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The Nation's Best High School Boys' Lacrosse Team Is In ... Indiana?
Could it be that the East Coast's stranglehold on the sport of lacrosse has come to an end?
Lacrosse has undergone tremendous growth and change during the past few years, with the numbers of new programs mushrooming -- for both boys and girls and from youth through college. Significant talent has been emerging from every state around the country and beyond the traditional lacrosse "hotbeds."
Still, it was a controversial shot across the bow of the status quo when USA Today released its first Super 25 preseason boys' lacrosse rankings Feb. 20. And what team made the national newspaper's No. 1 spot? Was it a team from the powerhouse Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Conference, like Boys' Latin? Or perhaps one of the talent-laden New York schools such as Ward Melville or St. Anthony's?
No, and in what may come as a surprise to all but the most up-to-date devotee of high school boys' lacrosse, USA Today's No. 1 team, Culver Academy, hails from Indiana.
Culver Academy has been getting stronger every year, knocking off traditional powers from the East Coast with one of the toughest schedules in the country. Once again, its high-octane offense is stacked with talent gleaned from coast to coast and with Canadian players. The Eagles graduated one of their standouts from 2014 -- Johns Hopkins freshman midfielder Joel Tinney -- from a squad that went undefeated (23-0). They return stars like attackman Dawson McKenzie, who has committed to Princeton, and fellow attackman Ethan Walker (University of Denver). Culver Academy has an eye toward capturing the national championship this season.
Maryland and Washington, D.C., schools lead the list with eight spots, beginning with Gonzaga College High School. Head coach Casey O'Neill's Purple Eagles closed strong last season with seven straight victories, finishing 16-5 and taking the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title game against St. John's, 16-6. Their experienced seniors include attackman Timmy Monahan (University of Maryland) and defender Michael Borda (University of Michigan).
Coming in at No. 4 is head coach Andy Hilgartner's McDonogh squad. The team went 15-5 in 2014, losing to Culver and several MIAA foes before dropping their A Conference semifinal to eventual champion Boys' Latin, 16-10. McDonogh has had to overcome the unexpected death of ex-Eagle Will Hauver Feb. 2. They return a roster filled with potential All-Americans, led on offense by midfielder Robbie Black (Penn State), attackman Robert Clark (Georgetown) and defender Connor Young (Navy). Junior defender Arman Medghalchi (Princeton) and sophomore defender Brandon Shure (Johns Hopkins) and sophomore long-stick midfielder and defender Zeke Narcise (Duke) comprise a young but nimble defense in front of senior goaltender Jacob Stover (Loyola).
Click here to read the full story and see how St. Paul's, Boy's Latin, Landon, Georgetown Prep, Calvert Hall and St. Mary's fared in the preseason rankings.
Q&A: Chesapeake Boys' Lacrosse Coach Rodney Beres
PressBox: What is the itinerary right now for Chesapeake's boys' lacrosse team leading up to your regular-season opener?
Rodney Beres: Being a county school, we aren't allowed to practice -- or do anything lacrosse-wise -- until February 28 this year. And, normally, it's March 1. Many of my athletes [participate in] indoor track, basketball [and] wrestling [during the winter season].
We have scrimmages set for March 14. It's a Saturday. I have a team coming down from Pennsylvania, and I have Marriotts Ridge coming in. We'll do a little play day. Our first game is March 20 against Glen Burnie.
PB: The Cougars' record has improved every year since you took over as head coach, and it fell back only slightly in 2014. To you, what were the most important highlights of last season? And who were your senior leaders that you graduated?
RB: This is my seventh year as head coach, and we've grown the program.
Last year, we had graduated a lot of talent. The year before -- 2013 -- we had finished 15-3, which was our best record in school history. We wound up losing in the region finals to South River, who went on to the [Class 4A-3A] state championship once more. Then, last year, we had to fill some holes, and we went 11-5, and I thought we overachieved a bit last year.
We graduated our goalie [Kyle Dougan] and our faceoff kid [Matt Michalski], who kept us in a lot of games that [we probably shouldn't have been in]. We had an overtime win against Severna Park ... then, we beat Broadneck, 6-5 ... lost a tough one to Arundel ... and, of course, South River did us in again a couple times.
That Severna Park game, we were down, I believe, 9-3, and came back and beat them. [Michalski] wound up finishing that game, something like, 16-4 [on faceoffs].
Certainly, he was one of the key components of our team last year. He was a first-team All-Capital-Gazette kid. He played three out of the last four years -- his sophomore year, he [injured] his knee and couldn't play. Those were the three years that we beat Severna Park and Broadneck. A lot of that had to do with Matt Michalski at the faceoff.
PB: What do you foresee as Chesapeake's chief strengths when this season begins? Who are some of your most promising players that are returning, and how do you think they will impact this year's team?
RB: Probably, our defense [will be our strength]. We basically return our starting three defensive poles as well as our [long-stick midfielder].
We have some talented kids coming back, and should gain some experience this year -- most of that on the defensive end.
Last year's starter [at close defense, senior], Bryan Facciani made varsity as a freshman. He's started the last two years for us. He'll be the leader for us back there on defense.
Our other returning starters are [junior] Michael Altmann. I believe Michael's [verbally committed] to Hofstra. Trace Sullivan is another junior starter from last year. And [junior] Jacob Crane [brother of ex-Cougar Jason] has been our [long-stick midfield] pole the last couple of years. So that's a group of junior starters that I see a tremendous amount of experience coming out of.
[Senior] Tyler Koch is a short-stick defensive middie. Last year, we took the pole out of his hand, and he played shorty. And during the course of the game, he went back and forth [between short and long-stick midfielder].
In goal, we're going to have Cody Schell -- a senior -- compete with Justin Corcoran, who was a JV player last year.
Offensively, we do return a lot of our scoring from last year.
You'd have to start with [senior attackman] Pat Brennan. He's been a starter for us since he was a freshman. He's our leading scorer from last year with 25 goals and 28 assists. Next year, he'll be playing at, I believe, UMBC.
He and Joey Soroka [11 goals, six assists] are our two leading attackmen. Soroka's one of the sophomores who started for us. He'll be a junior this year, and I'm looking for [more] production out of him.
[Midfielder] Jay Minor had 10 goals and an assist. He'll be a sophomore this year. He's [verbally committed] to, I believe, Mount St. Mary's. Also at midfield, we have Chase Kipke [brother of former Chesapeake standout, Connor, and son of Maryland delegate Nic Kipke], who'll be a junior this year. Chase had five goals and four assists. He's been a very good ball player for us. [Midfielder] Sam Colebrook played some quality minutes for us last year. He's a junior this year.
And [senior midfielder] Dylan Aschenbach will have a chance to compete at the faceoff X.
But defense has to be our strength. Defensively is really where the strength of our team comes back. We're [going to] have to build upon those returning starters.
Click here to read the rest of PressBox's Q&A with coach Beres, including his take on the key challenges for the season ahead and what the future holds for Chesapeake lacrosse.
Schedule / Results
Upcoming Boys' Games:
Feb. 26: St. Mary's at St. Stephens & St. Agnes (scrimmage)
Feb. 27: Severn at Bullis (scrimmage)
Feb. 27: Mount St. Joseph at St. Mary's Ryken (scrimmage)
Feb. 28: Calvert Hall at Haverford (Pa.) (scrimmage)
Feb. 28: Landon at McDonogh (scrimmage)
Feb. 28: Paul VI (Va.) at Loyola (scrimmage)
Feb. 28: Gilman Blue and Gray (scrimmage)
March 2: Gonzaga at Mount Saint Joseph (scrimmage)
March 2: DeMatha at St. Paul's
March 3: St. Mary's at Haverford (scrimmage)
March 3: Georgetown Prep at Boys' Latin
March 3: Landon at Loyola (scrimmage)
March 4: Calverton at Spalding (scrimmage)
March 4: John Carroll at McDonogh (scrimmage)
March 4: Gonzaga at Calvert Hall (scrimmage)
March 6: Boys' Latin at Landon
March 6: Severn at DeMatha
March 6: Spalding vs. Memphis (Tenn.) University School at Durham, N.C.
March 7: St. Mary's at Broadneck (scrimmage)
March 7: Penn Charter at Loyola Blakefield
March 7: Mount Saint Joseph at Cape Henlopen (Del.) (scrimmage)
March 7: Fallston at Gilman (scrimmage)
March 7: Paul VI at St. Paul's
March 7: Calvert Hall at Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.)
March 7: Georgetown Prep at Malvern (Pa.)
Upcoming Girls' Games:
March 4: Spalding at Good Counsel (scrimmage)
March 5: Elizabeth Seton at Roland Park(scrimmage)
March 6: Bishop Ireton at St. Paul's
March 7: Severna Park at Garrison Forest (scrimmage)
March 7: St. Mary's at Archbishop Carroll (scrimmage)
Results (Last Year's Championships):
MIAA A Final: Boys' Latin (18-0) 17, St. Paul's (12-7) 11
MIAA B Final: Saints Peter and Paul (15-5) 14, Archbishop Curley (15-2) 12
MIAA C Final: Indian Creek (15-0) 20, Beth Tfiloh (9-4) 10
IAAM A Final: McDonogh (21-0) 18, Roland Park (16-5) 7
IAAM B Final: Friends (17-1) 18, Glenelg (12-5) 6
IAAM C Final: Indian Creek (14-2) 14, Oldfields (16-1) 13
IAC Final: Georgetown Prep (19-1) 10, Landon (18-4) 7
WCAC Boys Final: Gonzaga (16-5) 16, St. John's (7-13) 6
WCAC Girls Final: Bishop Ireton (Va.) (20-4) 17, Good Counsel (14-6) 7
VISAA Girls Final: Bishop Ireton (20-4) 9, St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (27-2) 7
MPSSAA Boys 4A-3A Final: South River (17-2) 9, Howard (18-1) 6
MPSSAA Boys 3A-2A Final: Kent Island (19-1) 8, Hereford (17-4) 6
MPSSAA Boys 2A-1A Final: Fallston (15-4) 17, North Carroll (16-3) 7
MPSSAA Girls 4A-3A Final: Severna Park (15-2) 15, Catonsville (10-8) 5
MPSSAA Girls 3A-2A Final: Marriotts Ridge (17-2) 18, Oakdale (16-3) 5
MPSSAA Girls 2A-1A Final: Manchester Valley (18-1) 13, Fallston (14-4) 10
Featured College Commitments
Havre De Grace attackman Casey Brown -- Chestnut Hill College
Patuxent midfielder Kyle Randall -- Alderson Broaddus University
Manchester Valley attacker Taylor Carhart -- Mount St. Mary's University
Glenelg goalkeeper Kelly Layton -- Millersville University
Gerstell Academy midfielder Molly Blake -- Liberty University
South Carroll attacker Jordan Sauro -- Shippensburg University
Annapolis defender Camden Stramanak -- Stevenson University
Damascus faceoff specialist Isaac Avon -- Virginia Military Institute
Stephen Decatur goalkeeper Rachel Florek -- Towson University
Westminster midfielder Caroline Frock -- Georgetown University
South River attacker Kassidy Bresnahan -- University of Florida
Bullis defender Mia Suplee -- Jacksonville University