Nike/US Lacrosse Midwest Region Report
by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com
Top PerformersGus Ackley, Upper Arlington (Ohio)
Ackley can run – that much was clear to anyone who tuned into a Golden Bears football game this season. Ackley piled up 100-yard performances the way the Northwestern women's team piles up national titles. The question is how well will the star running back's speed translate to lacrosse, where the senior will serve as a captain. He will be called upon to help the Golden Bears replace Tyler Pfister, who was a key cog in Upper Arlington's attack last season.
Tanner Lindstrom, Grand Cities (N.D.)
Lindstrom is more than just a lacrosse talent; he is somewhat of a pioneer. As one of the elder members of the Grand Cities Predators, he helped lead a brand-new club into existence. North Dakota, which is relatively new to the lacrosse world, has received a sizable burst from Lindstrom, who scored four goals in the Predators' first game, including the game-winner. Of course, the area is more known for its rinks, where Lindstrom also excels as East Grand Forks' goaltender.
Caleb Milliken, Lincoln (Neb.)
The Rampage were dominant within the state of Nebraska last season, with all three of their losses coming to teams from the state of Kansas. Milliken was very much at the center of the Lincoln's success. Known for his success on the draw, Milliken earned first-team All-State honors last year and much is expected from him during his senior year.
Games to Watch
Sarpy (Neb.) at Millard West (Neb.) – April 2
Sarpy, a brand-new lacrosse program in Nebraska kicked off its inaugural season with a bang, winning at Westside (Neb.), 3-2. The Vikings haven't been able to ride that momentum due to wintry weather in the Great Plains, but with temperatures expected to be in the 50s and the skies expected to be clear, Sarpy should finally get another game in against a Millard West team that experienced a dramatic turnaround itself, improving from 6-8 to 13-7 last season.
New Trier (Ill.) at Glenbrook South (Ill.) – April 2
The last time these two teams met, Glenbrook North scored a goal off of the good old-fashioned hidden-ball trick. That shouldn't obscure the fact that the Spartans actually presented the seven-time state champions with a legitimate challenge, even maintaining a 4-4 tie until the Trevians went on their game-winning run. The Spartans are off to a 3-0 start, including two wins over teams from the Show Me State.
1. Culver Academy (Ind.), 3-1
The Eagles' only loss of the season is an 11-9 loss to Boys' Latin (Md.) — a Lakers team that has won its first seven and decisively beaten Gonzaga (D.C.), Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) and Saint Andrew's (Fla.). Next up for Culver Academy is a series of tests from the best of Michigan — including meetings with Detroit Country Day and Brother Rice — and the Buckeye State with matches against Worthington Kilbourne and Western Reserve Academy.
2. Brother Rice (Mich.), 2-0
The Warriors exploded for 24 goals in their opener before scoring a more modest 13 in their win over Forest Hills Central (Mich.). Following a game against University Detroit Jesuit (Mich.), Brother Rice hits the road for games against New Trier (Ill.), Orchard Lake St. Mary's (Mich.) and Culver Academy (Ind.). The Eagles were one of just two teams to beat the Warriors last season — the other being Hamburg (N.Y.). Brother Rice will have another chance to prove itself against the Northeast with its April 20 matchup with Hill Academy (Conn.).
3. Dublin Jerome (Ohio), 1-0
The Celtics didn't drop a contest until June last year, and it's quite possible that they'll go on a similar tear this year. Dublin Jerome has two pairs of tough contests early. The first pair comprises games against Thomas Worthington (Ohio) and Western Reserve Academy (Ohio), who played the Celtics close in 2012, falling by scores of 7-4 and 8-4, respectively. The second pair puts Dublin Jerome on the road against Archbishop Moeller (Ohio) and Worthington Kilbourne (Ohio). Still, this is a backloaded schedule and Dublin Jerome will have a chance to get off to a running start before taking on Upper Arlington, its toughest foe from a year ago.
4. Upper Arlington (Ohio), 0-0
Four of the Golden Bears' first eight games in 2012 came against foes outside of the Buckeye State, and Upper Arlington suffered two early losses to out-of-state teams. It was worth it though as the Golden Bears won 15 of their last 17 games. Upper Arlington is again venturing out early, traveling to Pennsylvania for a pair of games against Sewickley Academy and Shady Side Academy. The Golden Bears then reenter the state of Ohio, but must play one more road game – against Archbishop Moeller, which it edged 9-7 last year.
5. Loyola (Ill.), 3-0
How is life without star goalkeeper Kevin Steger going? The simple answer is well. The Ramblers have surrendered just four goals in their first three games combined. That included a season-opening 18-0 shutout of Saint Rita (Ill.). That being said, the schedule for Loyola, which plays six of its first eight away from home, is about to get a lot tougher with a trip to New York. Irondequoit and West Genesee aren't high-scoring teams, but Ithaca was a well-oiled machine last year, never scoring fewer than seven goals in a game. Sure enough, the Little Red scored 15 in their 2013 opener and can be expected to test Loyola's new goalkeeper.
6. Eden Prairie (Minn.), 0-0
Once the Eagles season gets started, they will be tested toward the end of April with in-state contests against Edina, Minnetonka and Blake – all in a row. Eden Prairie is fortunate, however, to grab Edina at home, where the Eagles took care of business fairly easily last year. They beat Edina 14-8 at home while edging them by a single goal on the road. Meanwhile, Minnetonka was an odd case, in which Eden Prairie won by five-plus goals on two occasions, but also lost an 8-3 decision to the Skippers in the middle of the 2012 season.
7. Eastview (Minn.), 0-0
The Lightning will be tested early by two teams in Mahtomedi (Minn.) and Rosemount (Minn.) that will be looking to avenge one-goal defeats from last season. Eastview begins by playing five of its first seven on the road, which is a big shift from last season in which the Lightning had the benefit of playing their first six games at home. Eastview took advantage of the comforts of home last season, starting its 2012 campaign with an 8-0 record – repeating that feat in 2013 will be a lot more difficult to be sure.
8. Worthington Kilbourne (Ohio), 1-0
The Wolves' season is off to a good start with a 12-5 victory over Columbus St. Charles (Ohio). Of course, things are about to get a lot tougher, as Archbishop Moeller (Ohio) and Dublin Coffman (Ohio) both played Worthington Kilbourne close in 2012. Last season, Worthington Kilbourne turned heads early with wins over Calverton (Md.) and New Trier (Ill.) in its first two games. This season, the Wolves have a similar opportunity when they take on Culver Academy (Ind.) in their third game of the 2013 campaign and Mount Lebanon (Pa.) in their eighth game of the season.
9. Carmel (Ind.), 5-0
The Hoosier State continues to lag behind the Greyhounds. Carmel has tripled up on its first three in-state opponents. And the three Hoosier State teams they have beaten thus far have a combined 12-4 record in 2013. Carmel, which scored 20-plus goals on eight separate occasions last year, is averaging a reasonable 14 goals per game.
10. Lake Forest (Ill.), 2-1
The big question is: How serious was the Scouts' loss to Columbus Catholic (Fla.)? Can a team that suffered a 13-5 loss to a team outside of Maryland and New York still merit inclusion in the regional top ten? Certainly, Columbus Catholic is a good team – if not in the class of a Saint Andrew's (Fla.) or a St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), the Explorers are certainly in the second tier of Sunshine State lacrosse talent – so Lake Forest's loss should be noted, but not blown out of proportion.
News and Notes
Going Down to Dixie
Tom Coons is on vacation right now — sort of.
The Carmel (Ind.) varsity lacrosse coach and his family are currently in Alabama vacationing — his wife and kids are, anyway.
"They're at the beach, getting sunburned and applying oil, I guess," Coons said.
Coons, however, is spending a couple of hours each day in the film room with a couple of his assistant coaches, who joined him on the trip. They talk about practice plans and the Carmel youth program. In short, lacrosse remains on the front burner.
That's alright though — Coons is used to working all spring long. Back in upstate New York, where he grew up and where lacrosse is more at a fever pitch, Coons never had a spring break to begin with.
"I'm an upstate New Yorker so I never had a spring break until four years ago," Coons said. "Out in the Midwest, they still do their breaks and we have four days where we can go get away."
Meanwhile, the time off has also allowed his injured players to heal. Coons said that injuries and youth both tied into why his team has yet to put up a 20-goal performance in 2013 — they had eight such performances last season. When he gets back to the Hoosier State though, he expects his team to be ready to go.
Building A Base in the Hoosier State
When Coons first moved to the state of Indiana, he had a lacrosse-mad son in a basketball-mad state. The question he faced was: Where could his son play?
Fortunately for Coons and his son, Carmel did have an enormous athletic association that brought Coons onto its board. Coons said that it had 13,800 kids playing a variety of different sports. Coons helped add another. With Coons taking the lead, they were able to establish a lacrosse program.
"Twelve years ago when we started lacrosse in Carmel, it was new and it was different and it was sort of one of those alternate sports, a third sport, for a kid to play," Coons said. "Now, it's getting more mainstream and it's more of a focus sport instead of an add-on sport for a kid. We're getting there. It's been slow. It's been a long path."
He said that his program has grown from 38 kids when he first started to 600 kids today.
"It's growing and doing well," Coons said.
His son, Josh, meanwhile, has turned into the Greyhounds' leading scorer. He was first-team All-State last season — and the two seasons before that, according to his father.
"He's been playing lacrosse since he can walk," Coons said. "There's not much I need to do as far as credentialing him. He's a coach's son. He's someone who has been around the game for a long time and listening to me bark at him."
Coons said that his team has inherent disadvantages when it plays against Culver Academy. For one, the Culver Academy is, well, an academy, meaning it draws kids from all over the region. Carmel is a public school.
"We're very captive in our audience," Coons said. "Culver, obviously, being a military academy, can draw from all over the place, great players from Canada and the Midwest and the East Coast, so if we can compete with someone like that, then we feel really good about ourselves."
That's why Coons and his team continue to play against and take aim at Culver, even if it means matches like last season's 19-6 drubbing.
"It's important to us," Coons said. "We're getting there. It would mean a lot for us to compete — and beat — Culver."
Coons has set up an ambitious schedule for his team. Beyond Culver, the Greyhounds take on New Trier (Ill.), Loyola Academy (Ill.), St. Louis University (Mo.) and Mason (Ohio).
"You emulate programs like Dublin Jerome and New Trier, Brother Rice and Culver, Loyola Academy and St. Louis University," Coons said. "We've been fortunate to have some good success, and now we're getting some of those games."
He said that he has a couple of kids he can lean on through a tough slate of games, including Joseph Chitwood, an "old-school two-way midfielder," and Ryan Cason, "one of those unsung guys, a lunch pail type of kid who leads our team in ground balls."