- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Entering the spring, the La Plata boys lacrosse team and head coach Kris Bayer have a good mixture of upperclassmen and underclassmen.
With seven returning starters to the lineup, the Warriors are striving to have another promising season after finishing 8-6 overall last season, 7-5 in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference for a sixth-place finish.
Bayer and offensive coach Andy Zurvalec, a former lacrosse standout at DeMatha, just marvel at how high the IQ has been on picking up new things that the staff is instilling to the players.
“This team [is] definitely more athletic than from a year ago,” said Bayer, the All-County Coach of the Year the last two seasons. “This season, we don’t have to rely on one man going to the cage. We will be able to work the ball around well and create mismatches.”
La Plata brings back six All-County first-team standouts, including reigning All-County Athlete of the Year Jake Bayer, who scored 25 goals and dished out 16 assists a year ago.
“We have great leadership from the seniors; we will go as far as they carry us,” the La Plata coach said. “They take the younger guys under their wing, and sometimes they are the coaches for us. I’ve coached a lot of kids, so it’s not a big adjustment; they know my style.”
Junior Bobby Stahl and senior Eric Erion will be alongside Bayer at attack for another season. Combined, they had 43 goals and 26 assists last year.
“We have a good mix of players that will benefit us, we return our whole attack and we have a freshman star that will help us a lot,” the younger Bayer said. “We are starting to see the affects from the Charles County Lacrosse Club, where a lot of players are coming from into our program.”
The freshman that Bayer mentioned was Austin Smith, who will be a strong defender for the Warriors and should adapt to the varsity level quickly.
Smith, who has played six years of lacrosse, is excited to make the transition to the high school ranks.
”Being only a freshman, it’s just crazy that I was able to make varsity and have a chance to start,” said Smith, who previously attended Milton M. Somers Middle School in La Plata. “It doesn’t matter what grade I am, I still have to do my part for the team. I’ve always been a fan of La Plata lacrosse, and I played with Coach Bayer for a few years in CCLC, so I’m pretty comfortable with everyone already.”
Coach Bayer added, “Austin is our best stick-handling defenseman; he’s very aggressive and is under control. He’s going from two practices at CCLC to six practices a week at the high school level, so it will be an adjustment. He will have to get used to the speed of the varsity.”
La Plata defensive coach Keith Vogel, a 1985 graduate of Archbishop Spalding in Anne Arundel County where he was a standout lacrosse player, said that Smith has played recreationally in the county for several years and is very familiar about the fundamentals of the sport.
“It’s nice to see a lot of kids come out from our youth program,” Vogel said. “Austin has size, and you can’t teach that. He has a lot to learn and is inexperienced for the high school level, but we are going to make sure that we put him in good situations.”
Senior captain and defender Jacob Fitch, a running back on the football team and member of wrestling team, is excited to start the lacrosse season, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. March 26 at Patuxent.
”The younger players that we have started playing lacrosse earlier than we did, so they are just as good as us,” said Fitch, who was an All-County first-team selection last season with 26 groundballs and one goal. “Our defense really improved, and if the offense keeps rolling, then we will definitely do well in SMAC this season. I love the coaches, my teammates and this sport. I can’t wait until the season starts.”
Kris Bayer said that the Warriors will have to replace All-County first-team midfielders Nathan Hupp and Greg Garner, who combined for 36 goals and 20 assists.
”Our midfield will definitely have to step up,” said Bayer, who also has a younger son Luke on the team as a sophomore goalie. “Richard Jackson, who is a junior for us, will be a scoring threat in that spot for us. We lack some varsity experience on our team, but we have a good mix that will help us.”
Last season, the Warriors went undefeated in county play and beat out-of county opponents Great Mills and Calvert during the regular season.
“Our goal is to go undefeated in the county again,” Jake Bayer said. “We want to compete with the Huntingtown, Northern and Leonardtown in SMAC.”
The younger Bayer added: “We’ve been through trials, and we want to be up there in the top three in SMAC. We feel confident, and we want to turn some heads.”