Rutgers seniors earn selections in 2016 Major League Lacrosse Draft
A pair of seniors from the Rutgers men's lacrosse team will be taking their talents to the next level.
Long-stick midfielder Zack Sikora and attacker Scott Bieda were respectively selected 61st and 70th overall in the 2016 Major League Lacrosse Draft held Jan. 22 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland.
"I'm very happy for both Zack Sikora and Scott Bieda today after being drafted to play in the MLL," said head coach Brian Brecht in a statement released by Rutgers Athletics on Monday. "Both have worked extremely hard and have developed so much over the past three years to earn this opportunity to play professional lacrosse. As seniors it is an exciting year for them, and now it is even more exciting to be able to play in the MLL this summer after graduation."
Both players had the life-changing information delivered to them second-hand.
Sikora, who finished 2014 with 48 groundballs and forced eight turnovers, learned the news when his mother sent him a text message in an understandably excited state.
“I got a text from my mom like freaking out and I had no idea what had happened yet because I was watching on some lacrosse website,” Sikora said. “It was kind of cool that my mom was the first one to tell me about it because she was like 10 times more excited than I was.”
The Clifton, Virginia, native was taken as the ninth pick of the seventh round by the Charlotte Hounds, an especially convenient destination for Sikora whom has a significant amount of family in North Carolina surrounding the Queen City.
Until now, few of the 6-foot-4 senior’s extended family had the opportunity to see him play.
But with his ascension to the professional ranks now cemented, the Sikora clan has been given the chance to change that narrative.
“A lot of people on my mom's side of the family live down in North Carolina," Sikora said. "So they were all really excited to find out that I was going to finally play some games in North Carolina and Charlotte was actually one of the places I was really looking into moving to after graduation.”
Sikora’s pick was originally held by the New York Lizards, but was traded to the Hounds in exchange for the 46th overall selection.
The Lizards selected Bieda in the eighth round with their final pick of the draft.
The commute should be manageable for Bieda being that New York makes its home just 63 miles from High Point Solutions Stadium in Hempstead, on the campus of Hofstra University.
The Bridgewater, New Jersey, native chose to stay close to home for his collegiate career and is thrilled about being granted another opportunity to remain near his roots.
“That's a huge aspect, definitely. Being a hometown kid, going to Rutgers, so staying hometown for college and then being able to play at the next level (nearby) is definitely ideal,” the two-year captain said. “But also, I'll be trying to work in (New York City) as well, so it makes it even that much better.”
Bieda earned First Team All-Big Ten honors last season, the Knights' first in what has become arguably the most competitive conference in college lacrosse. The senior had a team-high 30 goals and 28 assists in his junior season, landing him the fifth-best point total in the league.
Both Knights now face peculiar circumstances. They have been selected to play at the next level, but first they must finish up the final season of their collegiate career.
“I try not to think about it. I have a season and a team to run and that's really my first job and my first priority right now. And that's kind of all I need to worry about,” Bieda said. “(Monday) at practice I didn't think about it one bit … it was a great practice. It's little things like that, being around your teammates, that kinda makes you forget about it and put that stuff off.”
Bieda was the last pick in MLL’s 2016 Draft, a fact not lost on the 5-foot-9 attackman.
While his smaller stature likely contributed to Bieda falling to the final pick, he believes there is something much larger at play.
During his freshman season on the Banks, Bieda lost his grandfather, a role model to the attacker, best friend and biggest supporter.
“My mom had called me and she had told me that ‘Pop’ was looking down on me," Bieda said. "I was the last pick of the draft, so he was definitely involved somehow. I would’ve liked for him to be here for that moment, but I know he’s looking down on me right now up there, smiling.”
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