Gielczyk: St. Francis Continues Building Process

Getting their first playoff win is paramount on the minds of the Traverse City St. Francis Gladiators as they head down the home stretch of the boys lacrosse regular season.

After years playing as a club team, this is their third as a Michigan High School Athletic Association program. They’re eager to start making some noise in the post-season.

One of the smallest, if not the smallest, schools playing MHSAA lacrosse, the Gladiators are frequently going against much larger schools.

St. Francis has 29 players, including 12 seniors and five returning starters from last year in Even McGee, Grant Buell, Henry Carroll, Chris Deneweth and Brennan Nickodemus.

All of them have brought a lot of experience and maturity to the team, which is particularly invaluable since St. Francis doesn’t have a junior varsity this season.

“So the older guys have made a particular effort to make the young guys feel like they’re part of the program, although they might not be getting much by way of playing time,” coach Mike Carroll said.

Henry Carroll, the coach’s son, has been the Gladiator’s leading scorer the last three years. Interestingly enough, he actually has more assists than goals, showing his unselfish nature and playmaking abilities.

Planning to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point next year and play for the Black Knights’ men’s lacrosse team, Carroll has scored about 20 goals so far.

“He played some basketball as a younger kid and I think he sees it (the field) well,” coach Carroll said.

Buell, who’s going to be playing lacrosse at Aquinas, is one of the Gladiators’ defensemen. Nickodemus also plays on defense and has shown great leadership.

Kaleb Miller, an All-State hockey player as a sophomore, is the Gladiators’ goalie and has a 65 percent save percentage, which is good in lacrosse.

“I think he’s got quick hands, and is a good athlete,” coach Carroll said. “And I think he maintains his poise. I think he doesn’t get too upset if one goes in. He’s been able to so far do a good job maintaining his focus.”

Although the Gladiators have a few plays they run on offense, at the end of the day the goal is to get the ball in the hands of their good players and let them try to break down the defense, and either shoot or find an open teammate.

The Gladiators finished 6-10 in their first year, improved to 10-9 last year and at 5-3-1 are on pace to have an even better record this year, although they have gone 0-2-1 since losing, 6-5 to Traverse City United last week.

Until then it appeared the Gladiators were well on their way to a remarkable season. They were 5-1 coming into the game with the United, their cross town rivals.

St. Francis senior Henry Carroll, coach Mike Carroll’s son, paced the Gladiators’ 15-5 win over Cadillac by scoring six goals. He had three a little more than six minutes into the game, only the second of the season. St. Francis enjoyed an 11-2 lead at the half.

Two starters, Grant Buell and Evan McGee, were unavailable because of injuries and watched the action from the sidelines.

Carroll scored four goals and contributed five assists in a 17-10 victory over Cadillac to improve to 5-1-1. PJ Carroll and Kobe Kolarevic each had three goals, while Sterling Holcomb, Evan McGee and Tyler Tafelski had two apiece for the Gladiators.

Everything was humming right along for the Gladiators, until they faced off against cross town rival TC United last Thursday and the express was knocked off the track in a crushing 6-5 loss. St. Francis defeated the United by one goal last year.

But, the Gladiators have no intention of letting that setback linger.

“I’ve been very pleased with how the guys have responded to the adversity of a tough loss,” coach Carroll said. “They’ve been really supportive of each other in practice, and having a lot of fun.

“It (the loss to TC United) was a well-played game. I was happy particularly with how our defense came through. Some nights, like a basketball game, a team doesn’t make their shots.

“We had a lot of opportunities, but we had a bunch (of shots) go off the post. Credit to TC United, they had a good defensive game plan and we couldn’t quite squeak by them.”

Even on a cold and rainy Monday night the Gladiators were having fun, preparing for a matchup Friday night in Petoskey, where they’ve never won against the Northmen.

It’s a chance for a rare season sweep.

The Gladiators topped the Northmen, 5-4 in the season opener at Thirlby Field in Traverse City on April 8 after taking a 5-3 lead in the final two minutes.

Carroll said Petoskey is well coached, and has a good defense. A win would be a good boost for the Gladiators heading into the final couple weeks of the regular season.

Petoskey typically plays a zone defense, Carroll said, so the Gladiators will have to be passing the ball crisply. St. Francis has done well against man-to-man defenses this season.

St. Francis runs a man-to-man defense, dropping into a zone toward the end of the game.

It’s been successful so far.

Getting their first playoff win is paramount on the minds of the Traverse City St. Francis Gladiators as they head down the home stretch of the boys lacrosse regular season.

After years playing as a club team, this is their third as a Michigan High School Athletic Association program. They’re eager to start making some noise in the post-season.

One of the smallest, if not the smallest, schools playing MHSAA lacrosse, the Gladiators are frequently going against much larger schools.

St. Francis has 29 players, including 12 seniors and five returning starters from last year in Even McGee, Grant Buell, Henry Carroll, Chris Deneweth and Brennan Nickodemus.

All of them have brought a lot of experience and maturity to the team, which is particularly invaluable since St. Francis doesn’t have a junior varsity this season.

“So the older guys have made a particular effort to make the young guys feel like they’re part of the program, although they might not be getting much by way of playing time,” coach Mike Carroll said.

Henry Carroll, the coach’s son, has been the Gladiator’s leading scorer the last three years. Interestingly enough, he actually has more assists than goals, showing his unselfish nature and playmaking abilities.

Planning to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point next year and play for the Black Knights’ men’s lacrosse team, Carroll has scored about 20 goals so far.

“He played some basketball as a younger kid and I think he sees it (the field) well,” coach Carroll said.

Buell, who’s going to be playing lacrosse at Aquinas, is one of the Gladiators’ defensemen. Nickodemus also plays on defense and has shown great leadership.

Kaleb Miller, an All-State hockey player as a sophomore, is the Gladiators’ goalie and has a 65 percent save percentage, which is good in lacrosse.

“I think he’s got quick hands, and is a good athlete,” coach Carroll said. “And I think he maintains his poise. I think he doesn’t get too upset if one goes in. He’s been able to so far do a good job maintaining his focus.”

Although the Gladiators have a few plays they run on offense, at the end of the day the goal is to get the ball in the hands of their good players and let them try to break down the defense, and either shoot or find an open teammate.

The Gladiators finished 6-10 in their first year, improved to 10-9 last year and at 5-3-1 are on pace to have an even better record this year, although they have gone 0-2-1 since losing, 6-5 to Traverse City United last week.

Until then it appeared the Gladiators were well on their way to a remarkable season. They were 5-1 coming into the game with the United, their cross town rivals.

St. Francis senior Henry Carroll, coach Mike Carroll’s son, paced the Gladiators’ 15-5 win over Cadillac by scoring six goals. He had three a little more than six minutes into the game, only the second of the season. St. Francis enjoyed an 11-2 lead at the half.

Two starters, Grant Buell and Evan McGee, were unavailable because of injuries and watched the action from the sidelines.

Carroll scored four goals and contributed five assists in a 17-10 victory over Cadillac to improve to 5-1-1. PJ Carroll and Kobe Kolarevic each had three goals, while Sterling Holcomb, Evan McGee and Tyler Tafelski had two apiece for the Gladiators.

Everything was humming right along for the Gladiators, until they faced off against cross town rival TC United last Thursday and the express was knocked off the track in a crushing 6-5 loss. St. Francis defeated the United by one goal last year.

But, the Gladiators have no intention of letting that setback linger.

“I’ve been very pleased with how the guys have responded to the adversity of a tough loss,” coach Carroll said. “They’ve been really supportive of each other in practice, and having a lot of fun.

“It (the loss to TC United) was a well-played game. I was happy particularly with how our defense came through. Some nights, like a basketball game, a team doesn’t make their shots.

“We had a lot of opportunities, but we had a bunch (of shots) go off the post. Credit to TC United, they had a good defensive game plan and we couldn’t quite squeak by them.”

Even on a cold and rainy Monday night the Gladiators were having fun, preparing for a matchup Friday night in Petoskey, where they’ve never won against the Northmen.

It’s a chance for a rare season sweep.

The Gladiators topped the Northmen, 5-4 in the season opener at Thirlby Field in Traverse City on April 8 after taking a 5-3 lead in the final two minutes.

Carroll said Petoskey is well coached, and has a good defense. A win would be a good boost for the Gladiators heading into the final couple weeks of the regular season.

Petoskey typically plays a zone defense, Carroll said, so the Gladiators will have to be passing the ball crisply. St. Francis has done well against man-to-man defenses this season.

St. Francis runs a man-to-man defense, dropping into a zone toward the end of the game.

It’s been successful so far.

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 ggielczyk@jackpine.net for story ideas. 

Categories: Lacrosse