The scream of pain and anguish last spring told everyone that Joey Seivold's senior season was over. And Seivold knew it, too, when he saw the team trainer push his right kneecap from the side of his leg back where it belonged.
Moments before, North Carolina's two-time All-America midfielder had taken a ground ball from the opening face-off and charged straight to the goal for a shot. As Seivold (pronounced SIGH-vold) leapt into the air to fire from 15 yards out, three Syracuse players hit him from the front and side. When Seivold landed, his right leg bent sideways at a 45-degree angle, dislocating the patella. The entire sequence took just 17 seconds in the Tar Heels' first 1986 home game.
"When Joey got hurt, I immediately felt that a lot more was asked of me," says Gary Seivold, Joey's younger brother by 21 months and a three-year starting attackman at UNC. Nearly all his life, Gary had lived comfortably in his brother's shadow, but now a full season lay ahead, and more would be expected of him than ever before.
For much of that season, Gary struggled, as did the team. However, UNC held on for an 8-3 regular-season record and salvaged a fifth seed in the NCAA tournament. That's when the Heels started clicking.
May 3, 1987
In the semifinals against defending champion Johns Hopkins, the score was 9-9 in overtime when Gary, his legs and stick a blur of motion, took the ball at midfield and fed a blind pass to Mike Tummillo for the winning goal. Then, in a 10-9 victory over Virginia in the final, Gary had two more assists, scored two goals—including the game-winner in OT—and was named the game's MVP.
"All of a sudden, Gary had started to keep after it," says Willie Scroggs, who in eight years at Chapel Hill has won three national titles and guided the Tar Heels to at least the semifinals in each of the last seven years. "Down the stretch he was probably the best attackman anybody had."
And now he's not alone. Late last spring the ACC granted Joey a medical hardship and another season of eligibility, and the two brothers have just led Carolina to another 8-3 regular-season record that could easily have been 10-1 but for one-goal losses to Johns Hopkins and Duke. Joey had 13 goals and 8 assists, and little brother Gary led the team in scoring with 19 goals and 13 assists. In Saturday night's season-ending 18-7 win over Virginia, Joey had two feeds and Gary one. The Heels are sure to be a high seed in the NCAA tournament that begins on May 13.
"It was tough for them this year because they were expected to walk on water, but I would still expect them to have a strong tournament." says Virginia coach Jim Adams. That would be business as usual for North Carolina, which under Scroggs has an 18-13 regular-season conference record and a 13-4 NCAA postseason mark.
The Seivold brothers are just two stars on a team of stars—and brothers. Defenseman Tom Haus, the 1986 national player of the year, is joined by his kid brother, Kevin, also a defenseman; and All-America Pat Welsh, UNC's leading scorer in 1986, teams with older brother Tim at midfield. Four other players had brothers on previous UNC squads, and next year's recruits include the brothers of three current Tar Heel players. "We've done unbelievably well in the brother department," says Scroggs. However, no fraternal pair has outperformed the Seivolds.
Although Joey and Gary look and act like siblings, they are dissimilar in many ways. "Joey is very vocal and very outgoing, but Gary may not have said a whole sentence to me in the last four years," says Scroggs. Gary found the interviews after last year's title game excruciating. "Gary learned to stay quiet," says Joey. "Anytime I got into trouble for coming home late or denting up the car, Gary could see that, and he learned from my mistakes."
Two years ago both brothers were invited to try out for the U.S. team for lacrosse's World Games. Joey gladly accepted the invitation and eventually helped lead the U.S. to the championship of the sport's most prestigious event. Gary wasn't even interested enough to try out.
The Seivold brothers also perform well in the classroom. Both are history majors, and although Gary has a higher IQ, Joey outperforms him. Joey has a 3.8 grade point average and last spring made Phi Beta Kappa. While the other honorees' names were read during the induction, the audience politely held its applause. When Joey's name was called, the quiet and dignified ceremony came alive. "All of a sudden the place roared," recalls Joey. "Coach Scroggs had the team run over from the practice field to Memorial Hall, and they were all up in the balcony in their dirty sweats and cleats."
"Some kids are considered bright because they're hard workers," says Scroggs. "Joey would be a bright kid without working hard, but he works real hard, too. If he doesn't get a good grade on a paper, it's like not playing well in a game. It bothers him."
The Seivolds grew up on an 11-acre farm near Parkton, Md., about 25 miles north of Baltimore. "Where we live, there weren't any neighborhood kids, because there aren't any neighborhoods," says their mother, Sarah. "So they had to play with each other." They spent endless hours shooting at a lacrosse goal their father, Joe, a four-time All-America at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., set up in the backyard. When they became bored, the brothers would sometimes go into a nearby barn for a litte target practice—at bats hanging from the rafters.
Although Joey and Gary also excelled at baseball, basketball and soccer, they knew lacrosse was their sport. After all, their father is in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame and from 1959 to 1970 was a standout player and then coach for the Mt. Washington Lacrosse Club, a celebrated group of former All-Americas who keep sharp by playing a schedule of college and club rivals. "Among my friends around Baltimore, your idols weren't baseball players," says Joey. "Your idols were lacrosse players. Lacrosse was the sport."
Scroggs recruited the Seivolds out of Baltimore's Gilman School, an expensive private school that features one of the country's best lacrosse programs. Until they were 10th-graders, the Seivolds received free schooling at The Park School in Brooklandville, Md., where their mother taught. But Park was in the substandard B Conference, and its lacrosse team received little attention. So Joe, who supervised the probation office in Towson, Md., decided to dig deep into the family bank account and send the boys to Gilman in hopes that their talents might earn them college scholarships. The gamble worked. Now Joe and Sarah drive the 6½ hours from Parkton to Chapel Hill for every home game.
The Seivold brothers have always been close, and they play together beautifully. Joey is a well-proportioned 5'11", 170-pounder, while Gary, who is four inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter, is a comparative wisp. "Gary's not a real big kid, so he gets beat up and knocked around a lot," says Scroggs. "Every game, he has 200-pound guys beating away at him for 60 minutes." While most attackmen cherish scoring goals, the self-effacing Gary looks forward most of all to his brief stints on defense. "It's kind of nice to be able to hit your defenseman after he has been checking you all day," he says.
Despite chronic shoulder separations that make it nearly impossible for him to lift weights, Joey has a 90-mph shot that has been known to burn through nets. Joey isn't as quick as Gary, but he is ambidextrous. He plays soccer with both feet, throws a baseball righthanded and tosses a football lefthanded.
The way the Tar Heels figure it, if they could win the national championship last season with only one Seivold, their chances this season with two are pretty good indeed.