Each year, many incoming student-athletes to UMBC’s men’s lacrosse team indicate that one of their primary reasons for becoming Retrievers is the family atmosphere that has been established within the program. There is no better evidence of that than the number of brother combinations that have competed in the black and gold.
In only 44 years of intercollegiate competition, 28 sets of brothers have played for head coaches Dick Watts and Don Zimmerman. (Joe Kropkowski played under head coach Del Langdon in 1968, and younger brother Bob competed for Watts from 1972-74.) They have come in many shapes and sizes, like identical twins Sam (’95) and Stewart (’95) Walker. Three sets of brothers have each earned All-America status – Bruce (1980) and Dave (1983) Baldwin, George (1981-82) and John (1986) McGeeney and Steve (1992) and Dan (1999-2000) Marohl. And there is one threesome of brothers that competed at UMBC – the Smiths – with Jeff lettering in 1987, the Retrievers’ all-time goal-scoring leader Jason (’94) earning four letters and the youngest, Justin, competing in 2001 and 2002.
“I am very proud of the fact that brothers like to follow brothers [at UMBC],” Zimmerman said. “If the older brother didn’t have a good experience, we wouldn’t see their younger brother follow them. That tells us that we are doing the right things, not only in the lacrosse program, but at the university in general.”
The latest Retriever to complete a duo is sophomore midfielder Scott Hopmann. Scott’s brother, Alex, competed for UMBC from 2006-09 and earned honorable mention All-America honors after captaining the Retrievers to their second straight league title in his senior campaign. Also a midfielder, Alex led UMBC with 36 goals in 2009 and became the 25th player in school history to surpass the 100-point (103) plateau.
After a broken thumb prematurely ended his freshman campaign, Scott has gotten off to a solid start in 2011 and ranks second on the team with seven goals through the first five games.
“We have always felt that Scott is a smart player with good field sense,” Zimmerman said. “He has improved in his dodging, and one of the reasons that he is scoring is he gets his hands free better than last year.”
Hopmann attributes his early success in 2011 to physical maturity, but feels that his psychological make-up is just as critical. “[As a sophomore], a natural confidence comes over you. When you are a freshman, you are scared to take a chance or make a move. When this year came around, although I am just a sophomore, I still felt I had to step up and be a leader and also put the ball in the back of the net.”
Hopmann had a pretty smooth path to playing college lacrosse paved for him growing up – he had a father who competed collegiately and a brother who did not torture him by putting him in the goal as target practice. Scott’s father, Chris, played at East Carolina when the Pirates competed at the varsity level, and the elder Hopmann coached the boys as they were coming through the ranks.
Scott’s earliest lacrosse memories are of a plastic goal in the backyard when he was still in kindergarten. After the boys wore that out in about a day, they graduated to a metal goal. The Hopmanns learned to be accurate shooters or else they had to waste time digging wide shots out of the woods behind their Annapolis-area home.
Scott’s oldest brother, Craig, now 25, had a short-lived lacrosse experience, and it was Scott and Craig that actually battled the most. “Lacrosse brought Alex and me closer together,” Scott recalled. “Craig and I didn’t have that connection until later on in life when I finally grew up and we stopped fighting with each other.”
Scott clearly remembers the recruiting process that Alex went through and recalls that his brother based the decision to attend UMBC on the coaching staff of Zimmerman and assistants Bobby Benson and Kevin Warne.
While Alex was establishing himself with the Retrievers, Scott was doing the same at St. Mary’s High School. He scored 20 goals and added 16 assists in his senior year with the fifth-ranked team in the state.
Although Scott was always around the team during Alex’s tenure and enjoyed the family atmosphere, he did consider other schools when his time came. But in the end, it was how those NCAA playoff-bound teams went about their business that convinced Scott to sign with the Retrievers.
“The team just continued to build and build each year going to the tournament,” he said. “With them being the underdog each year, you wanted to be a part of that. You wanted to be a part of the team that would spring the upset. Especially that Albany game – I knew something special was going on here.”
The game he was referring to was the 2008 America East title contest played at UMBC Stadium, when the Retrievers miraculously erased an 11-2 second-quarter deficit and captured the championship with a 14-13 victory.
Last spring, Scott experienced the highs and lows of athletics within the same game. He produced his first multiple-point game with a goal and an assist in an April 10 victory atBinghamton, but suffered a broken thumb in the game and was relegated to film duty for the rest of the season.
He got off to a quick start in 2011, recording a three-goal, four-point game at Presbyterian, and he combined to produce four more goals in games against Rutgers, North Carolina and Johns Hopkins. Hopmann leads the team in shots with 37 through five games, drawing natural comparisons to Alex’s propensity for posting high shot totals.
“I feel that I am more of an elusive dodger and Alex was the shooter,” he said. “He was the big guy on the man-up in his last two years. He was the goal scorer, I can draw the slide more with my quickness; that is what may separate us.”
The two brothers communicate at least once a week, especially after games. Alex, who became a regular contributor with the Denver Outlaws last summer, is in his first spring as an assistant men’s lacrosse coach at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. (Former Retriever defenseman Steve Settembrino is also on the Laker staff.)
Upon further review, Alex and Scott may be more dissimilar than alike. Alex attendedAnnapolis High School, also competed in soccer and track & field and earned his degree inbusiness technology administration. Scott went to St. Mary’s, played ice hockey and is majoring in visual arts, with a concentration in film and video. They will always be linked in Retriever lacrosse because their names will forever appear back-to-back in the all-time letterman’s list, but those that know them best know their strong sense of individualism.
“Scott understands and respects what his brother did for our program,” Zimmerman said. “Alex was a wonderful player for us. But Scott wants to forge his own path, and I admire that. “
The one area that Scott would like to replicate Alex’s accomplishments is with respect to winning championships. That is why he came to UMBC. As for reaching or surpassing his brother’s individual accolades, Scott appears totally indifferent.
“I don’t really feel any pressure to outperform him,” he said. “I am here to do my own thing and set my own goals for myself.”