Due to the weather, some customers may experience late delivery of The Roanoke Times. We apologize for the delay.
Phillip and Joe Robertson have helped the Spartans get off to a 5-0 start this season.
RAY COX | The Roanoke Times
Phillip (left) and Joe Robertson are co-leaders on the Salem High School lacrosse team with 17 goals each.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Blame it on the neighbors.
Matt Robertson, the eldest of four lacrosse playing brothers, was prompted to try the sport for the first time after a suggestion from the guy next door. Matt, now a goalkeeper at the University of Virginia, was snared almost at once.
Then a near chain reaction ensued as each of the other three brothers, Ian, Phillip and Joe, buckled on the headgear and picked up a stick.
Now the two youngest Robertsons, Phillip and Joe, have helped Salem High School’s team get off to a 5-0 start. Great as a spotless March and April has been from a playing perspective, being brotherly first-time teammates is in another category.
“It’s just awesome,” said Joe, a freshman attackman. “It’s a dream come true.”
With that Phillip agrees readily. The age spread prevented him from having the chance to play with big brothers Matt and Ian as well. Ian followed his older brother into the college ranks and now plays for Delaware. Matt started at Colgate before transferring to Virginia.
The two younger Robertsons are following similar tracks. Both play attack and both were varsity players as freshmen.
“That’s very unusual for us,” Spartans coach David Turk said.
Although there was some soul-searching about whether to bring Joe up this year – he stands a freshmanlike 5-foot-6 and weighs 120 pounds – instead of leaving him with the club-level junior varsity team. The player made it a relatively easy decision, Turk said.
“Joe had the advantage of having played at a high level on club teams and with his older brothers,” Turk said. “He has the skills.”
It was a similar transition when the 5-7, 145-pound Phillip was a freshman.
“I knew I had to play with a little chip on my shoulder because there were three returning starters,” he said. “I had to come out and work really hard. At first, they put me at midfield, which was a new position for me, but I played it and kept working my butt off in order to get on attack, which is my normal position and where I feel comfortable.
“After a while, they gave me a shot at attack and I took it and didn’t look back after that.”
There’s never been a second guess about either of the Robertson brothers coming up too soon. Now they are team co-leaders in goals (17 each). They’ve also combined for 16 assists, Joe’s 10 being second on the team to Chad Fisher’s 12. Joe and Fisher are tied for the team lead with 27 points. Phillip has 23 points.
“Phillip has really emerged as an attackman,” Turk said. “The advantage for us is that everybody has to play their best defenseman on him. If they don’t, he’s so lacrosse savvy that he’ll find ways to beat you. He’s small but very, very quick and he has great shot.
“If somebody makes a mistake, he has his head up, he’s cutting, and when he gets the ball on his stick, he’s going to score.”
Matt plays for an elite travel team out of Charlottesville, which has given him some nice offseason exposure. That helped land him an invitation to a showcase camp at North Carolina. He played well and Tar Heels coaches have stayed in touch since.
Meanwhile, Salem is hoping its firepower is going to carry the Spartans to a playoff run.
“If things go well, then we can be in the hunt,” Turk said.
Having older brothers who are college players is a big inspiration, Phillip said. When the older brothers come back home, all four of them work out. Matt mans the nets and Ian offers counsel on stickwork and other offensive arts.
Ian left Salem after his junior year to attend lacrosse power Charlottesville prep school St. Anne’s-Belfield. The youngest two brothers do not rule out the possibility they may eventually do the same. No plans are imminent at this point, they said. “It’s an option,” Joe said.
There’s no question the brothers have showed a knack for rising to a challenge. Nobody has been challenged more this year than Joe, easily the smallest player on the team.
“It’s kind of a struggle,” Joe said. “I’m working on it, getting in the weight room. I keep my head up and watch for slides. I feel the game. I learned to take it. Now I’m used to it.”
That brought Turk back into the conversation.
“ ‘Feel the game’ — I like that,” the coach said.
There’s a lot to like about the lacrosse-playing Robertson brothers.
Weather JournalIcy mix moves in this Sunday AM