Gielczyk: TC United Lacrosse Finding its Way in Second Varsity Season
Last year, the Traverse City United boys lacrosse team, a combined team from Traverse City Central and Traverse City West, made its debut and finished 11-5 and lost 8-6 to Hudsonville in the first round of the MHSAA state playoffs.
United trailed 6-1 at the half, but rallied to draw within just two goals with five minutes left. Unfortunately, the United could get no closer before time expired on their inaugural season.
This year has been a struggle so far, with United winning for only the second time in seven games Tuesday night when it dispatched Cadillac, 9-1 in what coach Liberty Provost said was a penalty marred contest.
Daniel Chang and Tanner Daray each scored three goals to lead the United while Matt Ochoa contributed two more and Ethan Richey chipped in with a goal and several ground balls.
Jack Olson was the main facilitator with four assists and Trey Zelinski assisted on three goals. United goalie Owen Walters had nine saves and Griffin Arends won nine faceoffs.
“We’re happy to get a win at this point,” Provost said. “We’re up and down. It’s been quite an interesting year so far. A lot of injuries. A lot of sicknesses. Haven’t really felt like we’ve been at full strength very often.
“But we got rolling a little bit (Tuesday), and had most of our guys relatively healthy. It was nice to get our full team out there for one of the first times this year.”
The faceoff guy plays an important role on the team. After every goal, and at the start of every quarter and half there’s a faceoff and the faceoff guys is counted on to win the majority of the clamps which in turn gives his team an advantage to win those possessions.
Arends was just called up from the junior varsity last Monday. The United has a couple of other options for that position, but Arends has taken the lead and will be given the majority of the faceoffs.
Rather than rely on one man guy to score, the United has a more balanced offense this year. The United spreads the ball around a little more, try to work the passing, work some cutters and play more of a team offense than it has in the past.
Walters, a junior from West, has been solid in net for the United. Provost says he makes all the plays, has a good head on his shoulders and is competitive. He comes to work hard every day.
The United has faced some good competition this season, but Provost felt that they were all winnable games and the team simply didn’t get the job done for one reason or another.
United snapped a two-game losing streak with the win over Cadillac.
“Yes, we’ve had some injuries and sickness, and kids in and out, but even with that I felt we should have won at least two or three of our other games,” Provost said.
“I can’t say that I’m super pumped up about how we’ve played so far. But, hey, we won (Tuesday) and we’re going to try to move forward. We’ve got a big game Thursday night (against Traverse City St. Francis at Thirlby Field) and another big one Saturday.
“It’s high school ball. You’ve just got to keep rolling with the punches, try not to get too low after the losses and try not to get too high after the wins.”
The United had a deep senior class last year that kind of carried the mail, and Provost knew it was going to take some time for the team to come around this year.
At the same time, the coach has high expectations for the team and he says he hopes it starts meeting them soon.
“It’s all about fundamentals, and the basics,” Provost said. “If we can catch the ball, we’ll be all right. If we can play solid, man-to-man defense without everybody trying to do somebody else’s job, we’ll be all right.
“Passing and catching the ball, putting our shots on cage. If we do those three things we can be a pretty good team.”
So far, the United hasn’t been consistent in any of those areas and is hoping that Tuesday night’s win against Cadillac is a sign of better things to come.
Time is growing short, though, with the opening round of the state playoffs coming up May 15-17.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for story ideas.