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Men’s championship turns 20

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Men’s championship turns 20

The team plaque hangs  in the AACC Hall of Fame in the gym.

The team plaque hangs in the AACC Hall of Fame in the gym.

Tommy Parker

The team plaque hangs in the AACC Hall of Fame in the gym.

Tommy Parker

Tommy Parker

The team plaque hangs in the AACC Hall of Fame in the gym.

Tommy Parker, Sports Co-Editor

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The last time an AACC sports team won a national championship was in 1998, when Men’s Lacrosse brought home the trophy.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of that National Junior College Athletic Association—or NJCAA—victory, back when the Riverhawks were known as the Pioneers.

“It was a very memorable year,” said Bill Gorrow, the winning team’s head coach from 1993 to 2001. “We had a great group of young men and a great staff.”

Gorrow, who is now the head lacrosse coach and assistant athletics director at Wesley College in Delaware, led the championship team to the national tournament’s Final Four in seven of his nine years at AACC. The team boasted an overall 106-29 record during that time.

Alistair Howard, who played attack on the championship team, said he recalls those days fondly.

“We thought we would be pretty successful when we went 3-0 to start the season,” said Howard, now a major in the Marine Corps. “Beating Catonsville and Essex in the regional tournament was huge for us.”

The team, which never ranked higher than fourth during that championship season, beat the first-, second- and third-ranked teams in the country in three straight games on its way to becoming national champions.

The Pioneers were the national runners-up in 1994 and 1996. In 1998, they played Nassau Community College of New York—the 1997 national champions—in the semi-finals. Despite a loss to that team earlier in the season, AACC won to move on to the championship.

At the tournament, they met Herkimer County Community College, another New York school that was the 1997 runner-up and had been national champions for five consecutive years.

When Gorrow, who doubled as AACC’s athletics director, got to campus at 6:45 a.m. the day of the final game, he recalled, he expected to be the first one at the gym. But every player was already there, taking ice baths and stretching, ready to go over the game plan for what would be the biggest game of the players’ young lives.

“We were not intimidated,” Howard said. “We got ahead early and we never looked back.”

Gorrow said they were locked into one goal and then  they “brought 120 percent and went out and got it.”

“When the final horn blew I was standing there shivering,” said Gorrow, who said he still blames athletic trainer Jim Fontaine for putting as much ice as possible in the bucket of water that the players dumped on him after their victory.

Howard and Gorrow still keep in touch with some coaches and members of the championship team.

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Men’s championship turns 20