By McNutty for Soundlacrosse
The season is here, and this year there will be over 500 varsity games. How do you decide which ones to go watch? We at Soundlacrosse will help you out, here’s five important Division I games in the next five weeks. Go check these out, and next week we’ll give you five great Division II games to put on your calendar. Winter be gone, lacrosse is upon us!
This season, as always, you’ll find the best NW lacrosse pictures at www.soundlacrosse.com. Come and purchase some photos of your players, and we’ll donate all the proceeds to a NW lacrosse charity.
Tahoma at Issaquah
Fri, March 13th 8pm at Issaquah High School
Careful readers of this column over the years will remember that I like to open every season at Bainbridge Island. This year is no exception. But if you don’t want to make the trek with me and Mrs. McNutty on the ferry (woohoo! Date night!), get over to Issaquah High School for the marquee game of 2015’s opening night. This game is a rematch from last year’s state semi-final game, a one-goal affair won by Issaquah. But in that game, 2014 Coach of the Year Bryan Johnson’s Bears served notice on the league that they have arrived. Now, returning five All-SPSL players, including University of District of Columbia-bound Hudson Taylor, Tahoma is looking to repeat as conference champions and make another deep playoff run. Their 13 returning seniors will lead a team chock-full of talent and a program that is on the rise.
Issaquah comes into the 2015 season as one of the early favorites to win it all in Division I, having just come up one victory short in 2014. They’re led by 1st team All-Kingco midfielder Mikey Giannopulus and junior Jordan Dondoyano, arguably the best goalie in the state. The attack will be anchored by Ryan Eglund, the Eagles’ top returning pointsman. Although a little young (only eight seniors) Issaquah brings lots of team experience, as most of the team has played three high school seasons together. Coach Brandon Fortier is sure to have his Eagles ready and while it’s the first day of the season, this game will tell us a lot of what to expect from these teams this season, as both should be favorites for a playoff berth.
Eastlake at Skyline
***UPDATE**** THIS GAME IS NOW MONDAY AT 8PM *****
St. Patrick’s Day? Who cares? We’ve got a grudge match to watch. These two teams start out their season against their fiercest rival; each other. Geographically separated by one mile, the winner of this game, as always, will have the inside track on one of the two Kingco playoff spots not taken by Mercer Island, Issaquah or Bellevue. Last year, Eastlake lost one goal games to Skyline and Lake Washington to miss the playoffs entirely, falling well short of their goals. This is Coach Chris O’Dougherty’s third season with the Wolves and he brings a team forged by his own hands. 19 upperclassmen return having played under Coach OD for three seasons, along with three sophomores that saw varsity time last season. One of those sophomores is attackman Cullen Payne, the leading returning offensive threat, having put up 21 goals last season. Expectations are also high for what Eastside Catholic transfer Chandler Toliver can bring to the Wolves’ first middie line where he’ll join senior Tanner Klinge. And expect some noise from Tanner’s baby brother, freshman middie Hunter Klinge, who has established himself early. On defense, junior Abe Escardo enters his third season in the net, and it’s time for him to step up and declare himself one of the top goalies in the league. His defense will be led by All-Kingco pole Armondo Hodges. But Eastlake’s defense will be fine, they always are. Their fate will lie in the scoring ability of the offense.
Skyline’s expectations are also high this year. It’s the 2nd season for Coach Sam Hutson and he just graduated seven off of his 2014 playoff team. But one of those was All-Everything defenseman Spencer Noonan, and his absence will be noticed. Seniors Andrew Cespedes and Alex Earll will defend the goal filled with Senior Kyle Kuberski. Kuberski had a solid 2014, with a 60% save percentage. The Spartans should shine on offense, as they return 7 of their top ten point scorers. The offensive leadership responsibility will fall on to All-Kingco seniors Charlie Kurtenbach and Andy Hutchings, both of whom seem to have the maturity and seasoning to shoulder the load.
Woodinville at Mount Si
Sat, March 21, 7pm at Mount Si High School
Perhaps the first surprise in our list of must-see games, Woodinville visits the Wildcats in what should be a tone-setting game for both programs. The Falcons are entering their fourth season in DI, having won the 2011 D2 Championship, and they’ve yet to make any serious noise on the senior circuit. On the other side, 2014 was Mount Si’s first season in DI, a largely unsatisfactory campaign that tested the mettle of the players and the program. For different reasons, both teams will get the same thing out of this game; a feel for where they are and a direction to go for improvement.
Woodinville returns 11 players from 2014, including four seniors who have been around for each of the Falcons’ DI seasons. Senior midfielder Tanner Shepherd will have to step up and lead a team that scored 100 goals last season but allowed 152, or 13 per game. The Woodinville program is serious about stepping up its game, as they embark on their first out-of-state Spring Break trip, a challenging trip against the best high school programs in Nevada. (Facing the same exact teams that 2014 champion Bellevue will play during their Spring Break trip.) Mount Si will be their first in-conference DI test of the season, and it should prove to be a formidable test.
The Mount Si Wildcats also bring an experienced roster to the game. They return 10 seniors who have played together the past four years and are strong leaders on the field. However, the challenge will be that they will lead a team that has its third head coach in three years. Coach Brian Rinkenberger will try and develop a winning tradition based on fundamentals and focusing more on team play than individual talents. Optimism reigns, but the players will have to learn to play in their third system in three years.
However Mount Si does bring talents to the field. Leading scorer Blake Picchenna will lead the offense for the fourth season in a row and will be joined at midfield by junior Jimmy Morris. Junior attackman Alex Burns looks to step his scoring while Eric Virta should be able to improve on a successful freshmen campaign. If the Wildcats are to improve on their 44 goals from last season, this offense will have to find creative ways to find the back of the net.
The defense is led by another four year varsity player, long pole Tyler Smith, probably the hardest worker on the team. Goalie Cruz Parker has worked hard in the offseason and will anchor a defense that will need to improve on last year’s goals allowed if the Wildcats are going to succeed.
Can either team make an impact in the season’s Kingco conference race? That will remain to be seen. One game won’t make a season, but this conference opener will help both teams understand where they stand.
Archbishop Murphy at Everett
Wed, March 25th, 5pm at Kasch Park
The long anticipated split off from the Everett program has spawned Archbishop Murphy. While the Wildcats will play in DII, this matchup against DI Everett will be the first time the two programs will square off against each other. Coach Eric Vaughn brings his considerable coaching experience to an inexperienced group of players that will have played two critical league games by this point of the season. It’ll be a tough start for these rookies and then they’ll be thrown into this rivalry game. A-B will field only two upperclassmen, but they’ll bring some players over from an Everett team that made the playoffs in 2014. Led by middie Bennet Duffy and goalie Justin Lewandowski, the Wildcats have spent the offseason honing their skills with NW club programs. They’ll try and take translate that experience into some high school success against their mothership program.
Everett will enter the season as a favorite for one of the three Wesco/NW playoff spots. Attackmen Justin Beretta, Kodiak Hulsoor and Nathan Hannold all return having led the team with a combined 76 goals in 2014. The defense will be led by All-Wesco/NW pole Kain Davis and shored up by senior goalie Bradley Strong. They’ll be hoping to ride that defense into a deep playoff run, but they’ll have to get past their offspring in this game, Archbishop Murphy. Sneak out of work early, and head on up to watch this one.
O’Dea at Seattle Academy
Wed, April 29th 5pm at Upper Genesee
These two teams made the jump to Division I this year in the revamped Metro conference. By the time this game rolls around we should know whether they can hold their own with the big boys. By the end of the season, look for these two teams to be battling Seattle Prep and Lakeside for the last two Metro playoff spots.
The lacrosse team at O’Dea is in its 2nd season, and returns everyone from a team that finished 5-9 in Metro’s DII division in 2014. Junior attackmen Siam Owen and Jack Van Zile will lead the Coach Drew Snider’s offense, while senior netminder Seamus Courtney will lead a defense sure to be tested in early games against Bellevue and Issaquah. The Fightin’ Irish will be drinking out of a DI firehose this season, but Coach Snider has proven that he can inspire and get the best out of his players.
Led by 1st team All-Metro goalie Andrew McCall, Seattle Academy returns 13 seniors from their 2014 championship team. Most of them have been playing together for four high school seasons now and David Funes, Parker Woo, Aidan Lawry, Thomas Hadac, Charlie Phelps and Riley Johnson return as one of the premier offenses in the state. Expectations will be high for Coach Scott Pattison’s boys, to say the least. They are the poster child for what happens when a talented group of players from a small school can accomplish when they play together as a team.
If for no other reasons, come watch this game to see what lacrosse looks like when two teams whose coaches emphasize the love of the game and having fun meet for a rivalry match.