When it comes to boys’ high school lacrosse, teams from the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas have dominated the sport in Michigan.
Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice is 9-for-9 in winning Division 1 state titles since the Michigan High School Athletic Association made boys’ lacrosse a certified varsity sport in 2005.
And all nine Division 2 trophies have been raised by teams from around the Motor City and G.R.
But three schools from Battle Creek would like to put the Cereal City on the state lacrosse map, as Lakeview, Harper Creek (club) and Pennfield are all back competing in the Southwest Michigan Lacrosse Conference (SMLC).
The Spartans lay claim to having the first varsity team in Battle Creek, with this season marking their fifth state tournament appearance.
But Pennfield may have gained an edge as the city leader after recording the area’s first postseason victory in 2013.
“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Pennfield varsity head coach John Acton, the SMLC Coach of the Year in 2013.
“And the more the kids see the success, the younger kids, it kind of fuels the fire. I can see the talent level in this area growing more for quite a few more years, because they can see that prize and that there is something to shoot for.”
The future looks bright for city lacrosse as for the first time Lakeview, Harper Creek and Pennfield will each feature both varsity and junior varsity squads.
The Beavers also have a girls’ varsity team, but neither Harper Creek squad will compete in the state tournament because of their club status.
All three programs have seen growth in recent years, with numbers improving and players coming into the varsity level with more lacrosse experience.
“My seniors, most of them are four-year starters, so I don’t think we have anybody on this team particularly with less than a year or two of experience, so that’s enabled us to take the next step and move on,” Acton said.
“I remember our first year we played a couple games with 13-14 kids, and that was the whole program — the J.V. was it. We have over 100 now in just six years… It’s pretty amazing.”
Lakeview saw such an increased turnout this year that it had to add a junior varsity squad. Harper Creek is also excited about an influx of young talent that comes in with lacrosse experience through both middle school and travel programs.
According to Harper Creek head coach Matt Bilger:
“I think you will see with this group, for all the schools — Lakeview, Pennfield, us — in the next five years we’re going to make a mark in the playoffs.”
Here’s a closer look at the area’s varsity and club lacrosse teams, both both boys’ and girls’ programs:
Harper Creek (club)
Coach: Matt Bilger (first season)
2013 Record: 3-9 varsity, 6-0 J.V. (split schedule)
Top Returners: Vincent Moore, sr. Midfield; Jesse Raymond, sr. Midfield; Jonah Zebolsky, jr. Midfield
Outlook: “We’re a really young program. The freshmen that are coming up in our program are terrific,” Bilger said. “They are skilled and hard-working, and we expect to be very competitive in this conference in the next couple years… This is the first year we’ve had a look with a J.V. and varsity program. We’re a little shy on numbers, but we have a great incoming eighth grade class and we’re looking to be strong in the coming years.”
Coach: Jeff Shinker (first season)
2013 Record: N/A
Top Returners: PJ Brady, jr. Midfield; Jake Lamb, jr. Midfield; Cole Dopp, sr. Goalie; Karmen Munder, sr. Attack
Outlook: “I’m really loving that we’re having such a good problem of having too many kids… Now we’re starting to click more on varsity and J.V., and to see that development is huge,” said Shinker. “My goal is to start a solid foundation for Lakeview lacrosse. If we’re competitive, the more games we win the better. But I’m not worried about that as much as seeing the development and seeing them understand the system. Hopefully down the line they will just build on that and get rolling as a program.”
Pennfield/St. Philip (co-op)
Coach: John Acton (sixth season)
2013 Record: 10-5, 3-4 in Southwest Michigan Lacrosse Conference
Top Returners: Chris Acton, sr. Attack; Bryce Bohrmann, sr. Attack; Ethan Everett, sr. Attack; Sam Lehoullier, sr. Defense (St. Philip); Jesse Coppess, sr. Defense
Outlook: “I think by far this is probably the best lacrosse team we’ve had out here… The lacrosse IQ and the team work these guys exhibit every time they go out is by far the best we’ve had… Goals (are) to be competitive with the top teams in our area, play for a conference championship, and continue to develop our players to keep our program strong.”
Harper Creek (club)
Coach: Kodie Kiessling (second season)
2013 Record: N/A
Top Returners: Liz Bradfield, sr. Attack; Isabel Stich, jr. Center; Heather Rauch, sr. Defense; Olivia Black, sr. Goalie
Outlook: “We have a lot of new faces, many new underclassman which is great for the program’s future,” said Kiessling. “We are transitioning many new players from boys’ lacrosse to girls’ and I see a lot of potential in this large team.”