Lacrosse: Baker, Barnett bringing leadership to Crystal Lake South

By Gregg Voss
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 4/19/2022 6:17 PM

How do you know you've got a team with solid leadership?

It's often what you don't see that's key. Take Crystal Lake South, where coach Jim Krol is watching his upperclassmen grow into strong leaders.


He's not seeing those guys screaming at each other. He also doesn't see them bellyache over a bad call in a close game. Instead, the leadership he sees has nuance.

Take junior long-stick midfielder Griffin Baker, an all-conference selection last spring, who proactively takes part in the Gators' junior-varsity games.

"When guys are coming off the field, he's giving them instructions, what changes they can make," Krol said, "whether it's understanding the game or, 'Put your hand on your stick this way.'"

Baker is a great example for the younger players. He's gobbled up 45 ground balls this season, along with 23 goals and 17 assists.

Then there is junior goalie Joey Barnett, who scooped up 15 saves in a 7-6 overtime win over Cary-Grove on April 14, leading by example by simply keeping his nose to the grindstone. He's got 56 saves this season.

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That's not all, said Krol, who knows a thing or two about leadership as Crystal Lake South's football coach.

"It's doing all the right things ... making sure I'm coming to practice early," he said. "In the games, I'm going to give 100 percent effort."

Junior attackman Michael Saccomanno, who has 13 goals, relishes the leadership role, but sees the whole picture.

"At times it can be hard, trying to handle adversity when the team isn't doing well," he said. "When you're riding the momentum off a win, it's fun and gets easier when everyone buys in."

Senior defenseman Shane Hall said he and his upperclass teammates watched and learned from their predecessors, who navigated some tough years for the program. That paid off, as the Gators currently sit at 3-4 overall and 1-0 in for the Fox Valley Conference.

"Tough times require good leaders and they taught us to lead in those times," Hall said. "I'm great friends with all of them. They still come to our games."


Balance duo leads Cary-Grove:

Another team with an interesting leadership dynamic is the aforementioned Cary-Grove, which is paced by junior midfielder Colin Desmet and senior defenseman Maximus Katsenos.

Their leadership skills provide a good balance for the Trojans. For example, coach Zac Cheatle said Desmet is the team's leader by example.

"He does everything on the field really well, and other guys see that," Cheatle said. "He's constantly making little plays and that's what makes him and effective leader."

A testament to that is the team's Junkyard Dog award, a big gold chain that signifies gritty, aggressive, hustling play. Desmet, who is averaging 6 points per game, was the team's first winner this season.

Katsenos' leadership, on the other hand, is much more vocal.

"He likes to get the guys riled up," Cheatle said. "He breaks all the huddles. He's not as shy; he'll say what needs to be said. He's a very good communicator on the field."

Kaneland building basis:

Andre Carriere was hired to be the Kaneland coed lacrosse team's coach two days before the season started. That started a whirlwind 48-hour period where he managed to get 32 kids to come out for the program, which filled out varsity and junior varsity teams.

He'll be the first to admit it's been a somewhat rough go out the gate for the varsity Knights, which started 0-4. But even that has had a silver lining; Kaneland lost to Marmion 12-11 but was up by four goals in the fourth quarter. The JV team is also 3-1. And then there is an intangible.

"They're having a blast and they are getting better," Carriere said of his charges, who are without junior Jamie Weber, a Gardner-Webb women's team recruit who transferred to Benet.

Carriere isn't naive. He said building the program is "going to be a three-year process. By the time the freshmen are seniors, the program will be strong."

By then, players like freshman midfielder Garrett Wills will have three years of varsity experience under their collective belts.

Wills is a multisport athlete, playing both football and basketball, just like Carriere's freshman son Easton, who plays hockey. Playing another sport is beneficial to lacrosse, the younger Carriere said.

"The positioning is kind of the same," he said. "The positioning is very close to hockey as a defenseman. Handling the ball is like a puck."

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