Belleville West grad will play for Russian lacrosse team

News-DemocratJuly 6, 2014 

Alec Tilley, right, with BTHS Lacrosse Team members who recently graduated. From left, Devin Kennedy, of Belleville East; Zach Thompson, of East; and Kawika Cornman, from Mascoutah.

PROVIDED PHOTO/BND

It started with a flyer on a school bulletin board. O’Fallon’s Styx lacrosse team needed players. Alec Tilley’s parents signed him up. He was just 8, but had played hockey for four years. “He was a sports fanatic,” said mom Conni, of Belleville. “He played hockey, and wanted something to do in the spring. They were looking for fifth- and sixth-graders. He was in fourth. They let him play. He played with them four years.” He hasn’t stopped. Now 17, the recent Belleville West grad is getting ready to play on Russia’s 23-member lacrosse team during international competition in Denver.

“It’s like the Olympics of lacrosse, the same concept,” said Conni, who owns Rising Stars Monogram Boutique in Belleville. “Every four years, it’s in a different location. Four years ago, it was in London.”

Thirty-eight nations will compete July 10-19 during the Men’s World Championship. Team USA and Team Canada have been playing competitively for years. Russia is new and was looking for native players and those of Russian descent.

That’s where Alec fits in.

Conni and husband Bill, a project manager with Architectural Graphics Inc., adopted Alec from an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia, when he was 8 months old.

When he was 4, he became interested in hockey.

“I remember seeing something on TV and I wanted to try it,” Alec said. “They took me to an ice rink. Lacrosse is a lot like hockey, except in the air instead of on the ground.”

He played and traveled with club teams in St. Louis and a metroeast team that last year became the club team of Belleville East-West team. “This year, we had about 30 kids,” Alec said. “It should continue to grow. Now, there’s a new girls’ program.”

Last August, Conni and Stacie Cornman, of Mascoutah, took their sons to Turkey for a couple weeks to play with the Russian team there.

“My best friend (Kawika Cornman, of Mascoutah), went with me,” said Alec, who played for Team Moscow. “It was just a fun tournament. It wasn’t anything too serious. I think we played seven or eight games there in a little over two weeks. I actually had the most goals for our team. I believe it was 8.” No, Alec doesn’t speak Russian. “Some spoke some English,” he said. “They helped translate everything. Lacrosse brought everyone together. It’s universal.” Now, he’s on his way to play on the world stage. “I didn’t really believe my mom when the coach said I could play,” said Alec. “They just released the official roster. There are (Division 1) college players and two professionals. “It was Mom’s idea to do it. She’s pretty outgoing with that type of stuff.” Always has been. “They looked at his resume,” she said. “I assume they talked to his coaches. I thought his chances were pretty good. He’s a good player. It’s Russia’s first year (in the competition).” Alec can hardly wait.

“I think it’s pretty cool to play for the country I was born in,” he said. “It’s not like I’m crazy affliated with it. Our coach is the head coach for Cornell University. I’ve never met him before.”

That soon will change. Alec flew to Colorado yesterday where he’s staying in a dorm and practicing with the team. Opening ceremonies are July 15.

On a tournament website, Alec Tilley is one of three “names worth knowing.” He is described as “an attackman who is known for his finishing ability after playing in the 2013 Turkey Lacrosse Open.”

Want to see Alec play? Check the ESPN website. Alex said at least one of the Russian team’s games will be televised.

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