Lehigh men’s lacrosse associate head coach Will Scudder knew fifth-year faceoff specialist Conor Gaffney was going to be special when he was just a sophomore in high school.
Gaffney was at Lehigh for a recruiting camp when he first caught Scudder’s attention.
“His toughness and his drive to be great really made a strong impression on me in those three days I coached him,” Scudder said.
It’s safe to say that Scudder’s instincts were right. Gaffney is Lehigh’s all-time career leader in faceoff wins and ground balls, winning 669 faceoffs and recording 391 ground balls.
On April 26, Gaffney also became the Mountain Hawk’s first-ever Premier Lacrosse League Collegiate Draft Pick. He was selected by the Archers Lacrosse Club as the 21st overall pick.
Gaffney said he was watching the draft with his roommates, and they were overjoyed when they heard his name called. While most people might have been surprised to hear Gaffney’s name called, Gaffney had an idea that the Archers would take him.
“The draft had actually taken place Thursday or Friday the week before,” Gaffney said. “I had talked to coach Bates earlier in the day discussing my situation and my desire to play lacrosse. He didn’t say they were definitely going to pick me, but he said they were definitely considering me and a couple of guys.”
Fifth-year midfielder Andrew Eichelberger said Gaffney getting drafted is the recognition for the work he’s put in since he got here.
“He’s really dedicated to his craft and works day in and out to be the best at what he does,” Eichelberger said. “I think he’s really shown that in past seasons. Gaff has really just done it all for us, and it’s been great to see his work pay off and get drafted in the PLL.”
Gaffney, a two-time Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year, said getting drafted was never the end all, be all goal for him, but it was an opportunity he would never turn down.
Gaffney has won his fair share of awards including Patriot League Faceoff Specialist of the Year, First Team All-Patriot League Honors, nominee to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List and Scholar Athlete of the Year. However, there’s just one trophy Gaffney is still chasing. He wants to win the Patriot League Championship.
“Since I’ve got to Lehigh, the seniors of the team when I was a freshman, and all the way up to us today are always talking about how all we want is a Patriot League Championship,” Gaffney said. “Freshman year, we were far away from that goal, but then my junior and senior year we were literally in the game and would have had to win one more game, and we would have had it. That’s the goal that us as players and our coaches have been after since 2013 when we won.”
One thing that will give Gaffney an advantage heading into professional lacrosse is that he’s already competing against nationally ranked competitive athletes in practice every day. Junior faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger is leading the country in faceoff percentage.
Gaffney said when you go against someone like that in practice, it ups your speed, strength and technique.
Gaffney was the main guy in his four years, but when he had to sit out for 34 days and miss the first game of the 2021 season due to COVID-19 protocols, it gave Sisselberger the chance to be the starter.
“It was brutal,” Gaffney said. “There was also two feet of snow on the ground, so I couldn’t even go on a run or anything. I was all cooped up for a little over a month. That was frustrating. It took a toll on me both mentally and physically. Coming back, everyone was in midseason form and then I was just trying to get back to where I was more than a month ago.”
Scudder said what makes Gaffney stand out is his work ethic and drive to be great.
“He’s someone that is never going to be satisfied with being anything but the best, whether it’s lacrosse or school,” Scudder said. “He’s had two semesters at Lehigh where he didn’t have a 4.0 (GPA).”
Gaffney will go down as one of the best to ever suit up for Lehigh, but he tries not to think about the award or records.
“I don’t want to get complacent or be thinking too much about what’s not important,” Gaffney said. “What is important is winning faceoffs and winning games.”