By Paul Ryan | 9/26/13 11:50 AM
“The Bayhawks love playing under bridges.”
Kip Turner was confused. The goalie had no clue what head coach Dave Cottle was talking about.
WATCH: Kip Turner 2013 highlights
Turner and the rest of the Bayhawks were riding the bus on their way to their semifinal playoff match-up against the Hamilton Nationals at PPL Park in Philadelphia. Sitting next to Cottle in the front row of the bus, Turner waited for the coach to explain himself.
“We’re undefeated when we play under bridges.”
What Cottle was referring to happened back in June. The Bayhawks traveled to Icahn Stadium to defeat the New York Lizards. Located in New York City, the stadium sits beneath the Triborough Bridge, an obscure fact the Bayhawks coach remembered nearly three months later. Driving in Philly with the stadium in the distance, Cottle noted that PPL Park sat just beneath the Commodore Barry Bridge.
Turner laughed with the rest of his teammates after Cottle explained, but the joke stayed with him the rest of the weekend. “It was such a subtle comment, but it stuck with me,” Turner says. “It’s just his subtle way of setting us up for success.”
Success is exactly what Turner and his teammates enjoyed, as the Bayhawks won their third title in four years the next day, defeating the Charlotte Hounds 10-9. Turner was a major factor in the victory; making 14 saves on 22 shots.
“It didn’t hit me until the last 45 seconds that we were going to win,” Turner says. “It’s such a good feeling knowing. It’s like you’re floating on cloud 9 for the next two hours. You don’t really realize what’s going on. It’s just pure happiness.”
Turner wasn’t immediately excited after the game, however. With two seconds left, Matt Danowski fired a rocket from midfield that ricocheted off a player in front and beat Turner top corner. The two-pointer didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but it still frustrated him. The reaction perfectly encapsulated Turner; a perfectionist, always playing until the last whistle. Coach Cottle agrees.
“He’s a competitor and he’s accountable. I like those two adjectives for him. He’ll assume responsibility when it’s his fault. When guys in front of him make a mistake, he encourages them and in turn, they play harder in front of him.”
Destined to be a goalie
Growing up in Severna Park, Maryland, Kip Turner was the youngest of five children, the runt of the litter, or in his family, goalie. Starting when he was just five years old, Kip was always told by his older brothers, “you, goal, now.” He would sit in the net while kids twice his age fired tennis balls at him.
For Christmas when he was six, Kip received a large present from his parents. It was street hockey pads, a blocker and a glove: “It was over after that.” Kip officially became a goalie.
For high school, Turner attended The Severn School where he played three sports: hockey, soccer, and of course, lacrosse. Turner played goalie in both hockey and lacrosse, earning All-Conference honors and Team MVP in both sports, but he was always better at lacrosse.
In Turner’s junior year, Severn found itself in a tightly contested battle with fellow powerhouse Loyola Blakefield when the ball squirted out near the top of the restraining box where Turner went to chase it. He was beaten to the ball by a “little lefty attackman that I knew was a year younger.” Turner put all his weight behind him and plowed into the kid like a linebacker, knocking the attackman to the ground. The two got in each other’s faces, but were separated by officials soon after. The other player’s name? Ben Rubeor, future teammate at both the University of Virginia and now with the Chesapeake Bayhawks.
“I remember that incident,” Rubeor says with a laugh. “Then when I went down on my official visit to Virginia, [Kip] was my host. He’s certainly a fierce competitor on the field, but off the field he’s one of the nicest guys, so we got along pretty well.”
In his senior year of high school, Turner narrowed his college choices down to Penn State and the University of Virginia. However, Kip had made up his mind years before, declaring he would play lacrosse at UVA when he was just six years old. He followed through on that declaration, joining the Cavaliers in 2003, but what was the deciding factor for Turner at such a young age?
“It was the colors,” Turner says while smiling. “I’m a big orange and blue guy. At that age, I didn’t know diddly about lacrosse so it was the colors. Then when I got to the university for my official visit, I fell in love with it because of all it has to offer. It had exactly what I wanted in a university.”
Turner played the backup role his freshman year, playing behind All-American and former MLL star Tillman Johnson, whom Turner proclaims “the best there ever was.” Turner then took over the starting role his sophomore year, leading the Cavaliers to an NCAA title in 2006. It was just the first of many championships he would win on the big stage.
After his monster 2006 collegiate season, the Boston Cannons selected Turner with the second overall pick in the draft. It was the highest a goalie had ever been picked, something Turner considered “humbling.” Although, to be honest, Turner was surprised he was drafted so highly.
“I didn’t know if I was going to play Major League Lacrosse at all because I didn’t know if I was even going to be picked. But [Boston GM] Billy Daye called me and said, ‘you’re coming to Boston two overall. We want you.’ I was like, ‘wow, this is amazing.’”
Turner called Harvard Stadium his home for the next five seasons, a place where his great-grandfather scored the first touchdown the stadium had ever seen. A place he calls “the coolest place you could play, with an incredible atmosphere and the fans right on top of you.” An organization in the Cannons he had, and still has, great respect for.
In 2010 while still playing with the Cannons, Turner took an assistant coaching job at Brown University to coach with Lars Tiffany, who was one of the main reasons Turner strongly considered Penn State (Tiffany was an assistant at PSU at the time). Coaching has proved to be difficult for Turner, but extremely rewarding. The job has helped him become better as a pro and allows him to teach the sport that he loves.
“Being an MLL player, it’s almost like going to school and getting your master’s in lacrosse,” Turner says. “That’s what I equate it to, because I’m learning stuff from players and coaches that I can apply to my job at Brown. It also helps with recruiting because kids know that you’re still playing.”
But it wasn’t all peaches and cream for Turner in Beantown. In 2011, Turner was being outplayed by newcomer Jordan Burke, and lost his starting job. Turner did his best to support Burke in spite of him taking his starting gig. “Jordan’s very talented, a very good goalie and a good guy. I just wanted to be a good teammate for him.”
The Cannons went on to win the MLL title that year with Turner as the backup. It was the first title for both Turner and the Cannons, who had “both gotten the monkey off our back.” But for Turner, it brought on an offseason of uncertainty, where he began to question his future in Major League Lacrosse.
“After the championship, it was two months of ‘what am I going to do next? Should I just retire? This coaching thing is pretty tough.’ I had just moved to the Boston area, to Providence for my job at Brown. It was tough.”
But the then 26-year-old Turner decided to stick it out for a bit. Later that offseason, he found himself at a recruiting event down in Maryland with Cottle. Major League Lacrosse was expanding in the 2011-12 offseason, and with the expansion came a supplemental draft. Cottle told Turner he was likely going to pick him up in the draft, but again, doubt crept into Turner’s mind.
“My first thought when he told me that was, ‘am I even going to play? I don’t know if I’m that good anymore.’ I called coach Cottle and he said, ‘hey, you’re going to have to earn it, but we want you as our starter.’ After that, I was like, ‘alright, I’m in.’”
It was right place, right time for the goalie that can often say the same about his positioning. He was back in a starting role, and boy did it show. Turner led the league in goals against average in 2012, posting a 7-4 record to go along with it. In the playoffs, he became nearly unbeatable. His unreal 7.56 goals against average and incredible .634 save percentage led to his first MLL title as a starter, also earning him the nickname Mr. August. Not only was winning the championship a great accomplishment for Turner, but whom the Bayhawks beat on the way to that championship made it even more enjoyable.
“Even though I have a lot of friends on that team, it was sweet beating Boston in the semifinals. It was extra sweet for me. 2012 was a bit of a revenge title. I wanted to win one for the Bayhawks, but I also wanted to win one for me.”
So what’s next for Turner? He’s accomplished nearly everything one can in the sport of lacrosse. National Championships, MLL titles, personal accolades, but there’s something missing; an appearance for Team USA.
Turner caught his first glimpse of USA lacrosse when he was just eight years old. The youngin handed out fliers outside his neighborhood store Behind the Back for a free ticket. Next year, it may be an eight-year-old handing out fliers to see Kip Turner play for Team USA.
“That’s the dream of dreams if you will,” Turner says of making Team USA. “For me, there couldn’t be a better finish to the last couple of years than that. And it’s not just making the team, but winning the gold. That’s the ultimate goal.”
But for now, Turner will continue his assistant coaching job at Brown, enjoy the offseason and wait until next year to try and go back-to-back-to-back with the Bayhawks. Right now, he’s just happy to still be playing the sport that he loves, and to be performing for fans that appreciate him so much.
“We get to do what we love and have great fans come and watch us. It’s a pretty special thing what we have with our fans. [The MLL] is not about getting paid, it’s about relishing the moment of playing in front of these fans. It’s so cool to give back.”