Mercyhurst Coaches Needed Only One Look At Morley
BY DAVE SHEA
Mercyhurst Men's Lacrosse Coach Chris Ryan had no idea who Stephen Morley was when he attended an RPI Showcase last summer.
"It was a night game and I was there to recruit another player." recalled Coach Ryan.
"Then this tall, extremely athletic longstick midfielder comes rushing downfield out of the defensive end. I said to one of my coaches who is that guy and we have to go talk to him."
Ryan and the Mercyhurst coaches talked to Morley and came up to OFA in the fall to watch him play football. The more they talked to him the more they learned about him and the more they learned the more they liked him.
"When Stephen told me he was a tailback I said to my coaches. He's six foot four and he plays tailback. I thought he would be playing defensive end so I said that I have to see him play. So we went up to Ogdensburg and he played great," said Coach Ryan.
Morley verbally committed in the fall and last week he officially signed an NCAA Division II letter of intent to accept a lacrosse scholarship to the Erie, Penn. based college which won a national championship in Men's Lacrosse in 2012. The Lakers were off to 5-0 start this spring when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all spring sports across the country and in April they finished ranked second in the final United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Division II Poll.
"I talked to the coaches and I went to down to a prospects camp at Mercyhurst. I really liked the coaches and they gave me a tour of the campus and I really liked everything about the school," said Morley who is the second son of Brian and Lisa Morley to earn a college athletic scholarship. His older brother, Jake Morley, enjoyed a fine hockey career at Clarkson University where he was a co-captain as a senior and won the first Clarkson Ironman Award.
Coach Ryan expects Stephen Morley to enjoy similar success at Mercyhurst.
"Stephen's length, strength, athleticism and skill with the longstick makes him ideal for our program. He comes from a hard-working family. I talked him recently about how he was doing during the pandemic and he said he was going to be out spreading gravel," said Coach Ryan.
"His work ethic is impressive and I can't wait to see how he develops. And we have become friends. When I first met Stephen it was hard to get him to say much. But now we text each other back and forthon things outside of lacrosse. The other night he sent me a photo a walleye he caught. I guess he remembered that I told him that I was the worst fisherman ever. l loved it."
Morley heads to Mercyhurst as a prototype longstick midfielder with a tool box bulging with skills. He was also a talented multi-tasker in football and hockey. In football he played running back, defensive back, wide receiver, quarterback and kicker contributing to three straight Section 10 Class B Championships.
Coach Matt Tessmer called him " our swiss army knife."
In hockey he was an offensive minded defenseman whose two-way big-play abilities contributed mightily to two Section 10 Division II titles in the last three years.
He played five years of the varsity lacrosse and last season, as a long stickman, he was major facilitator on defense and in the record-setting offense in the program's best season ever. A season where Noah Strader set the school record for goals in a season and a career and Issac Testani set school marks for assists in a career and a season.
"In ninth grade I decided to move from hockey to lacrosse as my first sport. I really enjoy playing with the long stick and I have developed as lot of skills. I get to see the whole field and set things up," says Morley.,
"It was amazing last year when we had such a great year. I loved to set up the offense for Issac (Testani) and Noah (Strader) who set the school records. I really enjoyed playing sports at OFA. All of the coaches were great to play for and taught me a lot of life lessons."
Coach Morley felt that the Devils' emergence as Northern Conference and Section 10 contender last season came from their ability to master the basic lessons of transition lacrosse.
"On defense we would to get the ball to Stephen and he would race the ball upfield and set up the offense. Stephen was part of a group with Issac Testani, Wyatt Kirby, Noah Strader and Nick Snyder who put in a lot of extra time into lacrosse and they were rewarded," said OFA Coach Matt Morley.
"Stephen is definitely one of the best players with the long stick that we have had here in Section 10. He is so long and with his reach it so tough to get the ball from him. Mercyhurst is a great place for him. They have had a lot of success including a national championship and I know he will have a great experience there."
Coach Morley also pointed Stephen Morley's development as a leader and was looking for him to become the natural leader for a young OFA team this spring which didn't happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Stephen came up to the varsity as an eighth grader and he has always led by example. Last season he started to become vocal and get guys in the right position," said Coach Morley.
"It is just terrible that we didn't have season this year. I feel so bad for all of the kids, especially the seniors."