It was already a special game for the Clark University men’s lacrosse program, as the Cougars hosted Coast Guard Academy in the fourth annual Renny Classic to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s research, but it became a record-breaking night with three minutes left in the first half. Senior attacker Brandon King scored his fourth goal of the night, putting Clark up 7-0, breaking the program’s record for career goals.
The King Philip alum finished with six goals and two assists in the 14-13 loss to Coast Guard, moving his career total to 124 goals, three more than the previous record of 121. King is also sixth in career points.
“I didn’t walk into Clark thinking that this would ever be an opportunity in front of me but walking out I’m really happy that I might be able to leave my legacy,” said King in an interview two days before he broke the record.
He added, “I’m walking into this Coast Guard game looking to score as many goals as I can. Obviously, four would be huge and getting that goal in the Renny Classic would be pretty cool to walk in and break the record in that game, but I’m going to walk in and shoot as hard as I can no matter what.”
King entered the season 24 goals shy of the record and he was aware that he could be the program’s top goal-getter by the end of the season, but tried not to let it affect the way he approached the game. He got off to a strong start with nine goals in the opening two games, but had hit a mini-slump. That slump ended with a hat trick against Plymouth State on Wednesday and King carried that momentum into the Coast Guard game.
“I just wasn’t hitting the net enough or getting the power behind the shots that I needed,” King said. “I need to be shooting that shot from the outside and splashing in order for us to have success and you think about it a lot more when you’re out of your groove.
“It’s all about timing and when you peak. I picked a good time to go down and now that I’m coming back up it’s NEWMAC play.”
King wasn’t an instant success at Clark. During his freshman season, he saw time in 12 games but it he did not become a starter until an injury to, then junior, Nick Johnson opened a spot for King to step into and he never really looked back. He started three games at the end of that season and has started all 43 games that Clark has played since. After scoring 12 goals as a rookie, King jumped up to 42 goals and eight assists as a sophomore.
“I was that fourth attackman and I wasn’t getting a ton of playing time but I was getting man-up and stuff like that because my play is that big outside shot,” said King about his first season at Clark. “When [Nick] went down, there was a spot that needed to be filled and that was kind of the role that I took. The opportunity came about and I think I handled it pretty well.”
When Johnson returned from his knee injury midway through King’s sophomore season, he instantly added a high-quality playmaker to the lineup and added a significant boost to an already prolific attack. Despite missing almost half the season with injury, Johnson, who is the program’s all-time leading scorer (goals and assists), had 24 assists that year. King called Johnson a “role model” and someone who inspired him to continue getting better.
“I was lucky enough to play with him for two years,” King said. “He was more of an assist-guy and a smaller, quick guy, so we weren’t exactly the same player but he always had the work ethic that I wanted to embody.”
Getting the additional playing time was important, but King admitted that there was also a steep learning curve coming from high school lacrosse to the collegiate level. “The difference between high school and college lacrosse is insane and it definitely took me over a year to figure that out,” he said. His coaches continued to show confidence in him and his shooting ability and continued to encourage him to just do what he knows best.
“I’ve always known that I have a good shot but also just working on those mechanics and then having the confidence to unleash it in the game has been my biggest growth over my career,” King explained.
Once the starting role was his, King never let it go. His sophomore year, the Cougars reached the NEWMAC tournament final but were beaten by perennial power Springfield College (which has won 11 straight NEWMAC championships). Last season, King was again one of the top scorers in the conference with 43 goals and six assists. He now has two of the top four single-season goal scoring seasons in program history and earned an All-NEWMAC first team nod in 2018.
While the individual totals and honors are great, King said that he was most proud of the fact that his first two seasons were also the two winningest seasons in program history. His senior class has the chance to end its four years with the most wins of any class that has come through Clark lax.
“Breaking the record is really cool and I’m happy to be part of that but being the class with the most wins in Clark lacrosse history is something that I’ll remember forever,” he explained.
While the goal-scoring record was a possibility this season, King wants another chance to play for the NEWMAC crown. He wasn’t thrilled about the team’s showing in 2017 and he wants another shot at playing in a title game. With that in mind, he wasn’t overly concerned about the team’s play through the opening nine games. The Cougars started 4-5 but King felt that the team was turning a corner and doing so at just the right time of the year.
“We just weren’t at the spot we wanted to be at,” said King of the team’s struggles during a trip to Florida, “but the whole intent of the early season is just trying to work out all those kinks and I think we’ve done a good job doing that.” He noted that in the end it was NEWMAC play that the Cougars were focused on, adding, “We’re on a new path and a different path than we’ve been on, so I’m feeling pretty good right now.”
King, the team’s lone captain, and the rest of the senior class have one goal, and that is to close out their careers with a NEWMAC title. It would be the first in program history and solidify the legacy that the class of 2018 has built at Clark.
“Everything that we do, all the effort that we put in during the preseason or the fall, has been all for that,” King reflected. “If we put in the work and grind every single day, then the NEWMAC title will come to us and we just have to take it.”