SJ Lacrosse shows determination, resiliency

Jacob Piekielniak ’17

In the 2014-2015 season, Strake Jesuit lacrosse finished with a 7-8 record under interim head coach Randy Block. It was a transition year following the departure of long term head coach Mike Block. Eventually, the Crusaders lost in their first playoff game to Memorial 4-7.

This year, the program returned with the bulk of their roster. A mere two starters were  missing from the graduation of the previous year’s senior class. Additionally, SJ lacrosse found a new and permanent head coach in Kevin Anderson.

Anderson comes from Brevard College and led the Tornados to an 8-8 season in his last year as their head coach. He is an offense-oriented coach, having experience at the attack position. Anderson wants to establish a high-octane offense, similar to his team at Brevard. He hopes to implement a new attitude to the program. He said, “It’s all about our attitude. We need to have a blue collar mentality and come to work everyday.” Anderson displayed his high expectations for his first Jesuit team by scheduling a tough preseason, playing Dallas Jesuit, IMG Academy, and Louisiana state champs NO Jesuit.

Most notable returners were Andrew Eichelberger and Ben Medrano, both of whom officially signed to play Division 1 lacrosse at Lehigh and Furman, respectively, next year. Accompanying them were defenseman Christian Charbonnet, goalie Sam Kretchmar, midfielder Sam Bastian, attackman Jacob Piekielniak, and a massive senior class. Seamus McFarland and Sean Mowatt-Larssen were talented sophomores, joining the varsity team in their first season of eligibility. The senior class was highlighted by the plethora of defensemen, setting the stage for another successful year. Anderson’s offensive background will work to improve the goal production from the previous season.

The addition of Coach Anderson and a considerably large senior class brought fresh energy and plenty of talent to do well. Recently, Texas high school lacrosse has seen many revisions in its playoff structure. Regardless, SJ lacrosse sets its sight on excelling in the city playoffs and competing at the state tournament.

SJ lacrosse begun their preseason by traveling to Dallas for the Play 4 Parkinson Tournament located at Episcopal School of Dallas. At the tournament, Jesuit played three opponents based in Dallas and Austin. SJ faced ESD, Plano West, and Southlake in a span of two days. The Crusaders continued to prepare for the regular season by competing against NO Jesuit, Memorial, Dallas Jesuit, and St. Johns.

Following a victory over St. Johns, SJ faced their first district matchup against Kinkaid at home. Jesuit’s defense broke down late and the offense forced many turnovers losing control of the game in the fourth quarter. The final score ended at 6-13, Kinkaid. The Crusaders were led by seniors Stuart Parsley with 2 goals, Andrew Eichelberger notching 1 goal and two assists, and Ben Medrano tallying five ground balls.

Coach Anderson wanted to keep his team fresh traveling to Tampa, Florida over spring break. First, Jesuit met Tampa Jesuit for an exhibition and fell short in a thriller 8-10. Their final opponent was the famed IMG Academy. Despite losing 7-14 to a talented team, Anderson was pleased his his team’s performance, commenting, “It was the first time I have seen this team play up to their potential.”

The Crusaders looked to continue improving in their second district matchup. SJ approached the game with a must-win attitude to keep their playoff hopes alive. The game was an uphill battle for the start as Houston Christian dominated face offs. However, the Crusaders ground it out it out defensively and played patient, smart offense. Ultimately, the game would continue to a double-overtime, sudden-death period. Finally, Jacob Piekielniak scored the game winner. However, the game was headlined by the performance of secondary goalie Spencer O’Connor filling in for absent Sam Kretzschmar. O’Connor made multiple saves in the two sudden death overtimes giving his team multiple chances. Anderson, proud of his team for their late win, said, “I think the team is really starting to gel and things are clicking.”

SJ needed to win two of their last three games against Seven Lakes, Cy Ranch, and the Woodlands. Unfortunately, the Crusaders won only one game against Cy Ranch, missing the playoffs in a tie breaker between Seven Lakes and Houston Christian.

Andrew Eichelberger and Ben Medrano were both nominated for All American honors, awaiting the results. Coach Anderson praised the senior class for their resiliency of sticking with the program through three head coaching changes. As Anderson has more time at Strake Jesuit, he will look to build a more comprehensive program for success in the future.