WASHINGTON — The 17th Annual Tewaaraton Awards for lacrosse were dominated by the University of Maryland Terrapins men’s and women’s players Thursday evening at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian.
Star senior attacker Matt Rambo and senior midfielder Zoe Stukenberg received honors while Landon alumnus Mario St. George Boiardi received an award posthumously.
Among the numerous awards, honors and speeches, Rambo and Stukenberg of the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship-winning Terrapins shined brightest. They took home the major honors in a format similar to the Heisman Trophy.
The late Boiardi, a Landon High School alumnus and Cornell University class of 2004 alumnus, received The Spirit of Tewaaraton Award.
Boiardi’s tragic story had some in the audience teary-eyed. During his senior season, Boiardi lost his life on Cornell University’s Schoellkopf Field when he was hit in the chest by a ball during a game and no one could revive him.
However, it was the example Boiardi set in how he lived his life and inspired all around him that was on honor.
During the presentation of The Spirit of Tewaaraton Award, it was noted that the award “is presented to an individual involved in the sport of lacrosse, who nobly reflects the finest virtues exemplified in the game, and who, over the course of his or her life, has made a significant contribution to society and to the lives of others.”
On the field, Boiardi excelled as a player, receiving the Cornell University Rookie of the Year Award and the Cornell University Hard Hat Award for the toughest, most blue-collar athlete. He was a senior year co-captain.
Boiardi 's head coach at Cornell, Jeff Tambroni (now the Penn State men’s lacrosse head coach), who accepted the award on behalf of Boiardi, described him as a “humble” leader who proved himself more through his actions.
Off the field, Boiardi had been accepted in Teach for America and planned to work on South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation following school.
Boiardi loved the great outdoors since he was a youth.
His dad, George Boiardi, remembered how intense Boiardi was about the Georgetown Prep-Landon rivalry. Boiardi said those games in 1999 and 2000 were dogfights, with Boiardi starring. Landon won both years.
Boiardi noted that Boiardi was an avid skier and skateboarder. He loved “to fly,” George said of his son.
Tambroni noted that the Schoellkopf Field is referred to by fans as the ‘House of George.’ The Hard Hat award was renamed the ‘Boiardi Award.’
During his senior year at Cornell, Boiardi started a program for the lacrosse team to read books to children, which further helped inspire the team.
Upon Boiardi’s death, the team started a foundation in his name and still keeps his spirit alive by reading to children in and around the Cornell University area. Also, many of the teammates sponsor an annual 21 Run in honor of Boiardi and to promote the cause of children’s literacy.
Tambroni said that in the Cornell library there is a portrait of Boiardi hanging near where children’s readings are held.
Deborah Boiardi and George Boiardi both said their son started these readings because he just had a love for kids.
Deborah Boiardi stressed that the work has just begun.
The ceremony, shown on ESPN 3, was emceed by Joe Beninati, the voice of the Washington Capitals for 23 seasons and a national lacrosse play-by-play man, and Sheenan Stanwick Burch, a 15-year reporter and television analyst for lacrosse and football.
Beninati said of Boiardi, “… especially such a young player and seeing the video and what he meant to his players and family, it was very touching … I had not had an opportunity to call a Cornell game in which George played, but I have had a chance to speak to his coach at the time, Jeff Tambroni, and Jeff speaks so beautifully about George the player, George the person and he speaks incredibly of the Boiardi family. He holds them in the highest regard. For us to see that tonight and the way the house reacted that was really special.”
Beninati also believed it is a tribute to Montgomery County, saying, “Year after year we research and go through backgrounds and bios, and you see so many top players coming from Landon and from the Montgomery County high schools that you get the sense more and more that these programs continue to produce the best talent in the country.”
“Tewaaraton” is the Mohawk word for lacrosse. The Mohawk Nation Council of Elders endorses use of the name “Tewaaraton.” The Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy -- Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, Tuscarora and Cayuga -- sanction and honor the Tewaaraton Awards.
Lacrosse goes back to ancient times and Native Americans have played the game for centuries.
Each year, the Tewaaraton Awards honor one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. This year, the Tuscarora drew the special distinction of being honored.
Beninati and Burch kept the air intense as the evening built to a climax of anticipation to see who would win out of the five finalists each in both the men’s and women’s divisions.
During the ceremony, Beninati related what Terrapins head coach Tillman said of Rambo, saying Tillman said “… he was blessed to coach him for a number of reasons. He’s not fancy. Rambo is a throwback. It’s amazing to watch what he brought to the locker room, the meetings room, to get everybody on the same page and at the time lighten the mood. Matt’s always upbeat; he’s always positive. John went on to call him ‘the mayor of the phone call’ and you know number one, you lived up to your jersey number. You added immensely to that legacy at Maryland: number one in goals, number one in points, number one in the nation.”
Stanwick-Burch described what Terrapins women’s head coach Cathy Reese said of Stukenberg, saying, “Zoe’s the hardest worker she’s ever coached both on and off the field. Zoe’s a leader who serves her team. She’s respected by all and is a true pleasure to be around. She went to say Zoe will always bring a smile to your face, whether you’re a 5-year-old or an 80-year-old, and Zoe’s energy is contagious. Maryland lacrosse went how Zoe went this year.” Reese finished by saying she’s who I want my daughter to grow up like.”
The winners were announced after all five candidates for both awards walked on stage. For Rambo and Stukenberg, the award capped off dream championship seasons for these Terrapin leaders.
Rambo said, “The championship game was awesome. What a relief! We’d been waiting for so long; best feeling in my life.”
Stukenberg said, “… for my 2017 Terrapins this isn’t my award, this is your guys…”
Beninati was extremely impressed with both the men’s and the women’s Terrapins, saying, “The woman’s team has been so dominant for so long. The men have been so close each championship weekend. It seems they were there, and they got so close to have their heart broken. It’s nice to see them get across the finish line.”
Stanwick-Birch added, “I know there are a lot of happy Maryland alumni especially on the men’s side. Part of the National Championship before and not being on the winning side, and I think to have both, both come home to Maryland, there’s a huge sense of pride for both the men’s and women’s team.”
Rambo drew the largest cheer of the evening. Rambo became the first Terrapin men’s lacrosse player to win the award.
Earlier in the evening, Lake Shore High School (New York) senior girl’s lacrosse player Shayla Scanlan, Seneca Nations of Indians, Wolf Clan, and IMG Academy (Florida) senior boy’s lacrosse player Liam Anderson, Tuscarora Nation, Turtle Clan received the 2017 Tewaaraton Native American Scholarships. In addition, the Tewaaraton Legend Award honoring past lacrosse greats went to Cherie Greer Brown, University of Virginia women’s lacrosse three-time first team All-American and all-century team, and Peter Cramblet, West Point men’s lacrosse team.
One Terrapin, senior defenseman Nadine Hadnagy, a Tewaaraton Award finalist, sharing the stage with Stukenberg, was to be disappointed.
However, a fellow teammate for four seasons, Hadnagy could not be happier for Stukenberg.
Hadnagy graciously felt that Stukenberg was the heart of the team and that Sukenborg was maybe even more deserving. She said after four years of playing as teammates they are so close, best friends.
“Absolutely, Zoe deserves it all and so much more. She always says she doesn’t deserve it, but she’s the hardest worker, the humblest human being and she deserves every second of it”, said Hadnagy.
Stukenberg inspired her teammates with a 4.0 grade point average. Stukenberg could often be found at the library.
Both Stukenberg and Hadnagy were just drafted in the new to launch 2018 Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, where they may be competing one day for future awards.