By John Knebels
LANSDALE – When it comes to household names in the world of local lacrosse teams, Lansdale Catholic doesn’t quite come to mind.
You might want to add the word “yet” somewhere in that assessment.
While it is too early to determine whether or not the Crusaders can compete with the likes of defending champion La Salle College High School, it is apparent that the Lansdale Catholic program has advanced enough to where this year’s 7-1 start (through April 20) should not be taken as a shock.
A minor surprise? Perhaps.
“I’m the coach, so of course I’ll say I’m not surprised,” said second-year coach Brian Kilpatrick. “But at the same time, we did lose some key players to graduation and to see how these guys have responded has been impressive. It’s exciting to see how we have done thus far.”
A native of Annapolis, Md., Kilpatrick pointed to the first week of May as a true barometer of where the Crusaders stand.
During that rugged stretch, Lansdale Catholic will meet North Penn, Archbishop Wood and La Salle. North Penn is Lansdale Catholic’s neighborhood rival; the winning squad will gain temporary bragging rights. Wood, according to Kilpatrick, is the “closest Catholic League team we are trying to catch and pass in our quest to keep growing.” La Salle is, well, La Salle.
“We can finish that week feeling good about our chances if we take care of business the way we can,” said Kilpatrick. “There can’t be excuses why we can’t perform well against those teams.”
The Crusaders rely on upperclassmen leadership at every position. Leading scorer Liam Malley, a junior, teams up with senior Pat White on the attack. Seniors Jesse Fields and Kyle Plasha man the midfield while seniors Jon Curtis, Ethan Barrett and Dan Frantz comprise the starting defense in front of junior goalie Chris Bray.
Kilpatrick lauded his defense for their intelligent play.
“It’s one thing to be a good athlete, and it’s another thing to know how to play,” said Kilpatrick. “Those guys are pretty smart. They ‘get it.’ And that is what’s most important. They understand where to be and how to play.”
Kilpatrick said it took a full year for the Crusaders to learn and comprehend his system. Now that they feel more comfortable about the game plans; it is easier for the Crusaders to rely on their instincts because they no longer hesitate before making a pass or changing their positioning. Too, Lansdale Catholic’s bevy of seniors includes many who have been four-year starters. For the more established schools, that is common, but not so much for a program that is still trying to develop its own winning reputation.
Meanwhile, a steady growth of developmental programs throughout the area is creating more balance among the teams in Eastern Pennsylvania. A sport that in the past possessed a clear distinction of “haves” and “have nots,” there are several programs that have shown vast improvement over the past couple of years.
Lansdale Catholic being one of them.
“You are seeing a greater all-around depth of talent available to many schools, rather than only a few,” said Kilpatrick. “Some teams aren’t that far behind the powerful programs now. They’re nipping at their heels.
“We’ve only had the sport for six seasons, but already we see the commitment level growing. Hopefully, we’ll have alumni come back and assist as coaches. That’s when you really know you are an established program.”
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org