Family Affair for Reading Lacrosse
By Nate Weitzer for Mass Prep Stars
READING, Mass. – Playing nearly 48 minutes of high level lacrosse can exhaust even the most well-conditioned athletes, but at times it’s not enough to satiate Reading’s star trio.
Junior attack Jack Geiger, senior midfielder Kevin Tobin and his younger brother, sophomore Mike Tobin are recognized as three of the top offensive players in the state, and all three are committed to attend UMass Amherst upon graduation from Reading High.
While their collective natural ability carried them to an unprecedented run of success at the youth level, Geiger and the Tobins have continued to improve through sheer determination and a willingness to constantly work on their games.
“I’ll drive by the [Reading High] stadium after a game sometimes and there is all three of them taking shots until around 9 o’clock at night,” said Reading head coach Charlie Hardy. “With that work ethic they’re pushing their teammates to improve just by setting that example and they’re taking our program to the next level.”
A Division 1 championship contender, Reading suffered an early-season setback in the form of a 13-9 loss at rival Wakefield, but the Rockets quickly bounced back with an 8-7 victory over defending D1 South champion BC High in which Kevin Tobin netted the game winner in overtime.
Kevin's game-winner vs. BC HIgh. @ABELS0N
Those regular season accomplishments have Reading off on the right foot and this trio believes that they can challenge perennial power Lincoln-Sudbury in D1 North this postseason if they continue to play at a high level.
“We try to say play every game like it’s a championship game and see what happens,” Kevin said.
The Rockets (6-2) schedule certainly creates a championship-like atmosphere, as they recently traveled to face New Hampshire’s top team in Bishop Guertin, just two days after their thrilling win over BC High. They fell to the undefeated Cardinals, 11-10, despite holding a lead with four minutes remaining in the game and learned some valuable lessons in defeat.
Geiger scored four goals, Mike Tobin added two scores and Kevin Tobin netted three goals and an assist in what Hardy describes as the middie’s best game of the year, but the star trio didn’t quite get enough help offensively.
Kevin Tobin finds Jack Geiger for a goal. @nweitzer
“At times the younger kids are in awe of the play of these guys and they have a tendency to watch," Hardy said. “Our good players are doing great and our other players have grown, but they need to step up even more if we want to accomplish what we want. It’s all part of the learning process.”
While other Rockets are learning how to play off of the star trio, Kevin Tobin is discovering a new role in his own right.
The star midfielder netted 51 goals as a junior and is certainly capable of scoring at any time, but he’s made more of a conscious effort to serve as a distributor. In Reading’s opener against Billerica, Kevin took advantage of the Indians defensive pressure while finding Geiger for several of his five goals to pace the Rockets in a narrow 8-7 win.
“Pound-for-pound, coaches will tell you that Kevin is the toughest kid in the state,” Hardy said. “But we’re trying to teach him to rein that in a little and think more about the slide packages that are coming at him. He could run through the defense at the youth level but you can’t do that against an L-S or a Duxbury, so you need to be more team-oriented and realize that when you get doubled, someone is open and they can score too.”
So far this season, that someone has often been Geiger. The lefty sniper has incredily scored 27 goals (through six games) and his improved shooting accuracy can only be the product of a relentless work ethic.
Geiger with a nice goal. @nweitzer7
“One of the benefits of being a youth coach is that we have access to the lights,” said Brian Tobin, the father of Mike and Kevin as well as a Reading Youth Lacrosse coach. “It’s just become a given that once practice is over you go home, eat, do homework and then Geiger and Tobin will turn on the lights so you can rip shots all night.”
“It’s become contagious in that now they’re shooting on [goalie] C.J. Hart and the other attacks are out there. These kids have been playing together for 10 years now and they log a lot of hours. We never had participation problems and they always want to play.”
Both Brian Tobin and Jack’s father, Bob, were heavily involved in coaching their sons at an early age, but they never had to push the adopted brothers to work on the game that they loved.
Mike Tobin played five sports as a kid, Kevin excelled at hockey and Geiger also played hockey and basketball in addition to a standout career as a football player during elementary and middle school, but all three have put other sports on the back burner and refined their focus on a single goal.
Mike Tobin 2016 Highlights
“Mainly, it was just because I had such a connection with [The Tobins],” Geiger said about choosing lacrosse. “The guys on the football team, I love them, but it wasn’t the same type of bond that I have with the lacrosse guys.”
Brian Tobin also runs a summer lacrosse program called the East Coast Rockets that he describes as a feeder program for Reading High, but he maintains that the burgeoning high school program is really the product of Charlie Hardy’s efforts as the founder of Reading Youth Lacrosse and a key networker with connections to several other UMass alums and professional players that help young athletes develop.
“Charlie Hardy is really the father of Reading lacrosse and I think the kids want to win for him more than anything else. If it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be this tradition and we just took that and ran with it,” said Tobin.
On the youth circuit, other teams couldn’t touch the combination of Geiger and the Tobins. They only lost one game (coincidentally to rival Wakefield) throughout their entire careers leading up to high school, so when Mike Tobin got a taste of varsity action as a freshman, he was hardly intimidated by the level of competition.
“I felt a part of the team since day one,” said Mike. “We had been playing together through eighth grade and it felt like nothing really changed.”
Despite moving from midfield to attack, Mike hardly missed a beat while recording 72 points (36 goals and 36 assists) in his first varsity campaign. As his older brother will tell you, that success is derived from the training they received as young players.
“The difference between us and some other towns is that our youth practices were insanely intense,” said Kevin. “It was almost like a college practice. We’d be going every day, running hills and some kids quit, but the core kids who stayed with it ramped up and it really pays off now.”
These Rockets are still dominating regional competition – as they just lost their first Middlesex League game since 2014 at Wakefield – but they’re very much aware of the premier program in the state in Lincoln-Sudbury, which has it’s own rich tradition of player development.
While they fell to L-S, 19-9, in last year’s D1 North final, this tight-knit group is ready to give their all to navigate a tough schedule and potentially earn a rematch with the Warriors down the road.
“The objective is to play the toughest teams you can play, do as well as you can and try to take that next step in the tournament,” said Hardy. “We didn’t play as well as we wanted against L-S last year, but those three guys want to be on that plane. In this program, they are the three hardest working kids we’ve ever had and they’re going to work as hard as they can to get us there.”
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