Sophomore goalkeeper James Spence makes a save at Cornell University on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, in Ithaca, New York. Spence was named Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week for the third time this season. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Lehigh men’s lacrosse James Spence gives back

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Not many players have coaching experience before they step on the field in college, but that is not the case for  James Spence.

A goalkeeper for the men’s lacrosse team, Spence has spent multiple summers coaching fifth and sixth grade lacrosse teams before he started his career as a Mountain Hawk.

Spence said that he feels right giving back to children who watched him play in high school and now in college. He enjoys sharing his experiences with younger players from his community.

“I love to just help them improve on their game and teach them lessons that I have learned through playing lacrosse,” Spence said.

Although he is only a sophomore, Spence already has plenty of experience to share with the players he coaches, including most recently being named Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week for the third time this season.

Spence offers wisdom to the players he works with in all aspects of the game, but focuses on teaching what he knows the best: defending and goalkeeping.

“My biggest role is to help the defense and goalie, and doing this gives me a greater appreciation for what all my coaches have done for me,” Spence said.

As much as he has spent his time teaching young lacrosse players, he has learned a lot on his own time playing as well. Spence’s ability to keep calm under pressure makes him stand out in goal.

“He stays composed at all times,” coach Kevin Cassese said. “He’s a cool customer in practices and in games and that is contagious to those around him.”

Spence has a natural ability to raise the bar.

In the team’s most recent game against Navy, Spence made 17 saves for the second time in three matches — a career-high for him. Spence’s saves help keep the team motivated and intense on the field, according to sophomore defensemen Hayden Trautmann.

“Against Navy, he had some huge saves during long defensive sets in a tight first half which kept our energy going and led to our team’s dominant performance in the second half,” Trautmann said.

Spence has an impact on both the young players he coaches and on his current team. His teammates and coaches believe he has the potential to be a captain later on in his Lehigh career — following in the footsteps of his brother Lucas Spence, a senior and current team captain.

Spence’s teammates said that his leadership qualities are not strictly defined by the number of saves he makes or his Patriot League accolades, but his mentality. Trautmann said Spence is a confident and optimistic leader and can’t think of a time when he’s noticed Spence’s nerves getting the best of him.

Cassese agrees.

“He is always at the center of the huddle after a goal is scored and is often taking the blame off his teammates and settling them down so they win the next possession,” Cassese said.

Spence said he hopes to continue to help the team however he can and is now focused on winning a Patriot League Championship.

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