After enjoying winning seasons last spring, the Westshore area’s boys lacrosse teams are looking to continue the trend in 2011.
Rocky River had the best overall season last year, going 15-3 and advancing to the Elite Eight in Division II. Westlake, in its third season as a varsity sport, went 11-5 for its third-straight winning campaign. Bay went 4-2 against Division I opponents and closed out the season at 10-6.
Last Friday, the Rockets opened the season pretty much the way they ended it last year with a loss to Kenston. The Bombers prevailed, 17-5, in last year’s playoff opener and handed Bay a 14-6 setback in the 2011 season opener.
“We’re a very young team with only two seniors and five juniors,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Smith last Saturday. “We’re looking toward the future and hope to get all the rookies and sophomores as much game experience as possible.
“We’ve got 18 incoming freshmen ready to come in next year, so the future of the program looks bright,” he added.
Smith listed senior midfielder Rob Yoder, junior midfielder Mitch Voll and junior defenseman Nathan Notarberardino as the team’s key retuning lettermen. Among the newcomers Smith is counting on are sophomore attacker Steve Burns and sophomore defenders Dylan Accorti and Joe Kubinski, as well as freshmen Jake Best (midfielder) and Henri Adams (attacker).
The Rockets will seek their first win of the young season Saturday at Toledo Central Catholic. That game will have a 3 p.m. start.
At Westlake, another youthful squad is 0-2 to start the season. The Demons have eight returning lettermen and will have their home opener Friday at Reed Field when they take on Toledo St. Francis at 7 p.m.
“The last three years we’ve been pretty successful,” said Westlake head coach Bill Bongers, who started the program and begins his sixth season.
“We’ve averaged 11 wins per season over the past three years, so we’ve experienced a lot of success,” Bongers said. “We’re going to be young this year, though, so the door is open for those guys to step in and contribute.
“We have a lot of talented young kids,” he said. “We started our youth program eight years ago and we’re starting to see the benefits from that. We’ll have three freshmen get a lot of playing experience this year. That’s a good thing, but it’ll also be a challenge with the schedule we have.”
Westlake has beefed up its schedule by adding St. Ignatius and Hudson for 2011. The Demons will look for their experienced players to carry the load while their young counterparts come up to speed, Bongers said.
Topping that list of lettermen is senior defenseman Alex Chernosky, the program’s career leader in ground balls and an All-Northeast Region player the past two seasons. Following graduation, he’ll be the third Demon to move on to the collegiate level and the first to play Division I when he moves on to Canisius.
Senior midfielder Justin Smith returns and was the team’s face-off leader in 2010 in winning 122 face-offs. Junior midfielder Collin Brooks scored 10 goals and had 53 ground balls last year, while junior goalie Campbell Bailey had a save percentage of 63 percent.
Three senior defensemen – Jake Johnson, Eric Simon and Brent Gase – are moving into starting roles this season. Gase also plays the midfield position. Senior Tom Behar and juniors Tyler Sedam, Andrew Spreng and Zach Maxey will look to contribute, as will freshmen Paul Columbo, Adam Sandor and Jake Bechtel.
Rocky River, under second-year head coach Steve Anderson, opened its season Tuesday night with an 11-7 win over Wooster and will host Mentor next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Anderson welcomes back 12 lettermen from last year’s squad.
“Last year’s team built a strong foundation of success for our program,” Anderson said. “As coaches, our goal was to create a positive environment in the locker room, on the playing field and in the classroom.
“We wanted an environment that encouraged players to work hard and strive for excellence. Thanks to the full commitment of that 2010 team, we’ve achieved that goal,” Anderson said. “Now we’re hoping to build on that newfound tradition.”
The Pirates graduated just three players off last year’s squad. Topping the list of returning players are attacker Matt Garibaldi, midfielders Luke Reimenschneider and Ty Daugstrap and defensemen Jake Hamilton and Eric Riegelsberger.
This year, the program has grown from 29 total players last year to 48 players for 2011, according to Anderson. The Pirates welcomed 17 incoming freshmen to the program, forming the bulk of the junior varsity team. Two coaches have also been added, giving the program four total between varsity and junior varsity.