Pirates have new coach, eye return to state
By Ryan Kaczmarski
After the 2013 Rocky River High School varsity boys lacrosse team went 15-2 and reached the Division II state championship game, head coach Steve Anderson stepped down, leaving a huge hole atop Rocky River lacrosse.
Hopes are that first-year head coach Ted Dimond has come in to be that new voice who can take the Pirates to the pinnacle of high school varsity lacrosse. He has a new coaching staff to work with him all the way down to the freshman, and even youth, level.
“I am thrilled by the coaching staff we have in place,” Dimond said. “We have a unique connection by age, with an average of three years removed from playing college lacrosse among our five coaches. Each comes to practice daily with an authentic passion which no one has overlooked. It has created a very fun environment for each player and coach.”
The Rocky River assistants are Brian Lallaey, Brian Hare and brothers Ryan and Jack Donnelly.
“Brian Lalley has spent the last four years coaching offense at Canisius College, in Buffalo, NY,” Dimond explained. “A former player at The Ohio State University, Brian brings a lot of experience and energy to our program.
“Brian Hare has relocated back to the Rocky River area after teaching and coaching at Bexley High School in Columbus,” he added. “As a teacher and a coach, Brian has the true passion for the student-athletes he’s been around over the years. A former player at Capital University, Brian is fully vested in the Rocky River program.
“Ryan and Jack Donnelly are brothers who also recently relocated back to Rocky River and took no time plugging themselves back into the community,” Dimond continued. “One with offensive experience at the University of Arizona, and the other with defensive experience at Baldwin Wallace University, the players are drawn to their enthusiasm on both sides of the ball.”
Diamond also has the task of reloading a team which lost 11 seniors to graduation from last year’s state runner-up performance.
“A strong program will always be presented with the challenge with “replacing”the graduating class,” Dimond said. “As a public school, we do not recruit each incoming class, although we are a beneficiary of a strong youth and middle school program. Gary Cintron, David St. Pierre, Steve Anderson and Doug Blossey continue to build up St. Ed’s, St. Ignatius and Rocky River’s lacrosse programs.
“We have 13 freshmen, our biggest lacrosse class, that will be the foundation for our future as we continue to build a sustainable program.”
The Pirates have 13 returning lettermen, who should be able to fill the gaps made by losing last year’s starting lineup.
“Despite having two consecutive strong senior classes, this year’s seniors have been waiting in the stables getting valuable practice and game experience,” Dimond stated. “How they handle the primary runs this spring will be a progression of sorts.
“I envision some bumps along the way, but as long as we learn from our experiences, we’ll continue to improve as a cohesive group.”
The leaders on this year’s squad are slated to be returners Brock Riemenschnieder, Jack Gerlack, Jimmy Brown and Evan Jacob.
“A team vote has nominated a nice balance of leaders,” Dimond said. Some will be more vocal than others. Some that lead by example, which we anticipate will compliment each other throughout the highs and lows over the course of the season.
“There will be a lot of new faces this spring since graduating seven current college lacrosse players over the past two years.”
Dimond sees the glut of experience on his squad as the team’s largest strength.
“We have a lot of athletes on our roster that have experienced success in multiple sports over the course of their high school careers,” he said. “We hope the positive contagion from girls soccer (state champions in 2013), boys hockey (state Final Four in 2012-2013) and the past lacrosse success will continue to motivate our team to build on each year.
“We have made great strides as a program, and we will continue to build on creating a sustainable program one game at a time.”
The Westlake High School varsity lacrosse program also has a new head coach with Brian Stepanek jumping into the void left by Bill Bongers, who departed after the finish of last season.
“I grew up playing Hudson youth lacrosse, played at Western Reserve Academy (class of 2007) and Dickinson College (Pa.), and throughout my time as a high school and college player, I always enjoyed opportunities to coach young players,” Stepanek explained. “Our plan for growth is to provide our players with a competitive environment on a daily basis, where we can improve and have fun.”
The Demons finished with a 7-9 record last season, and have many returning lettermen to push Westlake to a winning record and deep into the postseason.
“I can say with authority that we have a large, very talented returning group of players,” Stepanek said.
The key returners include Jake Bechtel, Paul Columbro, Adam Sandor and Jeremy Simon on offense, and Clay Wichman, Hunter Solecki, Alex Barth, Alex Dvorak and Paul Freedman on defense.
“We are fortunate to have a senior group with extensive playing experience, who have played big minutes against strong opponents like St. Ignatius, Hudson and Rocky River,” Stepanek said. “Solecki and Alex Barth are poised for breakout seasons at close defense, and freshman Trey Bialowas will play important minutes for us at long-stick midfield, contributing to our penalty-kill and face-off teams.
“Offensively, Chris Humer, at attack, provides us with a left-handed threat, which is a luxury in Northeast Ohio,” he added. “Nate Greenberg is a solid athlete who can contribute from the attack or midfield, and Alex Evans might be the biggest surprise on the team. He is armed with a deadly left hand and unmatched tenacity at the face off. He is set for a big year.”
The Bay High School team is coming off a 10-6 season, but will have a new starter in goal this year in junior Griffin Phillips.
The key returning letter winners for the Rockets are seniors Jake Best and Jacob MacMillan. Other starters this year include junior Danny Hoke and sophomore Andrew Coe.
New assistant coaches for the Rockets this year are Wayne Smith and Joe Kubinski, who was the captain of last year’s Bay team and the current captain of the Cleveland State University lacrosse club.
After three years as a club program, Avon Lake High School will field a varsity boys lacrosse team for the very first time this season.
Head coach Kevin Walz has led the program since its inception in 2010, with Pat Durkin and Kevin Bresnahan pulling the assistant duties.
Turner Keane returns to the goalkeeping duties, after going 11-6 last season, and Trent Glasser will lead the attack, while Ian Mack anchors the defense.
“Our team defense will be strong this year,” Walz said. “The midfield is young,but fast and our goalkeeper is very good.
“They are all fast, but (relatively) new to the game, and are working hard. We expect some growing pains this season.”