Thomas Place lives to make goalies miserable. His perfect day involves a blue sky, a perfectly manicured lacrosse field, a never-ending supply of scoring chances and a goalie with more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese.
Place is the top returning attacker for the St. Louis University High lacrosse team. He tallied 33 goals and handed out 24 helpers last year as the Junior Billikens went 15-7 and lost in the state semifinals to Rockhurst in overtime. Rockhurst would then go on to win the title with a victory over MICDS.
Place and his fellow Junior Billikens are on a mission this spring to avenge last year’s semifinal heartbreaker. SLUH led 10-4 at halftime against Rockhurst only to watch the Hawklettes rally back to tie the game at 11-11 and take it to overtime. You know what happened next.
The Junior Billikens were devastated by the defeat. So, to make things right, the 5-foot-8, 150-pound Place, 18, and his fellow seniors are giving it everything they’ve got this time around. “We have a really strong senior class,” Place says. “All of our seniors played last year.”
As if losing the semifinal wasn’t rough enough, the Junior Billikens attended the title game en masse just to see what happened. Some might consider it rubbing salt in the wound. Some would consider it masochistic. “We went to the game,” Place says. “It was tough to watch.”
SLUH considers it motivation. Place went as far as to admit that the Junior Billikens have revenge in their hearts when it comes to Rockhurst. No one puts extra pep in SLUH’s step like the Hawklettes. “The one team we want to beat is Rockhurst,” Place says. “It should be MICDS, but it’s Rockhurst.”
MICDS already beat SLUH 5-4 the second week of March. They won’t see one another again until the playoffs. But that’s OK. SLUH has plans for a deep playoff run—not that Place is focused on that. He’s trying to enjoy every day he’s got because he doesn’t have that many left. “You can’t just wait for the playoffs,” Place says. “You have to go through the hard times and the good times.”
Place spent his winter playing hockey with the SLUH team that was the runner-up to CBC. The Junior Billikens advanced to the title game twice in Place’s four years and lost the Challenge Cup championship both times. After last season’s loss to Rockhurst, Place says this spring is his last opportunity to walk away with a championship. So he’s leaving everything he’s got on the field. “Spring lacrosse is what it’s come to,” Place says. “It’s now or never.”
He’s done a pretty good job this season. He’s scored 20 goals and handed out eight assists. SLUH is 6-2 with games at Kirkwood on Tuesday (April 10) and at home against Vianney on Thursday (April 12).
Place has something of an advantage when it comes to attacking goalies. He grew up playing goalie on his hockey teams. He was in the net all winter as SLUH put together one of its best seasons. Place can read a goalie’s body language. “I can always tell if the goalie is confident or isn’t. I know that feeling,” Place says.
Place, who only started playing lacrosse when he entered high school, will continue his career at Marquette University in the fall. He became so enraptured in lacrosse as a freshman that he just couldn’t shake it. A lot of his passion for the game comes from the guys he’s grown up playing with. Being a hockey goalie means spending lots of time by your lonesome. As an attacker in lacrosse, you’re always in the middle of the action. “(In hockey) I’m always sitting in the crease,” Place says. “The team chemistry never bonds with the goalie. I really enjoy that (in lacrosse).”