02 April 2014

Boys Lacrosse: Tigers ready to win the close ones

Corey Rudrud Offensive MVP in 2013 (photo by J. Lindquist)
Last year the Tigers posted another winning season but left 2013 frustrated because all of the losses came by a single goal.

This year coach Paul Sorensen and his veteran team are looking to turn the tables and win those close games.

"Situationally, we weren't as prepared as we should have been," Sorensen said. "We need to drill on scenarios that happen throughout a game and become students of the game. Our athleticism is as good as it has ever been; now we need to become more lacrosse smart."

Sorensen described this year's varsity and junior varsity teams as somewhat interchangeable with a large group of JV players expected to rotate up to the varsity squad.

Ten seniors dominate the list of returnees from last year, including captains Corey Rudrud, Dan Block and Alex Aubrecht. Seniors Kevin Clifton, Chris Fitzgibbons, Caleb Hakala, Mitch Hilton, Alex Thompson, Michael Thompson and Nick Workman all saw significant playing time last season.

Rudrud, was the team's offensive MVP last spring while Aubrecht earned defensive MVP honors. Block won the Hustle Award and made the all-section team. Clifton received the Team Player Award last year.
Senior captain Dan Block made the all-section team last year (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Others vying for playing time on the top two Tiger teams this season include juniors Kyle Kratz, Garrett Gunderson, Frederik Pflug, Nick Buhta, Alex Castillo, AJ Croucher, Richard Halverson, Gavin Quinn, Joe Sempf and John Seurer; sophomores Tyler Jette, Mitch Grengs, Jesse Aubrecht, Jack Fogarty, Jake Herrera, Connor Olson and James Thompson and freshmen Bryan Aguilar, Tommy Carey, Vincent Donohue, Thomas Fogarty, Gerold Cole, Nick Hinnenkamp, Chase Johnson, Nick Klotz, Isaac Kuehn and Tyler Wenck.

One of Sorensen's main concerns, especially in the early going, will be to compensate for the loss to graduation of team MVP and goaltender Matt Heinzerling and leading scorer Brendon Berg.

"We can't replace the scoring of Berg with just one player, so we're going to have to have a more balanced attack," he said. "Goalie is our least experienced position for sure. It's an open competition there. Our approach defensively will be to protect our new goalie as best we can while he gains experience.

Senior Kevin Clifton won Team Player Award last spring (photo by Jim Lindquist)
"We have two strong veteran defensemen in Aubrecht and Workman and with Grengs moving there from longstick we have a solid unit. Our midfield is strong and Rudrud was our second leading scorer last year."

As far as expectations go, Sorensen said he sees his team being competitive in the Missota Conference which for the first time has enough schools offering lacrosse for it to be recognized as an official league sport. 

"We definitely have seen earlier and younger participation in the weight room and in fall and winter leagues," he said. "We sent a record number of players to the University of Minnesota-Duluth camp over the summer, too." 

In addition to the customary regular season games with conference and section schools, the Tigers have beefed up their non-conference schedule with match-ups with St. Thomas Academy, Hill-Murray, Woodbury and Park of Cottage Grove.

"Our level of competition has increased dramatically as we prepare to enter the South Suburban conference next year." Sorensen said.

Isaiah Neal, Randy Oswald and Tyler Klotz will serve as Sorensen's assistant coaches this spring.

The Tigers kickoff their 2014 season next Friday, April 11, with a non-conference game at Lakeville South.