Lacrosse looking for maturity

Charles Goodman circles the goal during recent JV action against Nathan Hale. The Spartan club is trying to recapture the state crown, after falling to Mercer Island in the title game last year. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Charles Goodman circles the goal during recent JV action against Nathan Hale. The Spartan club is trying to recapture the state crown, after falling to Mercer Island in the title game last year.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

It’s a year for rebuilding, but the lacrosse boys are looking strong.

With five returning starters from last year’s runner-up battle of attrition against champion Mercer Island, Bainbridge will be looking to the younger, less experienced players to get some education “right quick.”

The watchword, coach Jack Visco says, is “field maturity” – developing players who communicate effectively and make good decisions on the field.

“We basically are playing for on-field experience,” says Visco. “We’re looking to get better each game. And so far, we’ve done that.”

Classic rhetoric in a rebuilding year? Perhaps. Yet Visco goes out on a line for his players.

“I will say this much, this group is the hardest working team since I’ve been on Bainbridge Island,” says the fourth year coach, who has presided over two of the Spartans’ 10 state titles.

He put the season-opening loss – 10-8 at Garfield – to the lack-of-experience ingredient.

“The Bulldogs merely played better,” he said. “That, and we had three starters on the sideline.”

With two shoulder injuries and a case of mononucleosis, Bainbridge has spent the early season climbing out of the injury hole that plagued them at the end of 2004.

The Visco approach to the year: “Our goal is to improve our on-field presence with each game.”

So far, so good: as the Spartans have won every game since the opening loss, including a tough, 9-6 test against Lakeside.

“Our success has led other clubs to emulate what we do,” Visco said. “So naturally the competition has gotten stiffer. Now you need a full team of good players to make it to the top.”

He credits strong parent involvement, good coaching and getting the players started at younger ages.

Visco coaches the Sakai-level teams, keeping a keen eye on all middle school players, while Kii Yette coaches the junior varsity and Chris Kozina directs the freshman squad.

Visco is aided by Dejon Hush, who also coaches the UW Huskies.

“Jack and Dejon are the best coaches in Washington State,” lacrosse club president Nancy Jacques said.

Visco is counting on this year’s seniors to lead the team on the field.

“We look to them to lead on the field – the (David) Vander Hoeks, the Zachs (Kornfeld and Smith), and the others who will get things done, like Cody Bludorn on attack and defender Austin Brawner.”

At the varsity level, Visco looks for his players to bring energy and desire to a tough, physical game that also requires a sharp mental edge. He emphasizes the importance of on-field communication.

“It’s all about consistency, going out there with that burning desire,” he said. “It’s not always the scoring. In fact, it’s not even the other numbers, it’s the energy, the desire.”

Vander Hoek, who had a goal and seven assists to lead in the Lakeside win, is a good example, one many have called the best Bainbridge player since Adam Smith.

“No doubt about it,” the coach said. “All he has to do is keep playing at the level he is now and, hands down, he will be an All-American. Every time he steps onto the field he makes things happen.”

And he boasts field maturity that only comes from playing experience. Among younger players getting early opportunities to temper under fire, are the freshmen – midfielders Jordan Foster, Sean Lappi, Max Olson, defender Casey Weisner and goalkeeper Phillip Wears – and sophomores including defenders Drew Farwell, Bryan James Gilbreath and midfielders Dylan Masi and Nick Stone.

Masi, who Visco says “has huge upside as an attacker,” put in a fourth quarter hat trick to ice the Lakeside game. Visco thinks he can play even better.

Among the juniors, goalkeeper John Campbell is key. Attacker Sean Forsyth and defender Ed Snow back up the touted “middies” Ryan van den Meeredonk, Willie Delius and Willie Colegrove. Delius played well in his first game against Lakeside.

“The juniors will make the difference for us,” Visco said.

Issaquah, Mercer Island, Eastside and now Garfield are the teams to beat this year.

The key home match-ups include this afternoon’s 5:30 p.m. contest, when Bainbridge hosts Seattle Prep. This starts a five-game stretch leading into a trip to Lake Oswego, Ore., for an exhibition tournament.

On May 6 and 13 the Spartans host Eastside and the return match against Garfield, before closing out May 18 against the Roughriders of Port Angeles.

The boys lacrosse championships will take place at Qwest Field May 28, a week after the girls. That Saturday will feature a professional lacrosse league game at 7 p.m. to cap things off.

Both the boys and girls will have playoffs prior to the championship weekends.

* * * * *

Tough competition

The Bainbridge boys lacrosse club has won 10 of the last 13 state titles, but lost the 2004 title game, 12-3, against Mercer Island last May at Qwest Field.

Bainbridge holds championships from 2002 and 2003, as well as a string of trophies from 1992-2000, interrupted only by Lakeside in 1993; Mercer Island broke the streak in 2001.

Bellevue, which trails the Spartans with nine titles, won from 1981-87 and 1990-91. Lakeside has earned the trophy five times, in 1979-80, 1988-89 and 1993, while Mercer Island has won it twice.

Bainbridge youth teams won the title in 2003-04.

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