Box Lacrosse Suiting NLL Rookie Ryan Terefenko Well


Ryan Terefenko’s journey most weekends starts with a 45-minute drive from Culver, Indiana, to South Bend. Other times, he commutes nearly two hours straight to Chicago. Either way, he ends up on a plane in the Windy City and flies to Toronto before eventually reaching the final leg of his travels with a connecting flight to Halifax.

“It’s planes, trains and automobiles getting him to games and practices,” Thunderbirds head coach Mike Accursi said. “But it was our commitment to him, and he’s made a big commitment to us doing all the travel and wanting to do the travel to play in this league.”

If that’s what it takes to play lacrosse nearly year-round, it’s something Terefenko is willing to do.

“It hasn’t been a challenge because we have such a great organization and they kind of take care of all the logistics of everything,” said Terefenko, a rookie with Halifax. “All I have to do is show up. It’s definitely been straining to some degree, the amount of times I’m on a plane or the amount of times I’m walking through airports, but it is all worth it. It is part of the job as a professional lacrosse player, whether you’re indoor or outdoor.”

Terefenko, a former All-American short-stick defensive middie at Ohio State, joined Tom Schreiber and TD Ierlan this winter as the only three American-born players suiting up for a Canadian-based National Lacrosse League squad. Despite never playing box lacrosse before, he’s carved out a niche with the T-Birds, one of the top contenders in the East Division.

“At the beginning of the year, he started on our practice roster because he was new to the game,” Accursi said. “With him working at Culver Academy, it’s been tougher with him not getting to as many practices as we probably would have liked. It took a little bit longer for him to really get used to the game, but once he got used to the game, he’s just a stud athlete. He’s got tremendous footwork, and he’s got great defensive vision. He’s been a loose ball hound for us.”

The Thunderbirds selected Terefenko in the second round, 27th overall, in the 2020 NLL Draft. That’s a bit earlier than you might expect for a player with no box experience, but the organization saw he possessed all the tools needed to transition. There were former Ohio State studs to vouch for him in Halifax in Jake Withers, Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell.

A two-time Tewaaraton Award nominee, Terefenko left the Buckeyes as the program’s all-time leader in ground balls. In addition to playing stellar defense, he totaled 34 career points in 52 games as a SSDM.

He also had the toughness and fearlessness needed to succeed.

He first broke his arm in college, a setback that only kept him out one month of action. Not wanting to redshirt, he got a cast, put a long-sleeved shirt over it and played knowing it wasn’t ready. He wasn’t going to miss out on his fifth year in Columbus. He fought through the pain before eventually getting a metal plate inserted.

He broke it again in his first Premier Lacrosse League training camp. He took a blow off a pick in his early days with Chrome Lacrosse Club, later finding out the bone was only being held together by the hardware previously inserted in his arm.

“At that point, I was just so fired up to be a part of the Chrome,” Terefenko said. “I love coach [Tim] Soudan, I love the guys on that team. I didn’t really want my first year to not be a part of that and not be a part of the journey that we’re on with them.”

He went through the entire PLL season before undergoing surgery, still playing well enough to be a finalist for the league’s top SSDM award.

“He’s a viking,” said Soudan, a former NLL star himself. “He 100 percent just gives it every second he’s on the field. … As soon as he sees the ball, it’s like a lab chasing a tennis ball. He’s like, ‘See you later.’ He’s a warrior for sure. Indoor suits him well.”

Terefenko spent the Thunderbirds’ first two games on the practice roster before making his debut on January 15 against the Toronto Rock. He’s suited up in every one of the team’s games since.

“His one-on-one defense is bar-none,” Accursi said. “Probably one of the best one-on-one defenders in the game right now. He can get up the floor, he can score goals, he can take faceoffs if you need him. He’s one of those guys that just has so many different skillsets that can be effective in the box game. When we first kind of had him in the box and we saw how quickly he was picking things up, we knew he was going to be something special for us.”

Through 13 games, Terefenko has accumulated two goals, four assists, 96 loose balls and nine caused turnovers. He also has a faceoff victory. Helped by teammates and coaches willing to teach him, he’s developed into a valuable piece as a rookie.

“It’s a lot of patterns, a lot of different defensive movements that you kind of have to get the hang of,” Terefenko said. “It’s kind of like a rhythm almost, how the defense moves, where in field it’s a little more helter-skelter, a little more all over the place.”

Terefenko and the Thunderbirds enter the final stretch of the season in the thick of the playoff race. Halifax sits in third place in the East at 9-6, battling with the Rock and Georgia Swarm for seeding.

The group has hit its roadblocks, including a recent four-game skid, but certainly has the talent to make a run in Terefenko’s inaugural campaign.

“It’s fun to be on a contender, obviously,” Terefenko said. “We had a little midseason slump, but we’re just looking to get back to our winning ways. I think we’ve got the right guys to stake a really strong push at the end of the season. It’s just a matter of kind of putting it together for us.”

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