Lacrosse is North America's oldest known athletic game, reportedly played as early as the 15th century. Its roots lay with the Native American nations of the Upper Atlantic seaboard, particularly the Iroquois of (present-day) New York. "Baggataway," as it was originally called, was observed by French missionaries in the 1800s and received its modern name due to its sticks' resemblance to the staffs carried by French bishops, known as "la crosse." Although the sport has spread to all corners of the globe, fielding internationally competitive teams from Scotland to Japan, the sport has maintained an especially strong tradition here on the East Coast.
It is in this environment that Andrew Blechman was raised. Growing up in Potomac, Md., the Quakers’ starting defenseman first picked up a stick in the fifth grade. And he has been "in love with the game ever since." Because of the popularity of lacrosse in the D.C. area, Andrew was able to play for a school team, even from the young age of eleven. He meddled some in baseball and numerous other sports at the middle school level but eventually decided to focus solely on lacrosse and soccer during high school.
When it came time to choose a college, the decision was easy. A successful unofficial visit in the summer was followed up with an official (lacrosse recruiting) trip in the fall, which only furthered his belief that Penn was the right place for him.
"I could just tell,”Blechman said. “There is something different about this team; a special atmosphere. Such close friendships; an amazing camaraderie. I looked at the other Ivy’s, but Penn was definitely the right fit."
Lacrosse not only runs in the Maryland water, but it also runs in Blechman's blood. His grandfather played lacrosse here at Penn, though he assures us that the decision to attend the University was entirely his own.
"He didn't push it on me at all. He actually didn't know I was so interested in coming here, but he did get very excited when he found out."
When asked what it is that keeps him playing the sport here at Penn despite all the sacrifices Division I athletics require, Blechman’s instant response was the same team dynamic that brought him here.
"The friendships have been what's good since I've been here. It's great when things are good of course, but what's more important is how it's been when they're not. When things are tough, you have all these people to lean on. They're there for you. I saw immediately how much these guys care about each other, and it's continued to be important to me."
Blechman also continues to derive energy and motivation from his genuine love for the sport. "It's just been such a big part of my life. It's my social life, too." He also admits that he is quite the competitive guy, so that helps.
This energy, motivation and enthusiasm translates into a nothing-less-than stellar work ethic that shows in his daily performance. "I'm not your All-American athlete. I'm not the guy who is going to run a 4'3. But I've taken it upon myself to give my all, everyday. To work hard. Lots of people say it, but I do it. You have to choose to be successful, to succeed. When you work hard, put in the effort, good things happen."
Well, he's doing something right. After not seeing much playing time as a freshman, Blechman came in strong as a sophomore and ended up starting every game, earning him the Most Improved Player award last season. Head coach Brian Voelker said that Blechman will be assigned the opposing teams' top attackmen this year, and he expects him to be one of the top defensemen in the Ivy League.
"Andy is one of our hardest workers, both on the field and in the classroom. He is just a great example of what determination and effort can do to make a person successful."
Luckily for Quaker fans, this junior PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) major has yet another full season ahead of him, one in which he will certainly not only maintain his regional and familial tradition of excellence, but will instead continue to set new standards of success.
Written by junior Maren McCauley