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2018 WHSBLA Preseason Rankings

Oh boy, it’s that time of year again! Washington high school boys lacrosse is back and ready to leave their previous seasons behind them and prove that they have what it takes to bring a championship to their school. If we know anything about high school lacrosse it's that every year is different, and advantages change and shift all the time. Are we excited!?

Before we can jump into our preseason rankings, we should probably know what happened in the off-season. The biggest change happened on September 12th, when the WHSBLA board decided to reclassify the Seattle Academy Cardinals and Archbishop Murphy Wildcats as Private. As such both are now eligible to qualify for the Private School playoffs, bringing the pool of candidates for the Private School Championship from eight to ten. This also means that two 2017 state champions have the possibility of competing for a repeat against each other (Eastside Catholic and Seattle Academy).

Ten teams may be a small pool, but the quality of those teams is large enough to pay attention to. Oh, and the Ballard Beavers are back on a Metro D1 schedule because they decimated their Metro D2 opponents in 2017. Will they be up to the challenge this year?

Now that you’re all caught up, lets dive in:

Private School – Preseason Top 5 Teams:

#1 - Eastside Catholic Crusaders (10-0) – Metro

No surprise to see last year’s state champion the Eastside Catholic Crusaders in our number one spot in the Private classification. They dominated every game they played last year, only losing two non-league games and crushing everyone in the Metro Conference.

The Crusaders graduated six players from last year’s championship team including top scorer attackman Ryan Grazko, who ended his time with Eastside Catholic with 32 goals. He was one of three players including senior midfielder Jack Sercu and junior attackman Eric Prologo that terrorized their conference throughout the season with a whopping 92 goals altogether. Crusader fans will be eager to welcome back their captain, returning senior midfielder Joey Matte, who bagged a very impressive 88 ground balls on their road to state championship glory.

Great news is they have 11 returning seniors that will be coming in seasoned and motivated after their championship victory last year. With the Private classification only holding ten teams it could be another easy road for them to the finals as they continue to show dominating consistency under head coach Charles Goodman’s lead.

#2 - O’Dea Fighting Irish (6-4) – Metro

As last year’s runner-up for the state championship, the Fighting Irish hold the number two spot, but not without contention. Seattle Prep could justify a second place spot in their conference if you looked at their overall record of 9-5 and their second ranked offense and defense, but O’Dea walks away with a better conference record and that trumps the Panthers in this list.

This brawling Irish team had a young squad last year with only four graduating seniors and 20 sophomores and juniors. They allowed more goals than they scored last season, but with a seasoned upperclassman team it could be likely that we’ll see them tighten this up. Their first two games will really set the tone for their season as they face the two strongest teams in the state; Bellevue week 1, Eastside Catholic week 2. Yikes…

#3 - Seattle Prep Panthers (5-5) – Metro

The Panther’s record hardly reflects the quality of lacrosse this team put out last season. Four of their five losses were by two goals or less as they carried a second place offense and defense in their respective division.

Despite graduating eight seniors last year, Seattle Prep will be welcoming back their top three scoring leaders. Returning senior attackman Brennan Holmes, senior attackman Sergei Jacobs and sophomore attackman Lucas Wathen accounted for 67 of their league goals last season.

This Panther team is definitely not one to sleep on as they have given their rivals great games, only to come up a goal or two short. They’ll have a deep playoff route if they close those gaps and I’m sure head coach Rich Stearns fully plans on it.

#4 - Seattle Academy Cardinals (11-2) – Metro

The Cardinals preseason ranking may seem low given their respected championship victory last year. It’s difficult to compare them to our top three because they traditionally have played a Metro D2 schedule, but their trophy deserves recognition.

Seattle Academy enjoyed an amazing season last year only losing to a very hot Ballard Beavers team twice. Playing a Metro D2 schedule in 2017 paved the way for the playoffs as they bull dozed their way through every team resulting in their second WHSBLA State Championship trophy. It remains to be seen if a Metro D2 schedule in 2018 can pave the way for the same type of playoff success this season.

Returning senior attackman Grant Sorenson will look to top an impressive season of 35 goals and 14 assists. Their schedule looks much weaker than their future play-off opponents so they’ll need to double their efforts if they want to make it passed the first round this season.

#5 – Lakeside Lions (3-7) – Metro

The Lions had a rough season last year but they weren’t alone as four other teams in the conference had a similar or worse record. There is a lot of hope for this team with a rising star in their returning sophomore midfielder Jake Johnson who led this team last season with 29 goals. After graduating eight of their players, they’ll need this kind of leadership as they look to younger poles to rise up in this competitive conference. They comfortably hold our fifth ranked spot despite a tough schedule

Potential Dark Horse:

Archbishop Murphy Wildcats (9-1) – Northwest

This Wildcat team tore up their Northwest conference with a sole loss to the 1A/2A State Championship runner-ups, the Bellingham Raiders. Their season ended out of character with a shutout loss to the Liberty Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. For a team that only had three regular season games fewer than 10 goals, this was a travesty. Their playoff route may have gotten tougher, reclassified into the Private bracket and the loss of their top two scoring players midfielder Bennett Duffy and Joseph Doyle with 90 combined goals leaves them in this year’s potential Dark Horse.

1A/2A – Preseason Top 5 Teams:

#1 - Bellingham Raiders (9-1) – Northwest

Bellingham was so close to their first WHSBLA state championship having survived three tough rounds on the road to the finals, only to lose to Seattle Academy 4-12 in the championship. Their future is uncertain as they graduated three key seniors at the end of their season that made up three of their top four scorers.

Mid-April will really test their metal as they get to play a pair of non-league games against powerhouses like Seattle Prep and Skyline. They’ll really need to rely on their young poles this year and prove their success is not a fluke if they want another deep playoff run.

#2 - Liberty Patriots (9-1) – KingCo

The Patriots were two goals away from a finals appearance before the Seattle Academy Cardinals sent them home. Now that the Cardinals are no longer classified 1A/2A, there is yet another golden opportunity for this Patriot team to get into the championship game. They should see repeat success from returning seniors attackman Reilly Larson and attackman Jackson Wray who combined 44 goals in their conference last season.

#3 – Vashon Vultures (9-3) – Olympic

Vashon’s defense carried them to the playoffs beautifully with only allowing 78 goals in 12 games last season. Their success was greatly attributed to their graduating senior goalie John McMillan (63% Saves) who they will miss this year. Their offense remains strong however with returning senior attackman Max Schira and junior attackman Kiryk Mozeleski, who combined 64 goals last season. Their chances for a greater playoff run increase with recent reclassifications of Seattle Academy and Archbishop Murphy.

#4 – White River Hornets (9-3) – Pierce County

The Hornets breezed through their conference last year but struggled against rival opponent Bonney Lake (10-0). They will have returning senior attackman Matt Funkhouser available after his explosive 2017 season with 35 conference goals. They’ll need their defense to put up a stronger performance than their 145 goals allowed last year if they want a chance at the championship. Regardless, they hold a comfortable number four spot as they continue to show their strength in their respective conference.

#5 – Overlake Owls (8-5-1) – Metro

Overlake sits alone as Metro's only 1A/2A classified team due to Seattle Academy’s reclassification.. They were robbed of a deeper playoff run after a heart breaking overtime loss to Sehome in the first round. With returning senior attackman Jack Johanneson coming off a 26 goal season, they will look to repeat their playoff berth with slightly less competition. This team is full of young poles creating a strong upperclassmen squad that could be looking at a successful playoff campaign.

3A – Preseason Top 5 Teams:

#1 - Bellevue Wolverines (7-1) – KingCo

No surprise here as the Bellevue Wolverines continue to show dominance in Washington Lacrosse after winning their 13th state championship since it’s 1979 inception. Head coach Nick Welton took over the team late in the season and lost his first game against Mercer Island, but in no way did this slow them down as they had their revenge match in a decisive 12-4 state championship victory.

The Wolverines graduated seven seniors last year, including top two scorers attackman Cameron McMahon (12g) and Justin Backer (11g). With a strong reputable program, this team has been very efficient at growing their team year-by-year. It would be an outright shock to not see them put on another dominating performance this year, but there are enough hungry teams like Bainbridge and Mercer Island that could dethrone this titan if they get complacent. Either way, it’s never a dull game with the Wolverines.

#2 - Mercer Island Islanders (7-1) – KingCo

A true championship team lives in this mighty Islander team as they are stacked with young talent across the field. Their top four scoring players were sophomores last year and they were deadly on the field. What truly made this team a championship contender was their defense, with a late season adjustment to a slightly more complicated, but effective, zone defense.

I wouldn’t be worried if I was an Islander fan because the growth of this young team, showed late in last season, could spell upset for a Bellevue team that is most definitely looking for another repeat. It will be interesting to see how O’Hearn will shape this club this year as he’s proven to be good at exploiting the strengths of his key players.

#3 - Bainbridge Spartans (6-4) – Metro

Good and bad news for this prolific Spartan team. Losing graduated senior captains, attackman Max Oden (18g, 15a) and defenseman Lucas Pedersen (50gb) will be a tough recovery. They also must overcome the transfer of sophomore midfielder Avery Porter (14g, 6a) to O'Dea. Good news is their depth in talent is formidable with returning junior attackman Merritt McMahon (22g, 11a). It’s a tough conference in Metro but Bainbridge has, and will most likely always be, a team to beat.

#4 - Juanita Rebels (2-5) – KingCo

Juanita’s 2017 season record may be ugly but their strength of schedule year-by-year merits their number four spot on this season’s list. Their three-playoff victories last year are worth crediting as they continue to prove that KingCo teams are never easy for any non-conference team in Washington.

The only two players with over 10 recorded conference goals graduated last year leaving returning sophomore attackman Carson Gabelein (9g, 2a) and senior midfielder Jake Campbell (8g, 2a) to lead their team, though junior, Connor Bell will transition from attack to midfield and be a solid foce. Juanita fields one of the more formidable defensive units led by the core of junior Jake Hohu (LSM), senior Ty Maurer (LSM) and senior Jack Johnson. The road is tough but the Rebels have fought their way deep into the playoffs last year so expectations are even higher in 2018.

#5 - Stanwood Spartans (11-0) – Wesco

What a year for the Stanwood Spartans with only one in-conference game under 10 goals they owned the Western Conference with relative ease. They sit under the Juanita Rebels in this year’s list for a couple reasons: 1. They graduated nine seniors last year including the Greene brothers who controlled both sides of the ball and lead scoring attackman Ty Heuer (34g, 11a). 2. The only time they played the Rebels was in the first round of the playoffs to which they lost by a single goal in their most important game of the year.

The Spartan’s young poles will need to rally behind returning senior attackman Tyler Rich who had a stellar year with 29 goals and 14 assists. Although change can be uncertain, I wouldn’t bet on this team missing the playoffs this season as they haven’t had an incredibly difficult time standing on top of their conference.

Potential Dark Horse:

Ballard Beavers (14-0) – Metro

The Beavers are an easy potential Dark Horse in this season as head coach Don Preston gets the chance to test his team against some of the best in Washington this year. Metro D2 did not appear to be challenging enough for this high scoring team as they were nearly averaging 15 goals per game. Their ability to control an entire game was sorely tested late in their season when they suffered crushing defeats to both Mercer Island and Bellevue.
High School sports tug at the heartstrings just like college due to the fact that these kids have to, you know, graduate. I don’t know if any team will miss a player more than Ballard having to say good-bye to the State’s lead assist artist, attackman Kai Chamberlain (30g, 62a). This kid proved the value of assists as he set his own goal stat aside for the betterment of his team. The Beavers will ride on the backs of returning seniors attackman Guss Simpson (47g, 6a) and attackman Cole Erkenbeck (26g, 7a) in attempt to pull out a few wins in what is one of the toughest conferences to play in.

4A – Preseason Top 5 Teams:

#1 - Skyline Spartans (7-1) – KingCo

A banner year for Skyline in 2017 as they had the opportunity to open up a brand new gorgeous field and bring home a state championship all in one season. Winning the championship was one thing but their victory against an unstoppable Eastside Catholic team in the first week of last April was a statement to say the least.

Head coach Sam Hutson’s philosophy has openly been about building his players up to not only be a championship caliber team but also be positive impacts within their community. His methods can’t be ignored in terms of the results he is producing from this formidable championship team. Though it won't be easy to replicate in 2018. It’s not easy losing your top four highest scoring players. Their offense is taking a hit this year and losing graduating senior goalie Lucas Tjom (43% sv) will not help either.

Skyline gets the nod as #1 however due to the return of All-American, Will Carson. The senior long stick will have to carry a heavier load this year but he is capabale. Junior Kellen Hoke's ability at the faceoff X will also help lead the way. With Hutson’s direction I would expect a very similar season.

#2 - Eastlake Wolves (4-3) – KingCo

The closest championship game came in the 4A title bout when Eastlake and Skyline clashed at Starfire Stadium last year. The Wolves came out hungry and proved they belonged before falling short/
This team will continue to be a contender with returning seniors Andrew Edwards (9g, 4a) and Hunter Klinge (9g, 4a). Head coach Chris O’Dougherty likes to play aggressively and he will keep pushing this team toward that trophy and running over everyone in his path.

#3 - Woodinville Falcons (4-4) – KingCo

Former coach Will Corrigan has moved to the college ranks leaving the job to Pete Crowley to keep the Falcons flying at the high level they reached last year. Senior Andrew Ng (LSM) is one of the state's best though slightly overshadowed playing in the same conference as Will Carson. Returning senior attackman Zachary Barnett and Junior Max VanWinkle combined for 20 goals last season. They will be pivotal in the growth for this team if Woodinville hopes to make a deeper run this year.

#4 - Tahoma Bears (12-0) – Puget Sound

The Tahoma Bears were a goal-scoring giant last year with 289 conference goals in 12 games. Four of their players last season had over 20-recorded goals each, but they had to say good-bye to attackman Matthias Taylor (50g, 15a) and midfielder Eli Przychodzen (21g, 11a). Their high-powered offense didn’t get them very far into the playoffs after a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Issaquah Eagles in their first round.

They will be looking to returning juniors Jack Warm (41g, 12a) and Ben Kindgren (36g, 17a) to continue their offensive success in this season. This is a team that doesn’t seem to struggle in their conference so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them in another playoff appearance.

#5 - Issaquah Eagles (2-6) – KingCo

The Eagles had a relatively underwhelming year, finishing with a losing record and stopping one game short of the big show. Under the helm of head coach Brandon Fortier they were able to have an admirable playoff run beating an undefeated Tahoma team and an upstart Wenatchee squad only to lose to conference rivals the Eastlake Wolves in the semifinals.

Having graduated eight seniors including top scoring leaders midfielder James Rauch (10g, 4a) and midfielder Kyle Wisler (8g, 5a), this team is still knee deep in their growing period. Returning senior midfielder Jared Humenny led his team with 11 conference goals last year but he will need a lot of help from a young attack and an inexperienced defense if they want any continued success this season.

Potential Dark Horse:

Sumner Spartans (9-3) – Puget Sound

Sumner’s surprising performance last year earns their spot as this season’s potential dark horse. If they could secure a win against conference rival Tahoma they will have a higher chance for a deeper playoff run. Returning senior midfielder Thane Birrer (30g, 18a) and junior attackman Tyler Ruch (38g, 20a) will be pivotal in their continued growth this season. KingCo needs to keep an eye on this team if they want to protect their championship chance because this Spartan team is gearing up to make waves.

Story by Michael Thornbloom

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