From sticks to the pitch


Grant Plaugher stands with fellow senior soccer player Maddie Eddleman after a Lambert region victory (photo used with permission from Grant Plaugher)

If you’re a citizen of the United States of America, chances are your’re familiar with the remarkable accomplishments of the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic ice hockey team. This group of young American men is remembered today as being one of the only teams that was able to beat the vaunted Red Army team of the Soviet Union, who dominated international play, winning nearly every international tournament in the world from 1954 to 1991. The U.S. victory in 1980 was made even more improbable by the fact that the team was selected from a group of college athletes, whose most intense competition up to that point in time was playing in the NCAA tournament.

The captain of Team U.S.A. was a young man from Winthrop, Massachusetts named Mike Eruzione. After hearing about all of the success this team had in 1980 from television, books, and movies, one might be lead to believe that after the games, Eruzione went on to have an illustrious career playing in the National Hockey League.

However, such a career never occurred.

After the Lake Placid Olympics, Mike Eruzione did the unthinkable and retired from the sport of hockey while still in his early 20’s. His reason? According to him, “Nothing could ever be better…” than beating the Soviet Union and eventually winning a gold medal.

Over 36 years later, Lambert High School has its very own version of an athlete retiring from a sport after reaching its pinnacle.  After winning last year’s lacrosse state championship against Lassiter, junior, now senior, Grant Plaugher was on top of the world. He and his teammates had just topped off a season that was driven by their state championship loss the year prior in the most sweet way imaginable. So what was Plaugher to do after accomplishing this? Much like Eruzione, he felt it was time to move on.

The decision was not an easy one for Plaugher to make but by the time his senior year began in the fall of 2016, he knew he had made the right decision for him. Although he loved the sport, he knew that it was time for a change in his life.

In a couple of months however, Grant began to once again feel the competitive itch felt by most people who have ever played in an athletic arena. The question for Plaugher became how he would confront this desire to get back on a field.

Ever since freshmen year, Plaugher and his classmates had taken part in activity lovingly referred to as “Soc-Fri” or Soccer Friday on the practice field adjacent to the gym parking lot at Lambert. After dozens of weeks participating in this, the athletic Plaugher began to become a very talented soccer player, refining his skills with the help of his friends, particularly members of the Lambert soccer program. When they heard of his retirement from lacrosse, many on the team tried to convince Plaugher to attend tryouts for the 2017 season. Although he had his doubts, Grant went through with the plan.

By the time tryouts rolled around, Grant knew he had a good chance to make the team. However he was still shocked when the final roster was revealed and his name appeared under the section that read “Varsity’. In just a few short weeks, Plaugher has already become a difference maker on the pitch for the Longhorns. Grant has mixed perfectly onto the team lead by the fellow seniors Eoin Griffiths and Avery Dekshenieks. Lambert has already clinched a birth in the state playoffs and would love to continue their success and perhaps bring Grant Plaugher his second state title in as many years and in as many sports.