Alum and lacrosse national champion says Notre Dame was unique in combining faith and real values with hard work.
Winning face-offs in lacrosse is a big deal. So big, in fact, there are special training centers and camps across the country dedicated to creating experts in lacrosse face-offs. One such expert is 2004 Notre Dame alum Brekan Kohlitz, who after graduating from Notre Dame, went on to play and help win a national championship for the University of Michigan.
At face-offs, there were few better than Kohlitz, high school or college. At Notre Dame he won 90 percent of his face-offs and as a senior at U-M, won more than 70 percent, which later helped land him spots on a number of professional teams in the U.S.
“Playing lacrosse at U-M was one of the best times of my life,” Kohlitz said. “During my time there, Michigan only had a varsity club lacrosse program, meaning we were recognized by the university, but not fully sanctioned. But we played in the very competitive MCLA league.”
Michigan made the MCLA tournament and competed for a national title in each of Kohlitz’s four years there and the team got better and better over time, according to Kohlitz.
“We were blessed with an amazing and fully-dedicated staff and the coaches — head coach John Paul and assistant coach Kenny Broschart, in particular — were so world class that they’re still there coaching today. My U-M class of 2008 was particularly special though, too – we had an amazing group of guys both in terms of talent and probably even more-so, in terms of heart and drive — and we were all best of friends, even still to this day.”
In Kohlitz’s final year in 2008, Michigan ended up going a perfect 20-0 and winning the MCLA national title, which marked the first time in MCLA history that a team ended up with a perfect record and the first time the University of Michigan won the championship. After graduating from U-M, Kohlitz stayed on to help coach the team to another perfect 20-0 record and MCLA title the following year.
Now focused on branding, not face-offs
Kohlitz now has his lacrosse playing days in his rearview mirror as he pursues a successful career in marketing and brand management. Armed with a B.S. degree in communications studies from U-M and an MBA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Kohlitz works for Capital One’s brand marketing department in Virginia.
“When I left Michigan to attend VCU, I always thought I’d return back to the midwest, but then life happened,” he said. “While at Virginia Commonwealth, I ended up meeting the love of my life, who is now my wife, Ashleigh. We graduated together in 2011, bought a house in Richmond in 2013 and got married in 2014. I’ve been with Capital One for nearly five years now and I’m currently working in the company’s digital design department where I partner with various parts of the business and help them rethink their strategies to be more human-centered and customer-friendly.”
“Our marriage hasn’t been the easiest thus far, as a month before our wedding day, Ashleigh was diagnosed with brain cancer that turned out to be stage 3 and much more aggressive than they had originally thought,” he said. “She’s the toughest person I know and has been fighting hard and kicking butt over the course of the last couple years and is currently in stable condition.”
He brings this up for two big reasons.
“Number one, I want all of my Notre Dame brethren to know about how amazing my wife is, and two, I want to enlist the help of everyone to keep praying for us – we can never get enough. We’ve been using the hashtag #KickAsh and encourage everyone to use it when posting notes or pictures of support!”
Notre Dame recollections
Kohlitz has high praise for the time he spent at Notre Dame, both on the lacrosse field and in the classroom.
“More than anything I think that Notre Dame helped make me a well-rounded man,” he said. “Obviously, going to a Catholic school paid a ton of dividends toward my faith and the power of God, but there were other aspects that made an impact as well. We had a terrific faculty and staff that made the school feel more like a community than a school, which inherently taught us values that can’t be learned through a textbook.”
He said he personally would like to thank (the legendary and late) Fr. (John) Bryson, Mr. (Ken) Parent, Fr. Juan Gonzalez (Padre Juan), Mr. (Duane) Holmes and Mr. (Richard) Kuhn.
“We had awesome teachers who pushed us to do better, challenged us with harder work, and invested in our future educational and career growth — teachers like Mr. (Frank) Swaney and Mr. (Vincent) Tocco, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some faculty and staff here too – if I’ve missed you, you know who you are, and I thank you!.
“Then, there was also the fact that Notre Dame High School was a little rough around the edges,” he added. “While many people today may hear that and scoff, I honestly think it made me into a better person. I mean, many of my classmates came from rougher neighborhoods and the majority of us were raised in blue-collar households, which gave us a little chip on our shoulder and made us want to work that much harder and prove ourselves that much more.”
Working harder at lacrosse was also among many vivid memories Kohlitz keeps from his time playing for the Irish.
“Boy, I could go on and on about coaches Coyro and Holifield butchering my name at the top of their lungs,” he said. “I still don’t think they know how to say it to this day. Some of my best memories though are around Coyro making us practice in the snow when you could barely run or feel your limbs and then making us have no-stick practices where all we’d do is bear-crawl and crab-walk the field followed by some very intense jogs. And then there were also some times when teammate Mike DeCraene and I would be in the gym for so long after practice, we’d get lightheaded and could barely feel our arms as we drove home.”
Kohlitz, whose father, Don (’70), and uncles Tim (’73) and Jeff (’76) also were Notre Dame grads, wanted to give a big shout out to one of his best friends at NDHS, Chris Hentrich, who actually was the one who convinced him to play lacrosse following a hockey season.
“Not only did he introduce me to the sport, but he was a huge influence on helping me develop my game,” he said. “I remember us shooting around in our backyards from sun up to sun down on the weekends and nearly every night after practice. I also have to give a shoutout to DeCraene, another one of my best friends, who would never let me skip a day in the gym – I would have been a weakling without him. The other guys I have to give credit to were some of the awesome upperclassmen LAX players who pushed us underclassmen to be better and supported us all the time. Guys like Jonathan Bartoy, Jeff Bruss, Eric Pascany and Tim Henshaw.”
Kohlitz gives his last and biggest shoutout to his mom.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how grateful I am of my mom,” he said. “She set me up for success in all that she has done throughout my life and for that I’m forever thankful.”
Key highlights and stats from Brekan Kohlitz’s college and professional lacrosse career:
• Team captain for U-M in 2008
• Team MVP as voted by teammates in 2008
• Career 73%+ face-off win percentage
• 3x MCLA All-American
• 3x All-Conference
• National Championship MVP
• 2x National Tournament Team
• First U-M and first non-NCAA player to ever be drafted into the MLL – drafted 44th overall by the former Washington Bayhawks (now the Chesapeake Bayhawks)
• MLL teams played for: Washington Bayhawks, Hamilton Nationals (now the Florida Launch); Charlotte Hounds (practice squad); Chesapeake Bayhawks (training camp and preseason roster)
• Signed and attended training camp for the former Washington Stealth (now the Vancouver Stealth) of the NLL
• Played for the Charlotte Copperheads of the now defunct PLL
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." The Marist Fathers and Brothers sponsor NDPMA's Catholic identity and manages its educational program. Notre Dame is accredited by the National Association of Independent Schools, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.