Spring break this week could not have come at a better time for St. Ed’s varsity boys lacrosse team, even with a game this Thursday against Academy of the New Church (Pa.).
A few days of rest and recuperation are just what the doctor ordered. Too many of the walking wounded on this team have spent more time sidelined than on the field.
The Pirates were 6-3 last week after an overtime loss to Benjamin, still another in a batch of strong opponents on a schedule designed to take this St. Ed’s team to a more elite level. That was the plan from day one even though circumstances seem to be conspiring against it.
“Last year I don’t think we had an injury or illness all season long,” second-year head coach Doug Bailey told us. “This year we’ve been through the ringer with the flu and some injuries. We are on the back end of a two-week stretch where 14 or 15 players were out with the flu. We literally didn’t practice, we would just go out and play the games.”
That was the situation as of last week. The roster of 32 players helped to weather the flu storm, but it will be difficult to compensate for season-ending injuries to Danny Walsh and Barrett Rhymes. Will Sternberg was cleared to play for the first time against Benjamin. Brian Minella and Austin Schepers will shed their walking boots and are expected back soon.
Those are some key players and the coaching staff is searching for ways to adjust. There is still a boatload of talent to work with and optimism hasn’t waned.
“Our goal is to try to win the district, there is no question about that,” Bailey said. “But first of all it’s to become the best team we can be. By that I mean I like to minimize what the other team can do and maximize what we can do. That’s my entire strategy and how I go about working with my team. I don’t expect that to happen right away. I have about a three-month plan so that we hopefully peak at the right time.
“January and February are the developmental months for our team culture. The kids get to know me and I get to know them. We work on strategies and concepts based on the personnel we have. In March we go into finer details for the best strategies that will work in April when it matters the most.
“I’ve been coaching long enough to know that some years you have teams that are really strong and other years you really have to coach them up. This year I have the luxury of coaching some personnel that I didn’t have last year. Obviously the influx of players from Vero Beach High has been helpful in establishing us as a relative power in our district.”
Eight former VBHS players transferred to St. Ed’s this year. At 3-0, the Pirates are in the driver’s seat in District 23 with wins over VBHS (17-4), Jensen Beach (13-8) and South Fork (18-3). A match with Martin County on March 21 concludes the regular-season district slate.
Bailey noted that now is the time to “push ourselves over the edge” and start beating the good teams they lost to last month, like St. Andrew’s and IMG Academy. The Pirates will find out soon with trips to face St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) and Bolles (Jacksonville). The coach is ready to take on an extra burden to get past that edge.
“When some of our top players were injured I thought we may have lost a serious chance to go really deep in the state playoffs,” Bailey said. “I’m thinking differently now and we are moving some people around to try to mitigate those losses.
“The original goal was to be very polished, to peak as individuals, and in a synergistic way be able to have great team performances when we get to the playoffs. That’s where I’m at and I have to put forth the effort to get them where I think they can go.”
Senior Chase Stokes – one of the “VBHS Eight” – leads the team with 31 goals in nine games.
“We’re a great team, but we have to deal with what we have.” Stokes said. “Without those injuries it would have been a different game, but we’ve come a long way from where we started. We can win the district for sure.
“I love it here. It was a great transfer for me and I believe all the transfers from Vero can say the same thing. I think there are a lot of good things to come for us.”