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Versatile Shawnee grad wins an NCAA championship

Chris LaPierre looks back and can't believe he is midway through his college lacrosse career at the University of Virginia.

Chris LaPierre looks back and can't believe he is midway through his college lacrosse career at the University of Virginia.

If the second half of his career can rival the first, the 2009 Inquirer South Jersey Athlete of the Year from Shawnee would be in for quite a ride.

LaPierre's last event as a high school lacrosse player came when he earned MVP honors as the South beat the North, 19-16, in the Under Armour All-American Classic at Towson University. He set an all-star game record with four assists, also scoring two goals.

That pales in comparison to his latest achievement, which also was accomplished in Maryland – winning a national championship.

Considered a long shot when the NCAA tournament began, Virginia completed its improbable run with a 9-7 win over Atlantic Coast Conference foe Maryland in the title game. The game was played on Memorial Day before 35,661 at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.

A midfielder, LaPierre played a major role in the championship, leading his team with four ground balls.

"It's hard to put into words," LaPierre said earlier this week by phone. "It still hasn't sunk in."

And it might not for a while.

"Growing up, you always imagine yourself in that scenario, with the clock winding down and ready to win a national championship," he said.

This was Virginia's fifth NCAA title, and the program is annually among the best in the nation. So just receiving playing time is a difficult task, but it didn't take LaPierre long to adjust.

"Chris LaPierre took the lacrosse world by storm beginning early in his first year," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said by email. "In an age of specialization, Chris is an 'old school' middie who makes plays at both ends of the field."

Even the coach was taken aback by the ability of the 6-foot-2, 214-pounder.

"I expected him to make an early impression in the program, but his determination, poise, and presence exceeded all our expectations," Starsia said.

Others have noticed.

LaPierre was selected to the all-Atlantic Coast Conference team and was named to the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association third-team all-American squad.

"He is now simply recognized as one of the top players in the game," Starsia said.

Of course, no mention of LaPierre can be made without alluding to football, which is a big part of his athletic past and could be in his future.

As a senior at Shawnee, he was named The Inquirer's South Jersey player of the year in both football and lacrosse before earning the South Jersey Male Athlete of the Year award.

In football as a senior running back, he set the state single-season record with 44 touchdowns and 272 points and led Shawnee to a 12-0 record and the No. 1 Inquirer South Jersey ranking.

Those who saw him play football were surprised he chose lacrosse.

"Looking back, it was a tough decision because I had offers in both sports, but I am very happy with my decision," said LaPierre, who is coaching at Tri-State lacrosse and instructing at several camps this summer.

He said that the football coaches at Virginia haven't contacted him, but that when his lacrosse eligibility is through, he could give football a try.

"I have thought that if the coaches don't contact me, I may contact them," he said.

It's no coincidence that LaPierre has been a big winner and dominant performer on every level. The football coaches at Virginia should be counting the days until his lacrosse eligibility expires.