Saturday, July 5, 2014

Freeman Profile: CMH LAX - Start to State in 4 Years

from today's Waukesha Freeman -

CMH rises as champion
Crusaders win D2 state title in fourth year as a program
 Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA — Usually expansion teams don’t have much success right away. When a college decides to move up a division in a certain sport, the team usually takes a few lumps before building up the program.

The Catholic Memorial High School boys lacrosse team never got that memo.

In its fourth year of existence and third year as a varsity program, the Crusaders won the boys Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation Division 2 state title June 14 with a 19-8 victory over Stoughton at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater.

Four years ago, it was the father of a player who got the ball rolling for the CMH program. Mike Hoffmann watched his son, 2013 graduate Nolan, play for the Waukesha Nighthawks co-op team. With the help of Laurie Belmer, Waukesha’s boys director, he learned how to start up a high school team.

“We started out with 21 kids that first year, at which point 12 of them had never played before,” Hoffmann said. “It was a challenge to catch and throw the ball that first year. That’s pretty much all we did was practicing catching and throwing it.”

Hoffmann had to step down as the head coach before this season due to travel obligations for his job. However, he tried to make it to as much as he could. John Morrison took over after being an assistant last year. Morrison grew up in Maryland, where lacrosse is as big as football.

“I’ve been playing all my
life and my nephews are playing, and we grew up with sticks,” Morrison said. “I know how to tell them to play the game. I’m big on fundamentals. If their fundamentals are sound, the game will be easy for them.

“The kids want to learn, and they want to give it their all. This last year’s team was awesome. It’s only been three years, and the kids at CMH want to win and they listen to you.”

Senior captains Carson Houk and Kory Mueller were with the program in its inaugural
year. “We had a really good team, and I knew we could do it,” Houk said about winning a state title. “We put in a lot of hard work playing every day. I kind of directed on what was going on along with the coaches. (Inexperienced players) liked it, and the experienced guys really helped them out to help with the coaches.”

Houk also helped in recruiting players through the halls of Memorial. Several football players joined the team, and Morrison said they all made for great defensive players. But Houk recruited anyone who had the slightest interest.

“We had a couple of defensive guys that picked up their sticks for the first time this year,” Morrison said. “We had some good seniors and have some great young players. It was fun to get them all together and meshing.”

Houk said team chemistry was the major factor in winning the state tournament. Practice started indoors in December at STiKS Academy in Oconomowoc. When the school’s gym was available, the team played there, but it wasn’t until the team got outside that the team started to develop.

Despite never playing for the Waukesha co-op, Houk thought the school having its own team was a big reason why everything came together.

“It would have been weird, because I wouldn’t have seen those guys every day,” Houk said. “I get to see all my teammates everyday in school, and knowing it was our club and we started it made it that much more special. We made a commitment to getting better. We also got to pray before every game. Our president, Father Paul (Hartmann) came to some games and prayed with us, so that was cool.”

Morrison said the Crusaders played the “perfect” game in the championship against Stoughton.

“I’ve been coaching for eight years, and I’ve never seen a team where you didn’t have to fix anything in a game,” he said. “It was really fun to coach that game. Every single player played out of their minds. Our goalie, Bailey
(McKnight), had 18 saves and we had 18 assists on 19 goals — so that means everyone was getting open.”

CMH went 11-7 overall and 3-4 in the Classic 8 Conference. Sophomores Justin Morrison and Dominic Haight were second-team all-conference selections, while
Houk and Mueller received honorable mention.

Haight had six goals and four assists in the title game. Sophomore Adam Gronowski also scored six goals and added three assists. Houk had three goals and Mueller had two. Houk and Haight scored 52 goals apiece to lead the
team this season. Houk and Gronowski led the team with 26 assists apiece. McKnight had a 10.2 goals-against average and made 158 saves in 17 games.

Lacrosse is not a WIAA sponsored sport for boys or girls. Verona was the boys Division 1 state champ, while Arrowhead won the girls championship.

Boys lacrosse has held a state tournament since 2003 and split into two divisions in 2011. Catholic Memorial competed in a field of 12 teams in Division 2, while the Division 1 field had 28. The girls’ tournament started in 2007.

“It’s the fastest growing sport in America and the fastest sport on two feet,” said Houk, who will play for the club team at Winona State University. “One thing that grabs everyone’s attention is there’s always something going on. If you try it, you’ll love it.”

At a glance

  Catholic Memorial High School boys lacrosse team

11-7 overall, 3-4 Classic 8

The Crusaders won the Division 2 state championship with a 19-8 victory over Stoughton on June 14.

All-conference selections: Sophomores Justin Morrison and Dominic Haight were second- team All-Classic 8 picks, while seniors Carson Houk and Kory Mueller received honorable mention.

Stat leaders:
Houk and Haight 52 goals; Houk and sophomore Adam Gronowski 26 assists; senior Bailey McKnight 158 saves 

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