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Windham's Keating among nation's best

Special to the Union Leader

April 25. 2018 10:59PM
Yale's Chris Keating, of Windham, defends a Michigan player during the Bulldogs' 15-11 victory on February 24. (Courtesy Yale Athletics)

Great leaders won’t tell you that they lead. They’ll show you by example.

For the Yale University men’s lacrosse team, the leader is Chris Keating. The Windham native is not a rah-rah guy. He’s a leader for the Bulldogs on the field, and the results have kept rolling in this season.

On Sunday, in front of a packed house and ESPN’s cameras, Keating led Yale’s defense in shutting down an Albany team that entered the game averaging more than 14 goals a game. Keating and the Bulldogs held the Great Danes to just six as Yale won 14-6. The Bulldogs were rewarded with a No. 1 ranking in this week’s Inside Lacrosse poll.

Keating, listed at 6-feet-1, 215 pounds, scooped seven ground balls in the win and also chipped in an assist in transition, his first point of the season.

“He’s one of the top three ground ball/stick players I’ve ever been around,” Yale 15th-year head coach Andy Shay said. “He does some amazing things when the ball’s on the ground.”

Keating’s journey to the height of college lacrosse began at Bishop Guertin where he played in two state championship games, winning a title in 2010.

From there, Keating transferred to Phillips Exeter Academy and reclassified back down to a sophomore. In his three years at Phillips Exeter, Keating was a three-time New England East champion, a two-time U.S. Lacrosse All-American and a team captain.

During his three years playing for the Big Red, the team went a combined 51-9.

“He was a mature kid right from the beginning, a serious, mature kid that was always responsible, on time,” said Eric Bergofsky, Keating’s coach at Phillips Exeter. “He worked hard at every drill, was always on time, worked after practice. (For) anyone who wanted to get extra work in, he was always ready to go. Kids looked up to him even as a young guy. He wasn’t a huge rah-rah kind of guy; he more led by example and by his work ethic, tenacity, toughness. He set a great example and everyone followed along.”

Beyond lacrosse, Keating was a captain of the ice hockey team at Phillips Exeter as well as head of the swing dance club. He also spent time as a counselor at Windham recreational camps and coached for the New Hampshire Tomahawks club lacrosse team.

The skills developed on the ice have helped make Keating better defensively. His 3.33 ground balls a game — controlling ground balls is what enables a team to keep possession — ranks second on the team and he ranks tied for 74th nationally — with Souhegan of Amherst grad Alex Burnley of Dartmouth.

“It helps with ground balls,” Keating said of his hockey skills. “I think it also helps you stay low and grind. There’s a lot of crossover. I wouldn’t be the lacrosse player that I am without playing hockey.”

After a fantastic junior season in 2016 when he averaged 3.7 ground balls per game and forced 34 turnovers, Keating missed all of 2017 with a knee injury. Upon his return this season, Keating did everything he could to get back into the flow and work to get back to game shape.

“When we showed up this fall, he was asking, ‘What was the team like last year socially, what was the team dynamic on the field, off the field,’” sophomore defender Will Weitzel said. “He wanted to know so he could figure out how he could help everybody and it wasn’t just about him coming back and being a top guy. He wanted to adapt to the social climate of the team as much as the lacrosse aspect of the team.”

In a dozen games this season Keating has scooped a ground ball in nine of them and caused a turnover in 10.

Keating was drafted in the third round (23rd overall) of last week’s Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft, by the Dallas Rattlers, but before turning pro, he and the Bulldogs close the season Saturday against rival Harvard before heading off to postseason play looking to win a fourth straight Ivy League tournament title. The Bulldogs will also look to advance to the program’s first NCAA Final Four since 1990. The Final Four will be played May 26-28 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

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