The No. 34 has long been a very important number to the Marist men’s lacrosse team and the coaching staff. The team has a tradition each year to honor No. 34, once donned by former player Edward Coombs, who died in a car crash years ago.
Eddie Coombs was a lacrosse player from Horsham, Pa. He came to Marist in 2010 and played defensive midfield as a freshman. Prior to his sophomore year, Eddie was a passenger in the car of a drunk driver in his home town on August 6, 2011. When the car crashed at 1:00 a.m., it was traveling at a speed between 97 and 103 mph and struck several trees in its path, according to the District Attorney. Two of the five people in the car, including Eddie, lost their lives as a result of the accident. To this day, Marist coaches and players continue to remember and honor Eddie.
Coach Wilkinson had a very strong relationship with Eddie, as he would travel up to his games to watch and spend time with him while he was still in high school. When Eddie came to Marist, even as a freshman, he stood out: Eddie was very even keeled, and he maintained his composure while being a fierce competitor on the field. “Eddie was an amazing freshman for us and acted like an upperclassman,” Coach Wilkinson said. Off the field, Eddie was an excellent student and an important member of the Marist community. While out on the recruiting trail, the coaches continue to look for players that embody the work ethic that Eddie had.
Eddie was a very important player and as such held an important role to the team that year as a defensive midfielder. Wilkinson’s favorite memory of Eddie was when they were playing at Albany, the 18th ranked team at the time. “Eddie had an assignment of covering the best midfielders in the country, and he came down and scored his first career goal as we were able to beat Albany,” Wilkinson said.
The team maintains several traditions and rituals to remember Eddie. “We talk about Eddie on a daily basis and he is somebody we are constantly turning to in practice or meetings, showing players that this was the example set by Eddie,” Wilkinson said. Marist hosts a fall tournament every year to honor Eddie and his foundation — The Edward Taylor Coombs Foundation — started by his family. The foundation was established with the intent of providing an outstanding student athlete financial assistance to pursue their higher educational goals. The second goal of the foundation is to work with high school and college students on the issue of responsible decision making through forums, seminars, videos and other educational programs. “This helps spread in the lacrosse community the foundation and mission of promoting responsible decision making,” Wilkinson said.
The most honorable tradition still upheld today is the practice of presenting the No. 34 jersey to the most deserving senior on the team. In 2015, when Eddie’s classmates still played at Marist, the coaches handed it out on a game-by-game basis. Helping to set the tradition, there have been four players to wear it: Assistant Coach Dave Scarcello had the honor in 2015, followed by Joe Radin in 2016, then Jimmy Murphy, who played with Eddie in high school, and in 2018, Brian Corrigan.
This season, senior defensive midfielder Matthew Selts will be wearing the jersey. Selts has many of the same characteristics of Eddie, as well as the former players that have worn No. 34. “Matthew is very selfless, incredibly humble, plays the same position as Eddie, and is a very fierce competitor who always wants to win,” Wilkinson said.
When players are honored with the jersey, they carry a certain responsibility. “The responsibilities the players have had when they put on the 34 jersey is to go out and play at an incredibly high level in terms of how hard they’re playing,” Wilkinson said.
“It is a great honor to be with that group of players who have worn 34 and honor them and keep the tradition going,” Selts said. He will aim to embody all the hard work and hustle that Eddie showed on the field.
The Marist Men’s Lacrosse team will have their first home game of the season on March 16 against Monmouth University as they continue to play in honor of the late Eddie Coombs.
Edited by Meagan Roche & Will Bjarnar
Header image courtesy of Inside Lacrosse