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Energized Canton lacrosse team ready to make statement

 Energized Canton lacrosse team ready to make statement

Senior attackman Gabe Schmoll (center) tries to pick up a ground ball in traffic against junior JD Poteracki and senior defenseman Dom Bello (red).

During a recent spirited practice on a half-grass/half-dirt field on the grounds of West Middle School, members of Canton’s boys lacrosse team fueled their teammates with positivity-themed shouts of encouragement, reflecting the enthusiasm that embodies their fifth-year head coach, Dean Hall.

Yes, the Chiefs lost most of last season’s defense to graduation and, no, their practice facility is not as pristine as many of the MHSAA’s powers, but it was a beautiful day to be wearing a Canton practice jersey — even though the skies were overcast and the temperature was typical early-April in southeast Michigan.

“I’m always optimistic,” said Hall, when asked about the expectations he holds for his team heading into the 2024 season. “If this team comes together, if it gels and the boys play for one another and do what it takes to be great, it’s going to be a great season.

“Offensively, we should be strong as about 90% of our offense is back from last season. Defensively, we lost our starting goalie and our top three defenders, so we’re new at that end; not necessarily young, but new. We have quite a few defensemen who played last year, but they didn’t start, so we need them to step up and fill their roles.”

Two-sport standouts

Hall said his roster is loaded with several multi-sport athletes — the Chiefs’ starting line-up includes multiple hockey and football players — who bring physicality and toughness to the sport that a high percentage of players don’t play until they reach high school.

Junior midfielder Chase Hodges dodges against senior defensive midfielder Adithya Varnasi as junior goalie Sam Kolodziej prepares for a shot
Junior midfielder Chase Hodges dodges against senior defensive midfielder Adithya Varnasi as junior goalie Sam Kolodziej prepares for a shot

“One reason lacrosse is such a cool sport is because it requires the speed of hockey, the physicality of football, the endurance of soccer and the X’s and O’s of basketball,” said Hall, who played lacrosse for Farmington High School and for Michigan State University’s club team.

“There’s a lot of off-the-ball movement and help defense, which is very translatable to basketball. Whenever there isn’t a college or pro lacrosse game on TV, I tell my players to watch the NBA because they can learn things about playing defense.”

Hall said winning the (Plymouth-Canton Educational) Park championship against campus neighbors Plymouth and Salem is always among the top goals for the Chiefs.

“Plymouth has been very good for a long time,” Hall said, “but they lost something like 17 seniors from last year’s team. Salem struggled the past couple years, but they’re loaded this year with a lot of seniors. We had a controlled scrimmage against them and they looked great.

“It’s always exciting to play the other P-CEP teams because we’re all in the same boat; we’re all club teams so we practice off-campus. The rivalry games bring out the best in everybody.”

Lockhart is dangerous

When asked about his most dangerous offensive players, Hall led off with sophomore Jack Lockhart.

Junior fogo Jake Low faces off against senior defensive midfielder Jushen Sidhu as assistant coach Jeff Rork gets them set
Junior fogo Jake Low faces off against senior defensive midfielder Jushen Sidhu as assistant coach Jeff Rork gets them set

“Jack will probably lead us in goals this season,” Hall predicted. “He is one of the few Park kids who was a high-level player coming in. He played for Dominate Lacrosse out of Novi in middle school.

“Usually, physicality is a problem for incoming freshmen, but it wasn’t for Jack. He plays bigger than he is. He’s gritty and super-skilled. Due partly to his vision and understanding of space on the field, he scored five goals in our playoff game against Salem last year.”

Senior attackman Charles Salowich is also expected to be cooking this year for the Chiefs — both on and off the field.

“Chuck’s older brother was one of our best players on our 15-3 team a few years ago,” Hall said. “Chuck is more of a finesse player than his brother; he’s smooth with the ball and without it.

“He’s also multi-talented as he is on P-CEP’s nationally-acclaimed culinary team. I’ve asked him, ‘Hey, when are you going to cater a team dinner for us, Chuck?'”

Next-level talent

Left-handed attack Gabe Schmoll, who has committed to play for Northwood University beginning in the fall, is a fierce competitor with top-shelf skills, Hall said.

Gabe Schmoll advances the ball upfield
Gabe Schmoll advances the ball upfield

“Gabe is the perfect example of an athlete who gets out of his sport what he puts into it,” Hall said. “He’s quick and he put on 25 pounds of muscle during the off-season. The progress he’s made from his freshman year until now is a testament to who he is as a human.”

The Chiefs’ last line of defense is junior goalie Sam Kolodziej, a first-year starter

“Sam will make saves he has no business making,” Hall said. “But he’s lacking in experience, so he’s going to make a mistake here and there, too, but that’s part of the growing process.”

Kolodziej’s job will be made easier by the return of starting defensive middies Nathan Oberliessen and Nick Parrish, both captains on Canton’s 2023-24 hockey team..

Sophomore attackman Jack Lockhart (white) looks to dodge against junior defender Kole Stanchina (red)
Sophomore attackman Jack Lockhart looks to dodge against junior defender Kole Stanchina

“We are going to lean on them a lot this year,” Hall said.

Other key contributors Hall praised were Lucas Amos, Leo Jividen, Alex Nielsen, Brian Walker, Dom Bello, Kole Stanshina and Jake Lowe.

Following a season-opening victory over Ann Arbor Pioneer on April 3, the Chiefs will make their home debut Saturday at 1 p.m. on the P-CEP varsity turf field against Midland Dow.

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or edwright@socialhousenews.com.

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Ed Wright

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