The year was 1978.
One of the most outstanding runs for a college sports team, not to mention one from Salem, Virginia, played out that spring.
Just seven years into its history, the Roanoke College lacrosse team captured the Division-II National Championship, defeating two-time defending national champs Hobart 14-13 at Boswell Field on the Hobart campus.
The Roanoke Valley Sports Club honored four members of that team Monday night at their monthly meeting with the club’s prestigious “Legends of the Game” award. Long-time broadcaster and recent recipient of the Virginia High School League’s Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, Dave Ross, made the presentation in front of a packed house at the Salem Civic Center.
Bob Rotanz, Joe Dishaw, current Roanoke College Athletic Director Scott Allison and Keith Griswold, all members of that ’78 team, received recognition as being key members of the team 40 years ago.
It was a season that will be forever etched in history at Roanoke, and one that head coach Paul Griffin’s squad may have given hints in the early going was about to unfold. The Roanoke season opener still remains as one of the most-lopsided wins in Maroon lacrosse, a 32-goal trouncing over Virginia Tech. The opening 8-game win streak also included a close win over powerhouse Duke, before losses to North Carolina and Towson State proved to be the only hiccups that season.
In the Division II playoffs, Roanoke advanced with wins in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds before facing Hobart as decided underdogs, especially after Hobart had dominated its first two tournament games by the combined scores of 53-15.
Roanoke trailed 11-9 at the halftime break and cut the Hobart lead to 12-11 after three quarters. Tied at 13 with less than a minute to go, Griffin used a trick play that allowed Rotanz, a Maroon defenseman, to fire in the winning goal. It was only Rotanz’s second goal of the season, but seconds later Roanoke was national champions. Dishaw and Allison also scored in the dramatic win, with Griswold likewise playing a key role for the Maroons.