Nike/US Lacrosse Boys' Midwest Rewind
by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com
Year-End Top 10
1. Culver Academy (Ind.), 18-2
2. Upper Arlington (Ohio), 20-2
3. Loyola Academy (Ill.), 19-3
4. Brother Rice (Mich.), 18-5
5. New Trier (Ill.), 18-4
6. Mason (Ohio), 17-3
7. Dublin Jerome (Ohio), 16-7
8. Cathedral (Ind.), 19-1
9. Eden Prairie (Minn.), 18-0
10. Saint Viator (Ill.), 15-4
Midwest Player of the Year
Zach Currier, Culver Academy (Ind.)
The deciding game of the 2013 NBA Finals was on television last Thursday night, but Zach Currier knew he would not have time to watch. Currier chose lacrosse over the Heat-Spurs game that night. It's a choice he has made many times, ever since he fell in love with the sport at the age of eight.
"When I was eight years old, my dad put me into lacrosse to toughen me up for hockey, and it ended up taking over my life," Currier said. "I started playing lacrosse, and I don't know what it is about the sport, but I just love it. Every aspect of my life is pretty well based around it."
For Currier, the takeover is as complete as it is literal. This summer, the graduated Culver Academy star will work at a lacrosse camp, teaching first- through eighth-graders about the sport. After teaching lacrosse from until around 3 p.m., Currier has practice, and then he will go to a game or stream a professional contest.
"I try to get involved with lacrosse as much as I can, and it's just awesome," Currier said.
Currier has done more than get involved in the sport, however. He has also begun to dominate it.
"The best player on our team and I think personally the best player in the country is Zach Currier," coach Jon Posner said. "That kid is special. He did everything for us. Every time we played an opponent, whether it was out east or in the Midwest, everybody commented on Zach and how he was the best player on the field every game."
In 2013, according to Posner's estimate, Currier tallied 68 goals, 41 assists, 109 points and 113 ground balls. He also won 69 percent of his draw controls for Culver Academy.
"He's a player that can do it all," Posner said. "He's an offensive threat every time he touches the ball. Defensively, he's probably hands down the best defensive midfielder I've ever seen."
He excelled even when playing at a new position. When Matt Neufeldt fell victim to an ACL injury, Currier helped fill in for him as the Eagles' long-stick midfielder.
"He just did it all," Posner said. "Every time he had the ball in his stick, he could make plays. No matter what he was doing, whether it was in between the boxes or pushing transition offensively, he's just a guy that every time we needed a goal, we could give it to Zach and we were in a good position to score."
Currier, who began his career at that position, said he didn't mind the switch one bit. He said that he loves the stick checks, creativity and ball pursuit required at long-stick midfielder.
"When I started, I didn't really have great stick skills, but I could run really well," Currier said. "I love to play long pole so I always had it in my hands as much as I could, just messing around. I've been talking to coach Posner for the past couple of years, trying to get one."
It came to fruition when he faced Shack Stanwick of Boys' Latin (Md.), one of the game's best, who Currier somehow stripped the ball from on multiple occasions.
Currier did all of this while recovering from wrist surgery in January that threatened to keep the senior midfielder out of the Eagles' lineup for part of the season. Instead, Currier played through it with a brace that essentially rendered his left hand useless. Even now, he's not 100 percent, though few would know it from the way he played on the field.
"There's not too many of those type of players out there anymore that can really do everything and anything," Posner said.
Spotlight On ...
Upper Arlington (Ohio)
Entering the 2013 season, Upper Arlington coach Ted Wolford knew it would not be easy blending 17 new faces into a championship-caliber crew.
He worried about his entirely remade attack. He feared his midfield production, where four of his top six players from 2012 departed. He did not have to worry about his defense, however.
And on June 8, his defense brought home another state title, as the Golden Bears held an opponent to six or fewer goals for the sixth-straight time, defeating Dublin Jerome (Ohio) 7-6 in the championship game.
"That's what we believe — that it was our defense that set up our offense most of the year and our defense that held strong for us, especially at the end of that ball game against Dublin Jerome when they were pressing hard," Wolford said. "I think it's sometimes that old adage where offense wins games but defense wins championships and it's just something that can't be overlooked."
The defense was led by goalkeeper Jack Warmolts and defenseman Brandon Jones, both headed for Air Force, as well as defenseman Jake Nolan, bound for the University of Denver. All three ultimately earned first-team All-State honors. Nolan was the state's Defensive Player of the Year while Warmolts was the Buckeye State's Goalkeeper of the Year. Joe Cameruca, a senior coming back from an injury-plagued 2012, gave Wolford the veteran leadership he craved.
"We were pretty much playing the same level right out of the gate," Wolford said. "From the get go, they did great."
Indeed, the Golden Bears surrendered just five goals over their first four games and held their opponents to six goals or fewer in all but one game. And with that one game, a 17-5 defeat to Culver Academy (Ind.), Upper Arlington refused to let the loss get to it or ruin its defensive confidence.
"There are going to be teams that are going to be better than you in the country and they were one of those teams that just happens to be not where we'd expect them to be," Wolford said. "It's not on Long Island, it's not a part of the MIAA, but that's as good as any team you're ever going to see."
With the awareness that the Eagles had also blown out local rivals Mason (Ohio) and Archbishop Moeller (Ohio) and the chance to see Culver Academy blow out Hill Academy (Canada) in person, the Golden Bears used their loss as a learning experience, but didn't take too much from their one bad defensive performance of the season. They could use it as a chance to study film — no less, no more — according to Wolford.
And the defense was right where it needed to be come postseason time, holding five postseason opponents to a combined 22 goals.
"That was the one area that we had depth in and we carried 11 defensemen and all 11 defensemen could step on the field and play," Wolford said. "You take that [Culver] game out of the record books, it's a very consistent group. We didn't even give up two assists on average a game so our guys did a nice job of taking care of the feeders as well as taking care of the goal scorers."
Note: The Nike/US Lacrosse Regional rankings will not necessarily reflect the same order as the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 poll, which is voted on by US Lacrosse area representatives and Lacrosse Magazine contributors. LM contributors compile the regional rankings.
This concludes the season-long look at the boys' Midwest region.