Benson headed to Hampton
Westlake graduate signs to NCAA D-I lacrosse program
Just six days after graduating with his senior class at Westlake High School, Pearson Benson is now ready to take the next step in his life: College.
Benson, who was a three-year starting defender for the Wolverines boys lacrosse team, will continue his career at Hampton University, recently signing his national letter of intent to play NCAA Division I lacrosse for the historically black institution based in Virginia.
The former Wolverine is eager to join a Hampton men’s lacrosse program that formed just two years ago, becoming the first historically black university to field a NCAA Division I lacrosse team.
Coached by frontman Lloyd Carter, the Pirates became the first HBCU since Morgan State in 1981 to field a varsity men’s team in the sport. Morgan State was Division II at that time.
“It was very exciting because it has been over 30 years since a HBCU has had a Division I lacrosse team,” said Benson, who had a signing ceremony on May 17. “I’m looking forward to starting a legacy there, Hampton wants to expand lacrosse to other HBCU schools and I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to be apart of a [HBCU] school to be the first to have it.”
Benson received other interests from NCAA Division II’s Tusculum College (Tenn.) and NCAA Division III outfits Hood College, Messiah College (Pa.), and Methodist University (N.C.), among other schools, but Hampton turned out to be the right fit for his future.
“I’ve always had a sense that I wanted to go to a HBCU. A lot of my family members have been to those schools,” said Benson, who will major in marketing. “Hampton has a lot of great opportunities and when I visited there I talked to coach Carter and the vision of what he sees with the lacrosse program and I was sold there.”
Benson visited the Hampton campus on Feb. 25, the day the men’s lacrosse team faced the University of the District of Columbia. The Pirates fell 19-15.
“I got to hang out with the team and the coaches,” he said. “When I was watching the game, the level of college lacrosse is much faster than high school and cleaner also. That is what I picked up from looking on the sideline. I’m pretty sure when you are actually on the field it is a total different experience.”
Despite finishing 1-7 in 2017 with only one senior on the roster, the future is bright for Hampton to make positive strides for next season.
“With it being only the third season when I get there it is a great opportunity,” Benson said. “I’m used to going into a new program. I remember when Charles County lacrosse first started when I was in high school. It is all about solidifying yourself against your opponents. I’m happy to come in with a new team.”
Benson scored 17 goals, dished out eight assists and scooped up a school-record 146 groundballs during his senior season at Westlake.
As a junior, he scored seven goals with five assists and 96 groundballs. As a sophomore, he finished with two goals, two assists and 76 groundballs.
“I’m super excited for Pearson. I remember last season when told me he was going to Hampton’s camp,” Westlake head coach Matt Panzarella said. “I knew Hampton was where he wanted to go. His lacrosse IQ is phenomenal. He lives eats and breathes the sport. He knows when to get the ball down the field and when we needed a groundball he would get it.”
Benson, who first started playing lacrosse at the age of 10, did not play lacrosse at Westlake his freshman season, focusing on travel ball.
Through middle school, Benson played travel with the Charles County Claymores and Southern Maryland Select. During the high school ranks, he played with Charles County Rebels and the Maryland Wild Wings.
Benson’s older sister Georgia is a 2015 Westlake graduate who played on the girls lacrosse team all four years and his mother Chrystal is currently the Principal at Thomas Stone.
“At Westlake, I’m going to miss the support that they had for students. The teachers and coaches cared about you as a student first,” said Benson, who also played two seasons on the varsity football team as a defensive lineman. “It was very easy to be a student-athlete because you have a lot of time to focus on your grades and sports. I had great teammates on the football and lacrosse teams. We were like one big family. I’m going to miss those memories.”
Westlake High School graduate Pearson Benson signed his national letter of intent to play NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse at Hampton University (Va.) on May 17. Seated, from left are, Pearson’s father Leroy Benson, Pearson Benson and Pearson’s mother Chrystal Benson. In the back row are, Pearson’s youth coach and La Plata head boys lacrosse coach Kris Bayer, left, Westlake head boys lacrosse coach Matthew Panzarella, Pearson’s older sister Georgia Benson, Westlake Principal Michael Meiser and Westlake athletic director Dominic Zaccarelli.