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Lax's Oglesby returns as leading offensive threat

One month after the Duke lacrosse team completed its 1993 season, Matthew Ogelsby went on vacation.

And for the junior midfielder and native of Philadelphia, Pa., this was no weekend jaunt to the nearby Jersey Shore. Ogelsby was off for a sojourn in the Canary Islands, not to depart from the tropical paradise until three months had passed. When he did leave, he was off to sunny Spain, this time for a semester-long stay on the Continent.

When Ogelsby finally made it back to Durham last month, he found waiting for him a bigger, stronger, healthier team than he left nearly a year ago. And he found an entirely new role for himself.

"He's the leader," head coach Mike Pressler says of Ogelsby. "He's the returning player of achievement. When people prepare for us this year, the first thing they're going to say is, `How do we stop Ogelsby.' They're going to make adjustments to stop him. We're going to prepare him in the preseason so when he sees those variations in the defense, he can handle it and still be successful."

Ogelsby has been working to be successful since the sixth grade, when he first picked up a lacrosse stick. Even from his first scoop of a ground ball, he says his ultimate goal was a college scholarship. Of course there were diversions along the way -- including a foray into soccer and a stint as a nationally-ranked high school squash player -- but the desire was always there.

After a recruiting process that saw Ogelsby visit such top-notch lacrosse schools as Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and the more prestigious members of the Ivy League, that desire led him to Duke as a member of Pressler's first-ever recruiting class.

In his freshman year, Ogelsby played in 12 of 14 games for the Duke team that earned a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the program's 52-year history. Running with the first and second midfield lines, he contributed three goals and added a single assist. For his efforts, he won the team's Rookie of the Year Award.

Ogelsby returned for his sophomore season as one of Duke's top midfield prospects, and again did not disappoint. By the time the Blue Devils had defeated Georgetown to close out the year, Ogelsby had upped his goal production to 19 and raised his assist total to an even dozen. His 31 points had made him the team's fourth-leading scorer and first among midfielders. He had played in all of Duke's 14 games.

"My freshman year, I was a token," says Ogelsby. "I was out there because they needed another body, and I could throw and catch. I was so nervous every time I got out there.

"Sophomore year, I wasn't as nervous. I kind of knew my role. I had the experience of being a freshman in Division I. I had scored against Syracuse, which was a big goal for me. I calmed down a little. I don't think I had as good a year as everybody said I did, but I definitely progressed."

The honors, too, kept rolling in. Pressler named Ogelsby the team's Player of the Game in Duke's historic win over Maryland, and named him the team's Most Valuable Player at the end of the season. The Atlantic Coast Conference saw fit to bestow Ogelsby with Player of the Week honors on one occasion, as well as naming him All-ACC. The coup d'etat came after the season had ended, and Ogelsby garnered a third-team All-America selection.

"I don't believe I deserved All-American," says Ogelsby, shaking his head at the mere thought of the accolade. "I definitely don't think I was as consistent as I could've been. Granted, I had a longpole in my face all the time and they tried to shut me off a lot, but I wasn't all that consistent last year.

"I had a good ACC. I played well in the two Carolina games, and in the Maryland game. But I had some horrible games too. There were some pathetic games where I should have been on the bench."

Most chose to overlook those games. They chose instead to look at Ogelsby's speed, which Pressler rates among the best on his team. They chose to look at his strength, for at 6-0, 190 lbs., Ogelsby matches up in strength and power with most every opponent he faces. They chose to look at his superb stick skills and uncanny ability to use both his right and left hands with equal aplomb -- a remnant, says Pressler, of his squash days.

Ogelsby, however, tends to dwell on the weaker aspects of his game, which both he and Pressler list as shooting, defense, and above all, consistency. He refers to himself only as an "alright athlete." He severely downplays his accomplishments -- including that of All-American. When asked about Duke lacrosse -- a program that, since Ogelsby's arrival, has risen from mediocrity to compete with the country's best lacrosse schools -- he says, "We haven't accomplished anything yet."

Despite the successes, he still maintains the desire to improve, and maintains it as strongly as ever.

"As a lacrosse player, he's still improving," Pressler says. "It's always been Matt Ogelsby the great athlete. But he's got a ways to go as a player, and he can still develop some of those lacrosse skills. Once those skills catch up to his athletic ability, we'll have a first-team All-America on our hands."

And the trip to Spain? Ogelsby -- a Spanish major who professes a love for his second language second only to his love for family -- calls it the "best experience of my life," and says it only added to his desire.

"I think it definitely helped me, because it got me away," he says. "I had a nice break -- over a seven-month break -- from lacrosse. Now I'm fresh and ready to go.

"As far as lacrosse, that's all I could think about. When I thought about going back to Duke University, I thought about lacrosse. I wouldn't be back here if I wasn't on the lacrosse team. I'm very focused. This is why I'm here."

For Matthew Ogelsby, it looks like the vacation is over.

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