Cameron and Roman Lao-Gosney are not typical teammates. The Lehigh co-captains are fraternal twins who started playing lacrosse in high school at Hebron Academy in Maine. They were the first recruits of fifth-year head coach Kevin Cassese, and have helped transform the program into a contender not only in the Patriot League, but also nationally. Through hard work and determination, the Lao-Gosneys have created a culture of winning. And through thick and thin, they’ve been in it together.
The twins’ father was in the Navy, which forced the family to move quite a bit. While living in Maryland, the Lao-Gosneys played hockey. Ironically, after moving to Raymond, Maine, the brothers also took up lacrosse at their high school.
“It was freshman year and I remember talking with my hockey coach, who directed me to lacrosse,” said Cameron. “Roman and I picked it up pretty quickly. We used mini lacrosse sticks to just throw a ball at each other as hard as we could. We picked it up and started loving lacrosse. It caught on; we used to be hockey players and loved playing hockey, but we got better at lacrosse and stuck with that.”
The twins were rapidly improving, but felt they needed more seasoning, so they went to Avon Old Farms, a well-renowned prep school in Connecticut. After playing hockey, soccer and lacrosse at Hebron, they focused on lacrosse at Avon while playing Varsity B hockey.
Cameron and Roman enjoyed success, playing in numerous All-Star Games, including one at the University of Maryland in the summer of 2007. Coach Cassese was still recruiting for Duke, where he was assistant coach, when he saw the Lao-Gosneys in action. He went back to Durham liking what he saw, but a few days later, Cassese accepted the head coaching position at Lehigh.
“Very quickly, I put on my Lehigh hat and called them to see if they wanted to come visit campus,” said Cassese. “I knew they were the type of players that I wanted in my program, whatever program that might be.”
In Cassese’s first week on the job in Bethlehem, the Lao-Gosneys visited campus for a unique and atypical visit in which neither side was too familiar with the university.
“I still had no idea what I was looking at [on campus],” said Cassese. “But regardless, I knew I wanted them to play for me. Meeting them and their mother Julie, I just knew they had the core values and the right attitude to build my team around.”
The visit certainly had its impact; on the long car ride home to Maine, the twins called Coach Cassese to verbally commit to Lehigh.
“I remember coaches at other schools being very adamant about the timeframe for us to commit verbally,” said Roman. “They’d be like ‘by Friday, you have to commit to here or we’re going to move on.’ Coach Cassese never said that. He wanted us to choose a school where we wanted to be. On the way home, we were driving with our mom and knew we liked it, so we called him to commit.”
There’s one question you naturally have to ask. Did the two always want to play together?
“I don’t think we ever talked about whether we wanted to play together,” said Roman. “We started getting recruited by the same schools, so we said why not because he’s my brother and we get along. Let’s do it.”
“I think it was just assumed,” said Cameron. “We always had a good relationship, obviously as twins. We’ve always enjoyed playing with each other and had a connection on the field.”
“I made it clear from the beginning that I wanted them both,” said Cassese. “I was recruiting both of them equally as hard. There did come a point when I asked if they were okay going to the same school and there was an emphatic and simultaneous yes from both of them as only twins would do.”
There’s talk about certain teammates owning great chemistry, but for brothers (never mind twins), that chemistry extends to another level. It’s especially beneficial considering they run together at midfield.
“Like brothers would, you know where the other’s going to be and what he’s thinking,” said Cassese. “You have that mental connection just because you’ve spent so much time together.”
“On the field, when he sets up a defender, I know exactly what move he’s going to do,” said Cameron. “I can tell the way he’s playing and how he’s feeling mentally too. We can always help each other and pick each other up. We know what to say if we’re struggling.”
The two have enjoyed strong careers in the Brown and White. Cameron’s point totals have increased each of his first three seasons (24, 30 then 35), and Roman has bounced back from an injury as a freshman to own 41 career goals and 60 career points heading into Saturday’s Senior Night game vs. #18 Bucknell. Roman has turned it on this year, owning a career-high 14 goals with two regular season games and possible postseason contests still remaining.
The twins have taken on increased roles as senior leaders, making up two-thirds of the team captains, along with defenseman Blaise Fullen.
“The biggest difference as senior captains is accountability,” said Roman. “When you’re a junior, sophomore or freshman, you’re not so concerned with being accountable for everyone on the team. But as a senior captain, if someone’s not working their hardest, someone’s goofing around or they need help, you have to be there, tell them what to do and hold them accountable.”
Fullen is more of the vocal leader while the Lao-Gosneys lead by example. However, there are opportunities when the twins speak up.
Following a 17-7 defeat to Villanova on Feb. 18, the Mountain Hawks held a players’ only meeting. The team got any and all problems out in the open, essentially calling each other out. But it was a productive meeting that served as a wakeup call and proved crucial in the school-record nine-game winning streak that followed. No one was immune from criticism.
“Blaise, my brother and I took a lot of [criticism],” said Cameron. “We didn’t have a good presence as captains. Part of that was playing poorly, but I can’t let that get in the way of my leadership capabilities.
“But the meeting was good; it wasn’t as negative and bad as it may sound,” he continued. “It was the deepest conversation we’ve ever had with each other – something so truthful. I think we got more comfortable with each other. We’d been letting little things slide in the past, but the more you do that, the more it compiles.”
“I wouldn’t say the players’ only meeting was the big turnaround. It’s been a long time coming – four years of hard work,” said Roman. “But it was one of the sparks that got us going in the right direction. A number of the leaders took the brunt of it for being the captains and the faces of the team. We needed to step up; some of our classmates told us to our faces that they needed us more.
“Since then, we’ve done a lot better. It wasn’t just us; it was a truthful meeting, not holding anything back and just getting after each other to make each other better. That’s what’s happened.”
The meeting certainly had its impact as the team promptly followed with one of its best practices in recent years leading into a 13-0 win against Manhattan, Lehigh’s first shutout in 40 years.
“Our next practice was insane,” said Cameron. “We’ve never had so much energy in a practice before. Every single person was talking. It was extremely positive and everybody was playing well.”
Nine straight wins later, including signature victories at #4 North Carolina and #17 Penn State, and the Mountain Hawks have their eyes set on a Patriot League Championship and potential NCAA Tournament berth. With two regular season games and potential league tournament contests ahead, the program’s transformation is almost complete. From being Coach Cassese’s first recruits to the verge of the NCAA Tournament, the Lao-Gosneys have been a major factor in the turnaround.
“Roman and Cameron have elevated their games to the elite level of Division I lacrosse, elevated their leadership abilities to the highest levels that Lehigh has to offer and elevated their competitive spirit to that which is synonymous with champions,” said Cassese. “They’ve set a high example and others have felt inclined to follow.
“They’re two of the hardest workers that have ever come through the Lehigh Lacrosse program and that I’ve ever been around as a player or coach,” Cassese continued. “They, in particular, made it okay for the members of our lacrosse program to do extra work on a regular basis. These guys on a daily basis were doing extra shooting after practice and getting in an extra lift. They made it cool to care about lacrosse in such a way that helped others think that was the right way to do it.”
That extra effort has translated into wins, but the season is far from over. With a 10-2 record, the Mountain Hawks have put themselves into position to make the NCAA Tournament (either with the Patriot League’s automatic bid or through a potential at-large berth) and do damage when they get there. But no matter what happens, the legacy they’ll leave is a strong one.
“Winning a championship has been something we’ve wanted to do since our freshmen year,” said Roman. “It seemed a long way away, so now to come full circle and be the ones near the top, it feels great. I don’t want to leave Lehigh with nothing.”
“I wouldn’t be happier than to see them go out with a Patriot League Championship,” said Cassese. “But at the end of the day, if that doesn’t happen, it wouldn’t make me think any less of them and wouldn’t come anywhere close to tarnishing their legacy. They’ve left a lasting impression on Lehigh Lacrosse, Lehigh Athletics and Lehigh University. That’s something that I’ll always remember, whether it comes with a trophy or not.”