Big Green lax star Merritt '97 receives post-season honors

by Amy Hatch | 6/27/95 5:00am

By combining dedication to his team with a love of athletics, lacrosse player Brian Merritt '97 has managed to live up to the hype that surrounded him when he entered the College as the Big Green's number one recruit last year.

Merritt, who was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year last year as a freshman, received honorable mention All-American honors this year as well as being named All-Ivy and All-New England second team.

Men's Lacrosse Coach Tim Nelson said "he is a really good athlete, and he has met all of our expectations. Right now he is right on schedule."

For Merritt, the individual attention is nice, but he prefers to focus on team honors.

"I'm really happy with the awards, but I think it is more of a reflection of how well the team has been progressing the past few years," Merritt said.

"I think there are other players who deserved awards, but because Dartmouth is a growing program, we still have to establish ourselves," he added.

Merritt, a two time All-American at Darien High School in Connecticut, was highly recruited by top national teams like Duke and the University of Virginia, but chose to come to the less-recognized Dartmouth.

"I was all Dartmouth since I was a kid, but the only thing that would have taken me away from here was lacrosse because I had never dreamed I would have had the offers I did from other colleges," Merritt said.

"I'm psyched about being here though, and I've never regretted the decision," he added.

As the Big Green gradually climbs in national rankings, Dartmouth lacrosse has begun to establish itself as a dominant force in national lacrosse. With such progress, the Big Green has attracted top recruits like Merritt and is developing a program perhaps good enough to earn a future bid in the NCAA tournament.

"We really have been able to bring the program up, which has been great for me because now I have the best of both worlds," Merritt said. "I wanted to go to school to play lacrosse and have fun.. Some of the other schools I was looking at would have been 100 percent lacrosse."

After being told by coaches during recruiting that going to Dartmouth would be a mistake because his talent would be wasted, Merritt is excited about the opportunity to prove those predictions wrong.

"I think my above all goal is to make it to the NCAA's," Merritt said. "Actually, I think that is the only goal I have right now. I think to do that we have to first win an Ivy League Championship, which is possible. We have a lot of great players."

Even though Merritt overlooks individual goals, his talents at midfield will probably lead him to success at the national level.

"I think the sky is the limit for Brian," Nelson said.

"I think he has a tremendous amount of potential," he said. "He has the potential to be the best player in the Ivy League by his senior year. If he works hard, he can do anything."

Merritt hopes to improve his shooting and conditioning when he plays in summer leagues in Hanover.

"This past season I didn't really feel like I played as well as I could have," Merritt said. "I thought I was a little bit out of shape, and it was frustrating. It's tough when you know you can do something, but you don't."

But Merritt is possibly being tough on himself, for his statistics in lacrosse continued to improve this past season, as he scored nearly double the goals from his freshman year.

"He is strong and tough and I think he goes to the goal well," Nelson said. "He is the type of guy that can score anytime. When the game is on the line, we can get him the ball and he can come through for us."

One problem Merritt had to overcome was other teams preparing for him. Time after time, Merritt faced two defenders who were teaming up to stop the All-American midfielder.

"He was double-teamed a lot this year and got knocked down, but he kept coming back," Nelson said.

"He's got a good game sense," he explained. "He wants the ball in a tight situation. He is really strong, too."

Part of Merritt's strength comes from his pure athletic ability. Besides contributing to Dartmouth lacrosse, he has also played wide receiver the past two years for the Big Green football team.

Next year, Merritt plans to take time off from football so he can focus on lacrosse. Merritt hopes to do more conditioning this fall so he will be ready for the extreme amount of running in lacrosse.

"I'm hoping to work on my shot this summer, too," Merritt said. "I think if I can improve on that, it will help my game 100 percent."

With two years behind him, Merritt said he has made the adjustment to college lacrosse, which is a faster, more team-oriented game.

"I think I've gotten the feel for it," Merritt said.

"College lacrosse is much less individual. In high school it is easy to beat your guy, and you're right there for an easy goal," he said. "That doesn't happen here. There is more of a team concept in college, and I think that makes the game more exciting."

When Merritt came to Dartmouth, he also had to adjust from an attack position to midfield. This change has proved beneficial for the Big Green who have looked to Merritt when the game is on the line.

"He is a tough player and a clutch player," Nelson said. "He wants the ball in the game ending situation."

" I think he needs to stay a little more focused, but we think he's a great kid and has done a great job for us," he said. "He loves Dartmouth and he loves playing lacrosse for us."

Lacrosse has always been Merritt's favorite sport, but being Rookie-of-the-Year last year did put some pressure on Merritt this spring. Yet, with good coaching and solid teammates, he was able to overcome his apprehensions.

"Coach Nelson is really good at making sure you play his game," Merritt said. "He keeps all of that stuff off of your mind and makes sure you only look at the game coming up."

Next year, Merritt will look to teammates like Tim Kennedy '96 and John Schneider '96 to take off some of the pressure he encountered this past season.

"Those two are great players who will be on my line and I think they will have big seasons," Merritt said. "When you have players like that with you, it takes off a lot of the pressure."

Because professional lacrosse is not common, it would be difficult for Merritt to pursue a lacrosse career after college. But Merritt hopes to keep his connection with the game through coaching.

"I'm definitely going to do something that deals with lacrosse even if it is just part time," Merritt said. "I think it really is a great sport. I would love to see the sport grow out west because it really is a fun sport to play."

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