an enthusiasm for playing, an enthusiasm for everything,” Corrigan said. “He’s a passionate kid, and that’s why the players want to be around him.”