Terefenko making seamless transition to Box Lacrosse

May 3, 2023

Sarah Griffin I Halifax Thunderbirds

In just two short years, Ryan Terefenko’s gone from one of the most exciting newcomers in box lacrosse to an integral asset to the Thunderbirds. In 15 games played this season, Terefenko’s already recorded 152 loose balls, 10 assists, and seven of those signature momentum-swinging transition goals he’s become known for.

Terefenko’s love for lacrosse blossomed at a young age. With an older brother playing, like most little siblings, he wanted to do the same. It didn’t take long after he first picked up a stick for his passion for the sport to grow. 

A Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania native, Terefenko strictly played field lacrosse growing up like most American players. After a successful high school playing career, he continued on with the sport at Ohio State. It was there his time overlapped with four other Thunderbirds teammates he’s come to know so well.

Jake Withers, Austin Shanks, Eric Fannell, and Johnny Pearson were all seniors when Terefenko was a freshman during the Buckeyes’ NCAA Championship run in 2017.

“It’s a blast getting to play with those four,” remarked Terefenko. “My first year at Ohio State, they were four guys who led by example. Wiz was captain and the other three were leaders in their own right who did their job at a high level. It’s the same thing now; I’ll always look up to those guys. I’ll always be thankful for the mentorship they gave me when I was 18 years old, and the mentorship they give me now.”

With a relationship with those three already, it was a relief to already know some of the guys on the Thunderbirds coming into Terefenko’s rookie season in the NLL during the 2021-22 season.

Selected 27th overall in the 2020 draft, it was definitely a bit daunting for the newcomer to jump into playing box at the highest level after only playing field his whole life.

“It’s every kid’s dream to be a professional athlete. In our sport if you want to make it your full-time everyday life, you have to adopt the box game,” said Terefenko. “It’s obviously a little bit harder to get into that scene if you’re American because we’re still new to the game and didn’t grow up playing it like most of these guys. But if you want to make this your life, you have to adapt.”

Of course, transitioning to the box game at the professional level didn’t come without its challenges.

“Box lacrosse is unique in the sense that for Americans, it’s almost like starting over a little bit,” Terefenko said. “There’s obviously some fundamentals that carry over, but it’s a challenge when you first get out there. When I started it almost felt like I was picking up a stick again for the first time. But it was an exciting challenge to just show people and myself what I can do.”

As tough as it may have seemed, Terefenko’s natural athleticism and versatility as a player set him up for success. While he started his rookie season on the practice roster, it didn’t take long for him to work his way up to being game-day ready for Halifax. He’s quickly become not just one of the most exciting American players in the game, but one of the best young transition players in the entire NLL. 

A weapon on the floor, he’s taken inspiration from a couple of familiar faces around the league as his game continues to develop. 

“I look at guys in the league like Zach Currier and Mike Messenger who are both great transition guys. They play defence really well, get up the floor quickly, they’re a threat in transition, they scoop up loose balls, they do everything right,” Terefenko said. “Aside from guys on my own team, those are two I definitely look up to and try to simulate their level of production in my own game.”

Just like Currier and Messenger, Terefenko’s the type of player opponents have to really plan for ahead of time. He’s so well-rounded on either side of the ball and he’s only continuing to improve each and every game.

Of course, it helps to keep yourself motivated to always improve when you’re surrounded by such supportive fans as the Thunderbirds fanbase. 

“Any time we play at home in Halifax it’s a great time as a player. We get a good crowd there and you’re seeing it a lot more this year especially,” Terefenko said. “The fanbase is growing, the energy is second to none, all the fans show up in their Halifax jerseys – just this season alone, my favourite thing to witness is seeing the growth of the game in an area that wasn’t super familiar with pro box lacrosse before. They really embrace us here.”

It’s not just in Halifax “Scary Terry” is making strides in though. A Short-Stick Defensive Midfielder of the Year Finalist in the PLL in 2022, most recently he’s been named to Team USA for the World Lacrosse Championship next summer in San Diego. At just 24 years old, the young star continues to live out his dreams.

“I think as a player my ultimate goal is to be remembered as someone who always did the little things, always went 100 miles an hour, always gave as much as I could on the floor or the field, and was someone who never backed down.” 

“Lacrosse has given me everything. Without lacrosse, I wouldn’t have some of my best friends and people like all the guys in Halifax who have become like family to me.”

Terefenko’s been lucky enough to make lacrosse his life, and Halifax will forever be grateful for it. 

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