Lancers Cunningham finds growth in “uncomfortable situations”

Michael Cunningham, a native of Derbyshire, England, apparently is attempting to read War and Peace with his life journeys. Among the countries he has visited: Austria, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain and, of course, the United States. (Photo: SCOTT CORDARO)

By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA

The skills of Rochester Lancers players are quite easy to spot when they’re on the pitch.

We’ve marveled at what striker Will Stone can do when the ball is at his feet. His four goals in the past five games show what happens when the ball then leaves his left foot.

We’ve seen the agility of goalkeeper William Banahene when a shot is headed for the corner of the net. His four consecutive shutouts are proof that the ball never finds its target.

We’re always impressed at midfielder Jake Schindler’s ability to defend; does anyone ever get past him?

Their efforts, combined with the rest of the team, are why the Lancers will take a six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2) into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. home game against FC Buffalo at Charlie Schiano Sr. Field at Aquinas Institute.

Ah, but the tidbits of information you may not know about these Lancers are just as entertaining.

Like the fact defender Alex Harling can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute. He uses his feet to move the ball to safety; he uses his hands to align all those annoying colored squares in the blink of an eye.

You probably didn’t know that Kyle Cunningham, one of the backup goalkeepers, says his favorite athlete is Alex Ovechkin of the NHL’s Washington Capitals.

And have you ever wondered why defender Glenn Holmes never ventures too far upfield with the intention of scoring a goal? Here’s your answer:

Because a few years back, the one time he did get a little offensive, it turned out to be well, a little offensive.

The native of Kilkenny, Ireland, was playing with his homeland in the Umbro Cup. “I came up from center back and took a shot on goal,” Holmes explained. “I hit it with my left foot and it ended up at the corner flag.”

Thus, the suggestion from his coach: “Don’t ever shoot at goal again.”

“They call me the assist king now,” he said with a smile.

Of course, it turns out that’s not quite true. He does have one goal this season. And no assists.

Did you know defender Dean Byrne heeds humble advice when he plays? His mantra: “Self praise is no praise.”

“My old coach in Ireland used to say that,” Byrne said. “One guy on our team was pretty cocky. But when it came down to it, other guys on the team ended up much better off.”

If, while watching the Lancers on Friday night, you think Sam Jiggins can run all day, you’d be correct.

The 20-year-old native of Stansted Mountfitchet, a small village north of London, ran his first marathon on May 28. He was a natural. He completed the 26.2 miles of the Buffalo Marathon in 3 hours, 45 minutes, finishing third in his age group (15-19; he hadn’t turned 20 yet).

Ever determined, the one-time BMX motocross competitor began distance running mostly on a whim.

“My girlfriend’s dad runs a lot and I decided to go with him one time,” Jiggins said. They ran 10 miles. This spring he progressed to the marathon and knew he would complete the course.

“I have the mentality to do it; I’ll never give in,” Jiggins said.

Forward Michael Cunningham, meanwhile, believes it’s essential to broaden horizons through travel. He lives by the age-old adage “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Cunningham, a native of Derbyshire, England, apparently is attempting to read War and Peace with his life journeys. Among the countries he has visited: Austria, Australia, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain and, of course, the United States.

“My family, they all travel,” he said. “My uncle (Richard Cunningham) married a Malaysian woman so I have visited Malaysia and my grandmother had a house in Spain.”

Personal growth, he says, comes by venturing outside comfort zones.

“I think you need to put yourself in uncomfortable situations,” Cunningham said, “because that’s when your true personality shines through.”

Where the Lancers (4-2-2 overall) have become comfortable is in winning situations. During the six-game unbeaten streak, they have allowed only one goal.

Friday’s game against FC Buffalo will be critical in the Lancers charge to a playoff berth. The common belief is that they will need to earn nine of the possible 12 points from the final four games. Coach Doug Miller knows how they can eliminate any uncertainty, however.

“Win, win, win, win,” Miller said.

The Lady Lancers (0-6-1) will play their home finale at 1 p.m. Saturday against the Western New York Flash.

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