Every once in a while, there comes along a player who transcends statistics, who provides more than goals and assists, who leads in such a way that the level of those around him can’t help but improve. Every once in a while, there comes along a player like Penn men’s lacrosse’s Austin Kreinz.
Operating from the defensive midfield, the senior might go unnoticed by the casual observer. For those interested in the Quakers solely for the highlight-reel goals and doorstep saves, a player like Kreinz might not even be on their radar. He clears, he plays defensively, he scoops up ground balls, and he provides the occasional transition tally, but he’s by no means a goal scorer.
Although not a star by traditional metrics, Kreinz’s impact on a lacrosse game, and more importantly, on a lacrosse team, could rival any player’s impact across the country. A leader through his actions and through his words, Kreinz is the definition of a captain.
“Austin, ever since I came in here as a freshman, has always been a leader to me,” junior long stick midfielder Connor Keating said. “He demonstrates all of the qualities of leadership. He puts the team before himself. He always has everybody else’s best interests at heart.”
As a captain, Kreinz’s responsibilities are many.
“Being a captain of this team means that everyday, day in and day out, I have to be able to lead this team,” Kreinz said. “Whether it’s vocally in practice, whether it’s getting the team ready for lifts in the morning, it’s just executing the little things.”
And execute the little things he does. On the field, Kreinz is a menace between the lines, flying towards ground balls with no regard for his body, hurling his 5-foot-11, 195 pound frame into the opposition. He races from boxline to boxline, taking on three attackmen at once as he clears the ball for his team. Working as the lead defensive midfielder, he shuffles his feet masterfully in order to keep up with the fleet-footed offensive middies in the Ivy League, waiting patiently to deliver a timely wrap or poke check to dislodge the ball.
In transition, Kreinz is never one to over dodge, always willing to make the correct pass, playing not for personal glory but for team victory. But when he’s open, Kreinz doesn’t wilt in the spotlight. Instead, he shoots the ball with the velocity and accuracy of an All-Ivy offensive middie, registering 11 goals for his career.
“It says a lot about Austin as a teammate and as a leader that a lot of the stuff he does doesn’t really show up on the stats and isn’t really noticed as much. But we all notice it,” Keating said. “How hard he plays really energizes the team, and the little things he does really make him the player that he is, and the person that he is.”
When talking about Kreinz and the person that he is, there is perhaps no higher praise than that which came from his own coach, Mike Murphy.
“He’s a heart and soul guy. He’s tough as hell, and he’d do anything for you. He’s the kind of guy you want around you at all times,” he said. “I think one of the highest compliments you can pay a player is that he’s somebody that you’d want with you in your foxhole. I’d want Austin in my foxhole.”
However, with the unorthodox way in which Kreinz’s recruiting process was developing in high school, it seemed unlikely that coach Murphy would ever meet the man he’d soon want with him in the trenches.
Wisconsin, Kreinz’s home state, is by no means a lacrosse hotbed. In fact, Kreinz said that his introduction to lacrosse came when his brother Drake Kreinz, now the faceoff specialist at Penn State, joined the first ever rec team in their home town of Delafield. Austin, meanwhile, didn’t start playing the sport until he was in seventh grade. Considering that eighth and ninth graders regularly commit to play Division I lacrosse, starting in the seventh grade put Kreinz at a distinct disadvantage with recruiting.
Undeterred, Kreinz stuck with the sport and began to excel, and in the eleventh grade, he decided that it was time to capitalize on his growing skill, so he began attending Portsmouth Abbey, a boarding school across the country in Rhode Island.
Recognizing Kreinz’s abilities, the athletic director and coaches at Portsmouth Abbey sent out film to many of the top lacrosse programs in the Northeast. Among the schools to receive that film was Penn, and Murphy was so impressed by what he saw that he offered Kreinz a spot without ever seeing him play in person first.
It’s safe to say that coach Murphy’s gamble paid off. Although he was recruited as a two-way midfielder, Kreinz has thrived in his more specialized role as a transition-sparking defensive midfielder. In fact, he has become so adept at the position that he has been tasked with teaching the next generation of Penn defensive middies.
“He has taught me everything really. He knows the defense inside and out,” freshman defensive midfielder Matt McIlwrick said. “He teaches me, he answers my questions, and he’s always there to show me what I should be doing and how I can improve. Just through his example and his leadership, I have learned so much.”
However, in a testament to the Penn lacrosse program as a whole, those around Kreinz aren’t the only ones who have been learning and benefitting these last four years. The man himself claims to have received as much from his experience with Penn lacrosse as his teammates and coaches have received from him.
“Honestly, playing lacrosse at Penn has been everything to me,” Kreinz said. “It has changed my life drastically. Whether it’s the people that I met, whether it’s the opportunities off the field and outside of the classroom, this experience has really allowed me to open new doors that I never would have imagined before coming to Penn, playing lacrosse in Wisconsin. It’s been the best decision of my life by far.”
Thanks in large part to the presence of Kreinz, many of his teammates would likely say the same thing.
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