Ohio can stake a claim as the reigning hotbed of high school lacrosse in America.
Team Ohio, coached by Moeller High School head coach Sean McGinnis, won the 2015 Brine All-American Lacrosse National Classic on July 2 in Midlothian, Virginia.
The victory capped a momentous year for southwest Ohio boys lacrosse. Mariemont won the 2014 Division II state title and nearly repeated this year. St. Xavier won the Division I title earlier this year. The Team Ohio championship roster, comprised of rising high school juniors and seniors, included 12 southwest Ohio student-athletes. Another eight locals played for Ohio’s team of rising sophomores, while 10 locals played on the junior-senior girls team.
“It was truly an honor to coach the many southern Ohio players on this team,” said McGinnis. “Southern Ohio lacrosse is always chasing the powerhouse programs of central Ohio. With the St. X state title win and now this, southern Ohio lacrosse and its players are starting to get the recognition they deserve.”
Team Ohio rallied to come from behind to defeat Florida in the semifinals, 6-5. Moeller’s Jack Richey delivered the game-winner to send Ohio to the final against New England. Loveland’s Marshal Amon and St. Xavier’s Alex Deters combined to allow just two goals en route to Ohio’s 6-2 victory.
The underdogs from the Midwest showed that they can hang with any team from the east coast.
“Our players entered the tournament knowing that they were a collection of talented players from around the state and if they came together quickly as a team, they would be pretty successful,” said McGinnis. “This was a great opportunity for these players to show the other state teams who participated in this event that kids can play a high level of lacrosse in the Midwest. It was a great opportunity as well for these players to play in front of college coaches and showcase their talents.”
Team Ohio went undefeated in pool play and the tournament, allowing just 25 goals in seven contests. They heard what other teams said about the often-overlooked squad. Walking out to their first match against Virginia, Team Ohio heard rumblings from other opponents in the crowd. “It’s just Ohio” became a rallying cry. Next year, those teams will not make the same mistake of shortchanging Ohio’s lacrosse talent.
“Our kids didn’t need any more motivation after that comment,” said McGinnis. “It was pretty neat to keep that tone for the tournament as we kept winning.”
Last year, Team Ohio only won a game or two in the Brine Classic, said Deters. He did not enter this year’s tournament expecting to win it all, but quickly realized that this team was capable of achieving more than it did a year ago. Team Ohio played with a chip on its shoulder this time around.
“As we played a couple games and began hitting our stride, I thought we had a chance to do something special,” he said. “I think that this may finally give not just southwest Ohio, but all of the Midwest credibility as a force to be contended with in the future. As a region, we are finally garnering some respect.”
Deters began playing in fifth grade. Team Ohio teammate Lucas Klever, a rising junior at Moeller, was introduced to the sport in fourth grade. Both have seen the sport boom in this area over the past few years. The in-season rivals bonded quickly, which they felt gave them an edge over their other regional opponents.
“We know and respect each other’s skills and knowledge of the game,” said Klever. “Going into our second game, we really started to mesh as a team and I think this gave us a huge advantage over other teams. A lot of the teams we played never even learned the names of their teammates and we all had become friends after the first practice. This was definitely a boost for our team.”
The next step for Team Ohio will be representing American high school lacrosse against an all-star team from Canada in January’s Brogden Cup. The three-game series will be played Jan. 2-4 in Tampa. Ohio asserted itself as a national power and now hopes to show that it can be an international force. Ohio lacrosse players will no longer be perennial underdogs.
“It shows that the east coast isn’t the only place that can produce good lacrosse players and good team lacrosse overall,” said McGinnis.