Weekly Feature

2018-07-11 / Sports

St. Joe’s lax named Team of the Year

Sports Reporter

The 2016 season was the year St. Joe’s lacrosse finally broke through and won a Monsignor Martin Championship. The 2017 season proved that wasn’t a fluke and established the Marauders as the class of Monsignor Martin.

But 2018 was the year St. Joe’s dominated wire-to-wire, running away with the Monsignor Martin title and competing with some of the best teams in the country. For that, they are the 2017-18 Ken-Ton Bee Team of the Year.

The team wasn’t satisfied with two consecutive titles and wanted to continue to improve. That’s where the coaching staff came in. Assisting longtime head coach Peter Hudecki were goaltender coach John Currie, two offensive coaches in Mike Farrell and former Haverford College coach Colin Bathory, and defensive coach Chris Goss.

In the offseason, they worked to replace the guys graduating and improve as much as possible.

“After last year, we looked at the little things we had to focus on,” Hudecki said. “That’s kind of becoming more of an intricate process.”

There are a number of club teams that St. Joe’s compete with over the summer. They play tournaments over the summer and fall and practice over the winter. The program features an increasing number of players who are lacrosse-oriented.

The team started the season with a tough three-game stretch in the Southeast. The first game was against Jupiter High School in Florida, a team coached by former Orchard Park star Nick O’Hara. It was a 14-6 loss for the Marauders, who were playing a team that already had 15 games under its belt.

They then travelled to Virginia to play their annual game against the Collegiate School. After a few years of close losses, they broke through with a 10-9 victory. “We’ve played the Collegiate School the past three years and lost by five or six, and then this year we beat them by one,” Hudecki said. “They’re the same program. It’s one of the top programs in the state. We love watching to see how we’re getting better. We’re doing the right thing, we’re going in the right direction. Our guys are doing the right thing.”

The third game was a moral victory, but a loss on the scoreboard. The team came out cold after a long travel day and fell behind by six goals. They came back to tie the game, but lost on a late goal. Despite the loss, the team gained some confidence.

“The kids kind of took that one hard; they were pissed,” Hudecki said. “They thought they had that game. We came out really sluggish. We played until like 10 a.m. after driving all day. We were down by six at one point, and the guys came back to tie it up. That showed us that we have the right guys; we just have to figure out how to do it. They fought really hard to come back in those games.”

The Marauders would only lose once more all regular season, a one-goal game to Penn Yan. They also won some impressive non-league affairs against McQuaid, Pittsford, Christian Brothers Academy, Aquinas and Brighton.

“Then when we came back; we had some really good competition with some of the Section V teams we played and CBA Syracuse,” Hudecki said. “Those games are really good in getting us ready for the playoff run.”

Meanwhile, they absolutely dominated in league play, going 8-0 and winning the average game by 11.25 goals. They did not have any letdowns, and none of the games were closer than six goals.

“Last year, we would struggle, then dominated, then struggled,” Hudecki said. “This year, we just took care of business. They watched the film, they understood the matchup, they worked hard when they were on the field and had the opportunity. It makes it easy when you have a lot of really good kids. It was just a lot of fun to coach these guys.”

The team continued to roll into the playoffs, with an 18-5 victory over Canisius in the semifinals and a 9-4 win over Nichols for their third-straight Monsignor Martin title.

“It means as a program we’re headed in the right direction,” Hudecki said. “I think we’re just going to get stronger from here on out.”

The team then moved on to the state championship game, where they fell to Chaminade 19-5. It was a tough matchup against a much larger team.

“They had 24 Division I commits and they had 50 guys on the sideline,” Hudecki said. “They had three of every spot. That was a tough game. I was really proud of our guys. They could have come out and tucked their tails and said, ‘It’s Chaminade, we’re going to get killed.’ But it was 5-3 after the first and 8-4 at halftime. We had come back from bigger deficits than that. But the problem was we had 15 or 16 guys who could handle that type of game and they had 50.”

Despite the loss, the team has made an incredible jump over the past few years. They’ve gone from searching for their first league title to aiming to be among the strongest in the state. The hiring of athletic director Brian Anken has played a major role in that turnaround.

“Our new athletic director, Brian Anken, is a former Division I lacrosse coach,” Hudecki said. “He brings that to the table, too. We have all these different things happening that are helping the program out. We have great coaches, a great athletic facility, a great athletic director. We have great kids that are coming into the program that want to work hard. These are athletic. They work hard; they get after it. They go to showcases, they play on travel teams, they hit the weight rooms, they’re doing things to try to get faster and stronger. We’re finally going in the right direction. It took forever and a day, but it’s going in the right direction.”

The Marauders plan to keep up their dominance over Monsignor Martin. They’re playing for club teams and coming together for tournaments over the summer. They’ll have their annual camp in August. They’ll lose just a small group of seniors this year, including four future college players. Next year, they’ll likely have five Division I seniors and several other college players. It’s likely we haven’t seen the best of St. Joe’s lacrosse yet.

“Next year’s class is going to be ridiculous,” Hudecki said. “We’re probably going to have five Division I and a couple Division II guys. The focus for our guys now is playing lacrosse and just wanting to play at the next level.”

Other teams considered for this honor included Cardinal O’Hara girls basketball, Mount St. Mary bowling and lacrosse, St. Joe’s baseball and soccer and Kenmore West girls cross country.

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