Naperville Central boys lacrosse coach Tim Hurst thought the Redhawks would be contenders in the B Class this spring.
What he didn't expect was for his team to get off to such a fantastic start while knocking off Class A teams in the process.
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The Redhawks opened the season with a statement victory over Neuqua Valley, throttling the Class A Wildcats 12-5. They've followed it up with impressive wins over a handful of other Class A foes, including town rival Naperville North, as well as Benet and St. Charles North, a team that had the state's highest ranking earlier this spring.
"We definitely thought we would be competitive in the B league and were in very good company," Hurst said. "We just made it into the Top 10 in the state among some very well known schools and programs so that's a phenomenal accomplishment."
The Redhawks finally came down to earth this week, suffering their lone loss of the season, an 8-7 decision to Lyons. They rebounded with a 14-4 win over Batavia and are now 8-1.
"The thing that makes us different from a lot of other teams is we don't have two or three superstars but are always putting 10 guys on the field at a time," Hurst said. "We just play together. Other teams can't come in and say 'Hey, that's their shooter,' because we have six different guys."
Ryan Porter and Duncan Lanzirotti are off to tremendous starts and apparently the rest of the Redhawks are feeding off their efforts.
"Ryan is the heart of our team. He isn't a scoring phenom but he gets after the ball," Hurst said. "Duncan's got phenomenal numbers in terms of takeaways and ground balls."
Balanced scoring not only allows many different Redhawks to take in finding the back of the net, but it makes it difficult for opponents to focus in on just one or two guys.
"It hasn't been concentrated. We've spread it around," Hurst said. "Our offense keeps moving the ball around and getting the defense out of position. We can pull the trigger from anywhere and it's helped us quite a bit."
The Redhawks now are looking like one of the top teams to contend for the Class B state title, which Graylake North won last year and Waubonsie Valley claimed in 2011.
"We're a B team but we play 10 (Class A) games which is by design," Hurst said. "We want these guys to be ready to go at the highest level at this point. Our program is solidly rooted now. We fully expect to contend for a state cup and winning these A games so far has been a real treat."
Cary-Grove in the groove:
The rare team to make a seamless transition from NILAX is Cary-Grove , which has compiled a 5-1 record. The team's lone loss was a 7-5 heartbreaker to Deerfield last Tuesday but the Trojans rebounded with a 9-4 win against Vernon Hills on Thursday.
The team has also recorded victories against Carmel, Crystal Lake South, Evanston and Palatine, all new opponents this spring.
"We're pretty much playing all quality teams now," Cary-Grove coach Dylan Weber said. "In the past we were sometimes playing inexperienced teams, but now we can't take any teams for granted. All are quality teams and programs and that's probably been the biggest transition for us, but we've been ready."
With Holden Taylor and Trevor Dorn leading the offensive attack, the Trojans have one of the top 1-2 punches in the state. The duo entered the season with 150 career goals. Dorn's leading the team in assists and Taylor's the team's top score goal scorer so far.
"They've been leading us but as far as stats go we've had a lot more balance," Weber said. "We've had other kids step up and score goals and that's been big."
Cary-Grove has certainly faired better than Jacobs, the team that beat them for the NILAX title last year. Jacobs was devastated by graduation losses and has struggled this season. The Golden Eagles are only 1-6 and have been outscored 72-20.
"They really lost so much," Weber said. "We're pretty much where I thought we'd be. The one loss we had, we thought could've gone either way with a bounce here or there."
Weber understands that it's a statement season for the Trojans as well as other NILAX teams as they look to prove that they belong.
"We've been telling the kids during practice that this is a statement year for us," he said. "No one has walked all over us. We've shown we know how to play lacrosse."
Weber will enjoy a bittersweet Monday as he takes the Trojans to Lake Zurich to play his alma mater.
"Lake Zurich was No. 1 (in Class B) and we're right behind them," Weber said. "It should be an exciting game. It'll show us where we stand."
Grayslake Central has gotten off to a 6-2 start and a couple of freshmen have had a lot to do with it.
Luke Herrmann has stepped in and done a nice job along with senior Glenn Stearns at face-offs while freshman Kyle Hinsmore looks to have a found a spot in front of the net until 2016.
"It's nice that we're playing well and that a couple of these guys are just freshmen," Rams coach Chris Ridella said. "Hopefully we'll have plenty of guys to people around them (in the next few years)."
Ridella said the Rams have been a stronger offensive team than a defensive one.
"Jason Koziol and Aiden Connolly have been doing a nice job leading the attack," Ridella said. "They've really done a nice job leading our offense and we've been playing a little better on offense than defense."
Grayslake Central has registered lopsided victories over Hoffman Estates, Huntley and Palatine and won a couple close contests against St. Ignatius and Schaumburg. The team's two losses came against Libertyville and Naperville Central, a pair of teams who are combined 14-1 through April 25.
Acclimated to the outdoors:
As the spring has warmed up, so has St. Francis.
The Spartans have won four of their last five to improve to 4-3. After a tough 5-4 loss to Class A Naperville North on April 16, the Spartans have won three straight, beating Lemont, Immaculate Conception and Batavia.
"Seniors Colin Baumgartner, Max Porter and Kyle Wedoff lead an offense which has 32 goals over this four-game stretch," St. Francis coach Joe Fusco said.
Junior goalkeeper Jake Los has been fantastic in the net, especially thanks to the efforts of defensemen Jack Webb, Danny Donatio and John Vargyas.
Like many teams in the state, poor weather had made it difficult to get many practices outside before the season started; hence, the slow the start for the Spartans.
Stevenson's 5-3 record might not be impressive.
Don't let it fool you thought; the Patriots are a darned good team. Their losses include a season-opening defeat to 2012 Class B champs, Grayslake North, as well as Glenbrook North and a 7-6 defeat last Wednesday to Libertyville.
"The reason for our early season success is the buy-in from every player," Stevenson coach Brian Larsen said. "They have all been given roles on the team and have been all in with the 'team first' concept."
Sean O'Connell and long stick midfielder Dan Meagher are anchoring the Patriots defense while a mix of youth surrounds third-year midfield starter Conor Okmin.
"Up front we are young and improving every game," Larsen said. "Some offensive players have sacrificed stats for wins while the defense is playing well together as a unit, not six individuals."
Chris Nowacki and Michael DiZonno are splitting time in goal. They've shut out two opponents and kept six opponents overall to three goals are less.
"We have the luxury of having two solid goalies who have both played well this season," Larsen said.
Libertyville is a very good lacrosse team with an 8-1 record.
Apparently, the Wildcats are even better people off the lacrosse field.
Prior to its victory over Lake Zurich on April 20, Libertyville volunteered its time at a food drive for the needy and helped fill sand bags due to the heavy rainstorms and flooding.
"We had about 35 guys show up and fill up sand bags. It was a pretty good chunk of the team and all levels we're involved," Libertyville coach Brady Sullivan said. "Then on Saturday, after playing on Friday, we had two shifts from 8-11:30 a.m. doing the food drive, sorting through food and distributing it, so it was a pretty busy two days."
Libertyville (8-1) lost for the first time this season, dropping a 9-5 decision to Glenbrook North (8-1). Both teams are expected to be in the hunt for the Class A title in June.
A new Storm:
South Elgin is one of the newest programs in the state. The Storm are fielding a JV team this year. They are expected to add a freshmen team next year and ultimately field a varsity team in 2015.
"We've got 27 guys on the team and just three seniors," South Elgin coach Todd Nanna said. "We're growing and we've got a great group of kids and parents supporting the team."
Nanna said feeder teams are in place and it shouldn't take long before the Storm has a solid program.
"We had our best game (on Saturday, a 10-4 loss to Napervile North)," he said. "We're getting better and it's been exciting year for the kids. We lost today but they kids were smiling because they know they're getting better."
South Elgin is scheduled to face Bartlett on Friday. Such a match-up should develop into a nice rivalry as both programs continue to develop.
Sticks and Stones:
Geneva beat Huntley, 4-2, last weekend to win West Chicago's Sticks and Stones tournament. The Vikings Andrew Schreiber was named the offensive MVP of the tournament. The Vikings are making it a habit of winning this tournament. They took honors as well last season when Matt Landry was named MVP in the process.