Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Where Are They Now? TJ Foley

By Zach Smart

The vast array of nicknames heaped on former Mahopac midfielder T.J. Foley was both colorful and telling.

During his senior year at Mahopac, teammates and coaches routinely referred to Foley as "the beast."
Foley was also known in Mahopac lacrosse circles as "the Man-Child," "The Man," and "Pretty Boy."
Foley cemented his legacy with clutch characteristics during the Indians’ 7-5 victory over Lakeland/Panas in the 2011 Section I championship at Suffern Middle School.

Turn the clock back two years.

Foley was a senior salivating at the sight of a sectional championship plaque.

Having helped pioneer ‘Pac to Section I final and semifinal appearances in football and basketball, the notion of capping his career with another runner-up certificate didn't sit well.  

With the May heat and sectional title pressure searing, the senior finally lived up to his handful of loud nicknames.

Foley dropped the go-ahead goal, a dramatic catch-and-pop to crack a 4-4 deadlock. He blasted home an insurance pop with 5:35 remaining, as Mahopac seized a 6-4 edge.

Heroics gained, championship attained.

Now, back to the future.

Foley finished his sophomore year at Drexel as a role player. The team's high-scoring quartet was headlined by Robert Church (33 goals, 24 assists).

While he is no longer the beast amongst boys he was at Mahopac, where refs (in jest) asked to see his birth certificate before games (Aiden Hynes is 14 years old, factual information that’s been verified, so there’s no way Foley was over age in HS), he's no puppy.

Foley’s ability to rocket shots with both hands helped him gain some burn. He must develop into more of a shootist next year, when he's likely to have a more prominent role.

An All-American his senior year at Mahopac, Foley played sparingly his freshman year at Drexel. The 6-foot-1 slinger did pop two goals in a win against Mount St. Mary’s last season, albeit he played on the second line this season.

"There's a major jump from high school to college," said Foley, who earned a 3.0 GPA this semester. "It's not even close to as fast-paced, in college everyone is much bigger and stronger. You really can't simulate that kind of size or athleticism in high school. So, I just worked my tail off and made sure I was ready."

At Drexel, Foley said the system is predicated on beating your man and either firing or creating an open look.

"It's just really basic," said Foley of the new offensive system. "Here it is essentially, beat your guy and make the right look and someone is always open, so there's a lot of emphasis on being cerebral with the ball. We have a set. Depending on which way (the ball handler) goes, everyone just reacts."

With his focus on this new style of play, Foley has vowed to increase his foot speed and explosiveness this off-season. The whole process of ascending the ladder, working up the ranks and proving your worth is similar to high school.

"I've just got to get faster and develop that quicker step," said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Foley.

If recent history is any portent, Foley's work ethic won't falter.

“After his first year at the Division-I level, he worked out plenty and he came back looking like a mammoth,” said Indians senior Ross Thompson, a former teammate.
“I think his shot developed even more, which is scary to think about. The kid is a pure sniper.”

Foley’s senior year at MHS, he quarterbacked the football team to a berth in the Section I championship game.

In hoops, Foley was a interior presence who inhaled rebounds and provided hustle points.

That deep, veteran-loaded core (no longer the stepchild to football and lacrosse) ended an 11-year County Center drought, utilizing a balanced offensive attack and applying draping team defense. The Indians fell to Jabarie Hinds-led Mount Vernon in a lackluster Section I semifinal game.
Nobody will forget how Foley capped his senior year in lacrosse, making up for lost time with a sought after Section I championship that had eluded the Indians.

“T.J. was a quiet leader, but he led by example,” said former Mahopac co-coach Dave Haddeland, currently the offensive coordinator at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island.
“He was always pushing himself and his teammates in practice and in games. He could shoot it with both hands and would run through a brick wall for you.”