Written by Peter Redebaugh
Coming off a disappointing 2011 season, the Birmingham Unified boys’ lacrosse team looks to return back to their winning ways in the 2012 campaign.
BU (1-1) is still trying to get the rust off in the early parts of this season, especially before their match-up with defending division 2 champion Detroit Country Day, Friday March 30.
In their first game, BU defeated Salem 14-7 in a come from behind victory after they trailed 5-2 at halftime.
BU almost pulled off a second consecutive comeback win when they trailed Troy 12-6 entering the fourth quarter, but their rally came up short as they lost 12-10. Senior JD Hess, senior John Quay, and junior Adam Susalla led the team in scoring, each scoring two goals.
After developing themselves into a state power in the early 2000’s, BU has entered every season with very high expectations, where they anticipate contending for a state title every season.
BU has not lived up to their name in recent years, but fiery first year head coach Burt Engle looks to change the atmosphere, and bring the program back to where they once were.
“Historically [BU] has had very talented players,” Engle said. “That haven’t played as cohesively as a team or played in an organized scheme, and that is one of the things that we are trying to build this year.”
Engle has a lot of experience coaching lacrosse. Some of his work include coaching stints at U of D high school and he was even an assistant coach for BU from 1998-2000. After being the assistant coach, he went on to become the head coach in 2001 for one season.
Engle then left lacrosse for a few years and went to medical school, but now has returned to BU with the hopes of bringing the program back to the heights it was in the early 2000’s.
“I have really high expectations for this season,” Engle said. “I would like us to make a long playoff run, and this may sound crazy, but I expect to play in the state finals and win it.”
Hess, a captain and a four year varsity player, has been pleased with the early parts of the season and thinks the players have a different mentality for this season.
“Guys have been putting in a lot more work this season,” Hess said. “Everyone has been lifting and conditioning. We’ve got real good team chemistry and we’ve always had the skills.”
Hess also thinks the new coaching staff is stricter than in years past, something that he thinks will help them down the road.
“The new coaching staff has been great,” Hess said. “If you miss a workout, the coaches come down on you. There are rules that are being enforced and people are listening. Coach Engle has the knowledge and demeanor that we have been lacking the past few years.”
Not only is BU adjusting to a new coach, but they are also training a new goalie.
Senior Carlo Clavenna has played on BU for three years, but before this season he played attack and this is his first year ever playing goalie.
“Goalie is a huge transition from playing attack last season,” Clavenna said. “The offense is loaded with talent so I made the switch to help out the team. Goalie is a lot harder than I expected because I have to tell everyone where to be on defense and when to move.”
Clavenna believes his knowledge from playing attack will help him while he’s in the net.
“I know what the offense likes to do because of my past experience but there is so much to learn,” Clavenna said. “I feel like I fit in with the defense and we will be hard to score on this year. We all trust each other and know each other’s jobs. The team has been very supportive and they give me a lot of motivation.”
BU returns a lot of starters from last year’s team including Hess, Quay, Susalla, senior James Bertrand, senior Cameron Smyk, and senior Casey Armil just to name a few.
“It may take us a few weeks to get used to playing with one another,” Engle said. “But as the season goes on, we will become a better team.”
Engle has echoed his high expectations to his players.
“Our coach has high standards for this year,” Hess said. “He’s hoping that we are going to be playing in the state championship game at Maple field.” Hess has just as high expectations as his coach, and wants to leave everything on the field for his senior year.
“Anything short of a state championship is a disappointment,” Hess said.