By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/15/08
Maybe the Philadelphia Barrage should be called “America’s Lacrosse Team.”
The two-time defending Major League Lacrosse champions open their season Sunday against the Washington Bayhawks at Virginia Beach, Va. Due to the pending sale of the team, none of the Barrage games will be played in Philadelphia; instead the team’s “home” games will be played mostly at sites the league is considering for possible expansion.
Regardless of where the games are held, the Barrage return their entire team intact. That alone makes Philadelphia a leading contender for the title. It also makes it a target for all to take aim.
“I think once you win it the first time, people come at you,” said Barrage fourth-year coach Tony Resch. “After you win it twice, people sort of say, ‘Anybody but them.’
“So, we certainly know every game will be huge test. It always is at this level. All the teams are so talented.
“But when you’re wearing a bulls-eye – make that two bulls-eyes, it’s that much more of a challenge. Then, you have the unique circumstances of the schedule, and it adds another level (of difficulty).”
Fortunately for Resch, he does not have to start over in building a championship-caliber team.
The Barrage, who tied Rochester atop the Eastern Division at 9-3 last year and defeated Los Angeles, 16-13, in the title game, featured both balance and depth last year. Four players – Ray Colsey (27 goals), Ryan Boyle (26), Michael Springer (26) and MLL championship game MVP Matt Striebel (25) – shared the scoring leadership last year. Other key weapons are Seth Goldberg (18 goals), Justin Smith (14) and Jed Prossner (13).
Boyle, Springer and Goldberg and Prossner are attackers while Colsey, Striebel and Smith are middies. Kevin Cassese (Lehigh head coach), Andy Corno, Matt Zash and Bobby Horsey (West Chester East) are other keys at midfield. Leading the defense are Kyle Sweeney (Springfield-Delco), Joe Ceglia, Brett Moyer (Ridley) and hard-hitting Brian Spallina. Bill McKinney (Penn Charter) is on the practice squad.
The goalkeepers are Brian Dougherty (Episcopal Academy) and Kevin Keenan (Springfield-Delco) while Eric Gregg (Episcopal Academy) is the practice squad reserve.
Dougherty (.580 save percentage), Boyle (league-leader in scoring with 58 points), Sweeney (29 groundballs), Spallina (14 groundballs) and Striebel (39 points) were all-league first-team picks last year.
“I guess it sounds like a cliché, but it comes back to the character of the guys on the team,” Resch said. “We have a pretty unique group. I think the guys accept that we lay out pretty specific roles for them.
“We have guys that are not playing the spotlight roles and they are outrageous players in their own right. But I am lucky that guys will say, ‘I will do whatever you need me to do.’ It’s the sum of the parts that makes us so successful.”
Resch also noted that the team’s balance makes it impossible for opposing defenses to focus on one or two players.
“Our balance is a real strength,” Resch said. “Certainly, we have key figures. But if somebody is having a bad day, someone on the next group on any given night can score two of three goals. Yet, when we’ve gotten to the nitty-gritty, our big dogs tend to play well.”
Slate guides San Francisco Dragons
Former Barrage assistant coach Tom Slate takes over at San Francisco, which went 4-8 and placed third in the Western Division last year. The Dragons open play Sunday at the Chicago Machine.
Slate, also the head coach of defending Pennsylvania boys’ champion Downingtown East, said he is aiming high in his first season.
“We want to get back to where we fell we belong and that is in Boston in the final four weekend,” he said.
The Dragons return veteran attackmen Liam Banks (26 goals, 11 assists) and Jake Byrne (17 goals) while Jarett Park (52 groundballs), Gregg Gurenlian (Springfield-Delco), Tim Booth, Hunter Lochte, Chris Keating and Todd Fairlie (Marple Newtown, Widener University) anchor the midfield.
The defense is led by Eric Martin (65 groundballs, made All-Star Game), Steve Holmes (Germantown Academy) and goalies Matt Vallone (made All-Star Game) and Matt Madalon.
Banks is a resident of North Wales, Montgomery County, while Ryan Still (Penn Charter) is a rookie midfielder. Gurenlian, nicknamed the “Beast,” is a Penn State grad who scored 10 goals last year. Holmes scooped 36 groundballs.
Slate, who is flying back-and-forth to his Dragons games on weekends to coach both teams, said he had many people to thank for the chance to be a professional head coach.
“I owe a bunch of people in my life, two of them being (Barrage coach) Tony Resch and Doug Locker, GM and VP of San Francisco,” he said. “Tony because I was able to learn from him and Doug because he believed in me and hired me as a coach. For that, I’m indebted to these guys for life.”
What is the difference between coaching high school and pro players?
“In high school you have to explain thoroughly to the kids and make sure they understand word for word,” he said. “In professional lacrosse you are just reviewing at a high level. Most, if not all, have seen everything in the sports so it is more of just reminding them.”
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