The Bees are 5-1 after a 13-6 victory over Youngstown Mooney on Saturday. The big win was nothing new; the team has outscored the opposition 73-24. That's particularly impressive for a school with an all-volunteer coaching staff in just its fifth season of competition.
"The program has really taken off," head coach John Falko said. "We have had a good season so far, but have some tough games coming up. I'm really excited about the next couple of years. We have some outstanding sophomores and juniors."
Josh Nenadal, scored six goals against Mooney. That tied fellow junior Michael Taylor for the team's season high. Taylor scored six goals in the Bees' previous win, 15-5 over Brunswick on April 18. Taylor had five goals in a 10-5 win over Stow on April 14.
"Mike is probably our best all-around player and provides a lot of leadership on the attack," Falko said. "Josh is great on faceoffs and that's such a key part of the game. You win faceoffs and ground balls, you're in good shape. Possession is everything in lacrosse. You can't score without the ball."
Nenadal doesn't shy away from contact, either. That's something he enjoys as a top scorer for the Cleveland Barons hockey team, where he also has a nose for the goal.
Against Mooney, Nenadal won the opening faceoff at midfield, raced around a Cardinals defender, put on a spin move and fired in a goal from about 15 yards out. Eight seconds into the game, the Bees led, 1-0. He added a second goal at 7:24 to tie the score at 2 before the Bees scored six consecutive goals to take command.
Luke Toburen made it 3-2 with 1:09 left in the first quarter, then Jason LaPierre scored twice in a 12-second span to make it 5-2. Randy Zak's goal at 5:35 of the second quarter put the Bees ahead by four, then LaPierre and Nenadal each completed their hat tricks by scoring their third goals of the game for an 8-2 advantage 55 seconds before halftime.
Nenadal added three more goals in the second half, when Toburen and Taylor also scored.
Meanwhile, goalie Karl Robie came up with some big saves as Mooney kept applying offensive pressure in an effort to get back into the game. The Cardinals got within 11-6 with 7:40 to play, but Nenadal scored 16 seconds later and added his final goal with 4:14 to play.
"These guys are antsy to play today," Falko had said before the match. "The sun is shining, the weather's warm, and I think they want to get after it. We have had it better than most teams because we arranged to practice in an indoor facility and we have the all-turf field. That makes it a little easier on the program because the weather sure has been terrible for everybody this month."
Falko is not surprised by the strong start. He sensed improved team unity at the beginning of the season and said his four team captains have really helped mold the club.
"The team chemistry is off the charts," Falko said. "We have a lot of good players, but there's no substitute for everybody getting along and working towards a common goal. That goes a long way. The seniors help the younger players and are not jealous when the sophomores and juniors get playing time. The younger guys respect the seniors. It's really a good group.
"We've got four captains, all seniors. Andrew Bell and Billy Skebba have been in the program for four years. Gino DiGeronimo is one of those guys who will do anything for the team. Jake Houk is only in his second year, but he's taken on a big role as a standout defenseman."
Falko noted that a strong parents group, led by Terri Murray and Pat Stankey, has helped the program grow.
"Our volunteers are unbelievable," Falko said. "The enthusiasm for the team helps. We don't cut players. We want everybody to participate. I hope that doesn't change as the sport gains in the community. Right now, we are very community oriented and that's a good thing, win or lose."
Falko cautions that the entire team will have to keep improving in order to compete against tougher competition in the second half of the season.
"Mentor will be a big game and Benedictine is a big rivalry and a tough test," Falko said. "Another tough one coming up will be Shaker Heights."
Mentor had a 7-3 record, Benedictine was 4-3 and Shaker Heights 2-5 through Saturday's games.
"Don't let Shaker's record fool you; they play some of the tougher teams in the area," Falko said. "The same with Mooney. They have a losing record, but those losses are against some of the best teams in Ohio."
Mooney's varsity fell to 2-8 on Saturday, when Brecksville-Broadview Heights' JV team improved to 5-1 with an exciting 3-2 double-overtime win against the Cardinals.
The Bees' JV team trailed 2-0 at halftime. Sean Arthur, assisted by Evan Harcourt, made it 2-1 in the third quarter and Jack Grisko, assisted by Tommy Ferry, tied it with 4:37 to play in regulation. Grisko passed to Dom Camperchioli for the winning goal with 1:59 left in the second overtime.
"We don't have a feeder program into the high school, which means we spend a lot of time on fundamentals with the younger players," Falko said. "But I've got two fabulous assistant coaches. Jim Fallon played at Notre Dame. Rick Hutchinson played at Bowling Green. They really know the game and know how to teach it."
Falko played at Ohio Wesleyan, which has one of the better collegiate programs in Ohio.
"Well, I was on the team," he modestly said. "Jim and Rick, they were players. I suited up and learned a lot."
One thing Falko learned was about safety in the extremely physical sport. While players can be sent off for penalties, resulting in the opponent getting a one-minute man advantage, there's plenty of rough and tumble play allowed. There's little padding for players who are running full speed and carrying heavy sticks. Players can run into an opponent to knock him off his feet and use their sticks to smack an opponent's stick in an effort to dislodge the ball. More often than not, they end up hitting the player, which is why helmets and mouthguards are mandatory.
"We're very safety conscious," Falko said. "We've got top-of-the-line helmets and preach to players to go out and play hard, but play clean. By tradition, lacrosse is a respectful sport. The idea is to run into space, get the ball, and shoot."
The Bees haven't had any problems with that philosophy thus far this season.
2011 Bees Boys Varsity Lacrosse Schedule, according to the team's website:
April 5: Defeated Notre Dame Cathedral Latin, 6-2
April 8: Defeated Holy Name, 18-0
April 11: Lost to Padua, 11-6
April 14: Defeated Stow, 10-5
April 18: Defeated Brunswick, 15-5
April 23: Defeated Youngstown Mooney, 13-6
April 27: vs. Lake Catholic, 6 & 7:30 p.m.
April 29: vs. Mentor, 6 & 7:30 p.m.
April 30: vs. Benedictine, 1 & 2:30 p.m.
May 3: at West Geauga, 5:30 & 7:30 p.m.
May 6: vs. Eastlake North, 7:30 p.m.
May 9: at Avon Lake, TBA
May 11: at Shaker Heights, 5 & 7:30 p.m.
May 13: vs. Strongsville, 6 & 7:30 p.m.
(When two times are shown, earlier time is for JV match)
2011 Bees Boys Varsity Lacrosse Roster:
12 Aaron Gerow
39 Karl Robie
3 Erik Odabashian
9 Mike Comiono
24 Jake Houk
35 Alan Wilde
44 Nick Fallon
46 Mike Stankey
53 Tony Martella
7 Jake Clifford
10 Gino DiGeronimo
13 Andrew Bell
15 Luke Toburen
17 Billy Skebba
18 Joe Platko
21 Frankie Savena
22 Randy Zak
23 Josh Nenadal
36 Alex Robinson
48 Kyle Allen
55 Matt Pallone
2 Tyler McLaughlin
5 Mike Taylor
8 Danny Wisniewski
28 Ryan Iwaszkiw
34 Jason LaPierre
Head coach: John Falko
Assistant coach, JV head coach: Jim Fallon
Assistant coach: Rick Hutchinson