Both the Port Huron United and St. Clair United lacrosse programs are looking to take the next step this year.
For Port Huron, that means winning a Macomb Area Conference White Division title and a postseason game, something it has never done. For St. Clair — formerly Blue Water United — that means elevating the program to varsity status, something it can’t do on the field, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t motivated.
“We have 26 on the varsity and 18 to 20 on the middle school team — there’s enough parents now that want to see the sport grow,” St. Clair coach Mark Daniell said. “The motivation (for the players) is that if you stick with it, you’re going to be a club/varsity sport next year.”
Each of the area’s two lacrosse teams is 1-0 on the season, as St. Clair defeated Anchor Bay on Tuesday, and Port Huron defeated Swartz Creek on Thursday. They were scheduled to play each other Friday, but the game was called because of the weather.
Both teams came into their seasons with a positive outlook, however, as both feature a good mix of veteran players and budding young talent. The common thread being that both teams now feature players who have played the sport prior to high school, as youth programs and clinics have been well attended.
“Between Port Huron and St. Clair, there’s between 75 and 85 kids playing lacrosse this year,” Daniell said. “It’s growing rapidly in the last 10 years. It’s now becoming a recognized sport by all the kids in the school system. They know it’s there. They know it’s available.”
Daniell is hoping that excitement will allow for his team — which features players from East China School District — to be at the varsity level next season. That means a spot in the MAC and the MHSAA postseason.
Port Huron, meanwhile, is entering its seventh season as a varsity program.
“It’s always our goal to win our conference, and that’s going to be a new challenge for us this year being paired with L’Anse Creuse and L’Anse Creuse North,” Port Huron coach Jon Holden said. “Our goal is to make it out of the first round of playoffs, that’s something that we haven’t done as a program, and I think this is a great year to do that.
“The next thing is just to create more awareness about the program and looking to take the program to the next level every single year.”
Leading that charge for Port Huron will be a quartet of seniors in midfielder Will Kriewall, attacker Tyson Marsh and defensemen Jake Schott and Jamie Howe.
Holden said that midfielders Andrew Wit and Brendan Conard will also be key players as well as goalie Shane Sheridan. Newcomers Jake Lee and Grant Nesbitt have shown early on that they can be impact players, Holden said.
For St. Clair, Daniell said goalie John Staiger will be the team’s backbone, as he’s in his third year as the team’s goalie. Leading the attack will be Nolan Lyons, Riley Finnegan and Chase Kammer, while Anthony Plotzke, Scott Humes and Jake Ambrose will man the midfield. Anthony Buffa, Hayden Tucker and Graham Schweihofer are four-year players on defense for St. Clair.
Daniell said four freshmen — Humes, Kyle Gudme, Sam Picklehaupt and Kent Westrick — have shown promise early.
St. Clair’s next game will be at 6 p.m. Monday at St. Clair Middle School against Motor City Lacrosse Club. Port Huron plays Wednesday at Utica Ford, but will return home — for the first time this year that home being Port Huron Northern’s varsity football practice field — for a 6:30 p.m. game Thursday against Lapeer.
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.