Senior season cut short, Sean Mayle’s leadership prevails from the sideline

Photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

Captains are selected based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to; experience, commitment, consideration and character. A captain isn’t necessarily the most talented or highest producer among the team, but rather, is a player who embodies the core values of the program and leads by example. For the University of Denver Pioneers, the 2018 captains are; second-year leader Trevor Baptiste, accompanied by classmates Connor Donahue and Sean Mayle.

For Mayle, a four-year starter, he’s faced adversity but hasn’t allowed those misfortunes to deter him from supporting his team or his contagious personality.

“He’s a special person,” Denver head coach Bill Tierney said. “Sean brings light to everybody’s day. Even when he has reason to be down in the dumps he’s the one to lift everyone around him up. From his personality to his caring, to his demeanor. He lives a little bit outside the parameters of our norm, but he brings such excitement to the game. Sean is a special person. The circumstances are strange, but what he has given this program is pretty amazing.”

Mayle was deemed ineligible for the remainder of the 2018 season by the NCAA due to a technicality implemented towards academics. Unlike universities on the semester schedule, the University of Denver operates on the quarter system. With two quarters — Winter and Spring — that occur during the lacrosse season, the NCAA monitors players’ academic success twice. Players at a semester-style university are only observed once. 

Mayle had repeated a course and passed but violated an NCAA technicality. After appealing the decision, the committee maintained its ruling. Mayle’s last game for the Pioneers was on March 24 against Towson. 

Trading khakis and a black polo for his game-day uniform and pads, Mayle has accepted the consequence and modified his impact from the sideline.

“Just like how my teammates who were there for me when I was coming back from my knee, I need to be there for them,” Mayle said. “I’m obviously off the field so I can see things that they can’t, I try to help in any way that I can. At the end of the day, I’m still going to lead by example during practice. It’s unfortunate, but I’m still a part of this team and I’m going to do whatever I can to help us win. I still have a duty here.”

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Mayle cradling the ball earlier in the season against Air Force – photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

Mayle is a short-stick midfielder turned long-pole following his arrival at DU. With a 6-foot-0, 195-pound frame, Mayle encompasses the perfect balance of power and finesse. His dominant wing play, defensive snarl and explosive offensive impact embody the diversity of an LSM position.

Throughout his collegiate career, Mayle registered 14 career points on nine goals and five assists. Defensively, he collected 120 ground balls and forced 21 turnovers. Returning from a bicruciate ligament (BCL) construction procedure at the end of his junior year, Mayle was selected to the 2018 Tewaaraton Watch List.

“A long-stick that shoots the ball like him — that is why the Chesapeake team drafted him,” Tierney said. “He’s got a magic stick.” 

Selected sixth overall in the Major League Lacrosse 2018 Draft by the Chesapeake Bayhawks, Mayle had the option to pursue his professional career as early as this Saturday. He opted otherwise. While his days of competing in college lacrosse games are over, he had no interest in abandoning his responsibility to the Pioneers.

“This is a guy who has been told that he is ineligible to play his senior year not many guys would come out and practice hard every day,” Tierney said. “He could have just said, ‘I’m out and done.’ He could have played in the pros this week. When the final decision from the committee came down that they weren’t going to accept his appeal, a lot of lesser people would have walked away.”

The outcome, while undesirable, hasn’t created a negative impact on Mayle’s spirit. The San Carlos, Calif. native has since joined the “scout team” during practices where he faces Denver’s first-string offense. He has embraced the challenge of bettering his teammates at each opportunity, always with a smile.

“There’s always something to be happy about — especially when you have this group of guys around you,” Mayle said. “My season is over getting to play in games, but it’s not even close to over for getting to play on the field and in practice. If that means going one-on-one against Ethan Walker [attack] and getting scored on a lot, but making him better, then that’s what I’m going to do. Right now the most important thing to me is what this team, this coaching staff, this university has given everything to me. In my time left I’d love to give everything I possibly can back and help to win a national championship.”

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Mayle transitioning downfield – photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

The journey isn’t over. Mayle may not be able to suit up and contribute on game day, but his role doesn’t end on the field. His loyalty to the program, commitment to the game and drive for success are why Mayle was chosen to lead this prestigious program. His willingness, his devotion and his heart Mayle epitomizes Denver lacrosse.

The formidable presence of No. 6 will undoubtedly be missed, but his influence, intuition and passion will usher the Pioneers’ hopeful return to Championship Weekend.

“To this day it was the best feeling of my life, winning that [2015] championship,” Mayle said. “If it ends up happening this year, I’ll know that feeling is tough to match, but this time would be a little sweeter. It’s my last year and my last shot at this. I just want to do whatever I can do to give everyone on our team who hasn’t experienced that yet. That feeling — it’s something special.”