Rhode Island Kingfish forward Evan Roberts has come a long way

Evan Roberts works for England against Canada's Phil Sanderson at the 2010 world field championships.
Evan Roberts works for England against Canada's Phil Sanderson at the 2010 world field championships.

Middlebury, Vermont is a town of about 8,500 near the state’s western border with upstate New York. It’s a couple of hours south of Montreal and a couple hours north of Albany. A few miles outside of Middlebury you’ll find Cornwall, where a little over 1,000 people live. About a mile and a half down Route 74 from Cornwall is West Cornwall, which on the 2000 US census enjoyed the uniquely symmetrical distinction of being home to 366 male and 366 female residents. One of the male residents was Evan Roberts. Roberts and his elementary school class of 16 students didn’t get a chance to play lacrosse. That would have to wait until he graduated to Middlebury Union High School, which had a large enough student body that he was able to take up the game. But while his introduction to the sport may have been late, once Roberts hit the field lacrosse got in his blood.

After spending his junior and senior years at Kimble Union Academy in New Hampshire, Roberts went to Bryant University to be a midfielder and faceoff man. He was part of coach Mike Pressler’s first recruiting class. As a measure of how quickly he excelled, Roberts played for England as the country was host to the 2010 world field championships, lining up alongside Lewis and Cayle Ratcliff. The year before that, Roberts was recruited to play box lacrosse for the first time. Roberts says his first taste of box lacrosse came when the Vermont Voyageurs were formed in 2009 to play in the Quebec Senior Lacrosse League. He’s now a regular with the Voyageurs and last year he suited up with the Boston Rockhoppers for a couple of games in the North American Lacrosse League’s exhibition season.

Chances are that, while if you’re a big college lax fan you may know him from his Bryant days (which are ongoing, as he’s now an assistant coach for the school), you’ve never heard of or seen him playing in the box. One game with the Rhode Island Kingfish, though, could change all that. Take a couple of minutes to go and watch the highlights of their season opener against the Kentucky Stickhorses.

You’ll see three goals by Roberts and you’ll be impressed. The first comes at the 52-second mark of the video. He makes a nice cut to the net, takes a pass and buries it. Just after that he scores a spectacular Air Gait goal. At 1:22 he finishes off the hat trick with a goal that shows he has no qualms about going inside and battling in the tough areas of the floor. And just like that, Evan Roberts is a NALL star.

Ok, maybe that’s overstating it a bit, but there’s no question that he’s showing some serious scoring chops. As a relative newbie to the indoor game, how on earth did he come up with the dunk goal on which he goes airborne then reaches back over the goalie’s left shoulder to jam the ball home? “I was watching NLL highlights to get some ideas for how to score goals and thought dunk goals looked pretty cool,” he told IL Indoor.

Yep, he watched some video, came up with the idea then put it into play in his first regular-season pro game. He wasn’t 100% sure the goal would even count. “I’m still getting used to the rules,” Roberts said. “With the Voyageurs, you can’t jump in the crease at all. There’s a cylinder. I thought it was ok in NALL, but I was kind of wondering if it was legal and I kind of looked back at the ref and he called it good.”

Roberts may not pile up goals using the Air Gait maneuver. He says “Whenever I try to pull off something like that, I don’t think about it. If I ever think Ok I’m gonna try this, it never works out. I saw that the opportunity was there, nobody was open, so I went for it. But as you can see watching the video, I only have about five inches of air so I won’t be able to do that all the time.”

The instincts and skills he shows in the other pair of goals in that game suggest he can be a regular contributor for the Kingfish, however. And that’s cool with him. “I’m more of a hard working, work well with someone else guy” than a flashy star, he says. As for moving up to the next level, he says “I’d love to get an opportunity to play in the NLL. There are guys who have gotten tryouts from the Voyageurs. It’s hard cause I’m a lefty and there are so many great Canadian lefties. I played with [Edmonton Rush forward] Zack Greer [at Bryant] and I know how good those guys are. I’d have to earn that chance.”

While the NLL may not be in his immediate future, Roberts has already gotten a lot from the game. Besides his college education, the trip to the worlds with England and his berth in NALL, Roberts spent a year in Australia playing for Surrey Park in Melbourne. So the game has taken him around the world. Wherever it takes him next, it’s already been a pretty good ride for a kid from West Cornwall.

Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at stamplax@hotmail.com.

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