Considering how competitive the East Bay Athletic League is, you think that the De La Salle Spartans would want to take a breather when they played non-league games.
But not this Saturday.
The Spartans will host perhaps the most talented, and one of the best teams in the state, in St. Ignatius Prep. The Wildcats are 10-1 and ranked No. 2 in the state of California by westsidelax.com. The Spartans are ranked at No. 4 in the state and are the top team in the Bay Area News Group’s Boys Lacrosse rankings.
Both teams have one loss, with the Spartans checking in at 8-1, and both lost to the same team.
De La Salle lost to Coronado 10-8 on the road on March 13, and St. Ignatius lost to the same Coronado team, 7-6, on March 21. Coronado is currently unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the state.
“It’s definitely a rivalry game between two Catholic schools,” De La Salle coach Bob O’Meara said. “We schedule it during holy week and we make a big deal of it. It’s definitely a big game because we’re both sitting in Northern California with one loss to the same team.”
The Spartans will probably need big games out of their top scorers, Harrison Cooper, Sean Mullin and Andrew Bruce. These three are among the best players in the NCS.
“We need everyone to play well,” O’Meara said. “It’s one of those games where every mistake you make will cost you. We need our offense to put away opportunities and we can’t turn the ball over.”
The Wildcats have three of the top 25 ranked players in the country in attackman Billy Mattimore, middie Carlton Fisher and attackman Will Fredericks. Mattimore is heading to Bucknell, Fisher to Lehigh and Mattimore to Loyola of Maryland.
“They’re stacked with talent,” O’Meara said. “We’re definitely the underdog, but we have something to prove and we’ll put everything we’ve got into it.”
Face-off time is at 3:00, and just about any big high school lacrosse fan should be there to see two fantastic teams square off.
There will be a charge of $5 for adults and $3 for kids as the teams are combining to raise money for the Lacrosse for Life program, an after school mentoring and lacrosse program for underprivileged youth.
Question and Answer with Nick Richards and Zach Nichelman
Since we’re pumping up the Spartans and the big match against St. Ignatius Prep, let’s get to know a couple of their players.
I recently had a little Q&A session with a pair of seniors, middie Nick Richards, who is heading to Penn, and long-stick middie Zack Nickelman, who is heading to Bryant. Take a look at what they had to say.
When did you start playing lacrosse and what made you start liking the game?
Zach: I started playing lacrosse around sixth grade. I stopped playing baseball the year before and I wanted another sport to play. I remember seeing a lacrosse game on TV and I thought it looked like a blast. It was really fast paced and I wasn’t bored watching it. My mom and I went on the internet to find a team to play for and a few weeks later I tried out to play for the Diablo Scorpions and got on a team.
Nick: I started organized lacrosse in seventh grade because my neighbors were into it. I was always a baseball guy, but every spring my neighbors who I really looked up to would always be in the front yard throwing a lacrosse ball around and having a good time. I would want to fit in so around fourth grade I picked up a stick for the first time and I thought it was pretty cool. It took me until eighth grade to play only lacrosse and that has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I just had no attention span for baseball. You just sit around and wait all day. I loved the fast pace of lacrosse and the ability to run all over the field.
What are the keys to winning a face-off?
Nick: The keys to winning the face-off are timing and the ability to involve your wing men. I am not even the quickest kid with my hands but I can win a lot of face-off’s by getting the refs timing down and jumping the count. It’s important to involve your wing men. Even if you are trying to push it forward. You want a strategy with them of how to come in to either block the other guy so you have a clean fast break, or that you can rake it to them and control possession.
What is something people don’t know about being a long-stick middie?
Zach: Well, I’ve recently switched from playing close defense my entire career to LSM, but I’ve noticed that being in this spot has a great influence on the offense. On a face-off or clear, if the LSM can use some wheels to start a fastbreak, the offense has an edge because, in my opinion, defenses treat poles coming down the field differently from the shorties. Also, the LSM is around the midfielders a lot so they can help communicate what needs to happen on the defensive side of the field.
What goals did you guys set for yourself this season?
Zach: This year, our team really has something to prove. We had the talent to win NCS last year, but we lost to a very polished San Ramon Valley team led by Coach Worstell and others. We’re hungry to win it all this year, and we need to show our competition that we won’t settle for second best. The team has been doing a good job of keeping strong chemistry on and off the field.
What is your favorite part of the game?
Nick: My favorite part of the game is being with my teammates and knowing that we work harder for every win than the other team. I feel at De La Salle there is no one who prepares like we do or works like we do in the off-season and to get ready during the week for games. We also have a lot of fun out there. Every practice you will see kids working hard but also kids just being kids and having fun.
What are some of the pressures of being a DLS athlete?
Zach: To me, the biggest pressure of being a De La Salle athlete is that every single team is gunning for you. Every team circles the day on their calendar when they play the Spartans. This requires our team to be ready for every game on our schedule, no matter who it is. We all strive to live up to the name on our jerseys as well. The team wants to properly represent the school.
Nick: I guess there is a little bit of pressure, being a DLS Athlete. Because of our sense of brotherhood and community, almost everyone is out to see your games, so people will let you know how you played. There’s that pressure where if you don’t play well, everyone knows it. But it never gets bad, eveyrone is always really supportive. The only pressure comes from the fans wanting to win as bad as we do. It’s the best kind of pressure to have.
What will it take to be successful playing lacrosse in college?
Zach: A coach/close friend told me a phrase a couple years ago; “Never Settle.” I’ve kept this mentality ever since the words have graced my ears. People are always out getting better. Why not you too? It doesn’t matter where you come from, East Coast or West Coast. There is no geographical difference when it comes to heart. Don’t ever let somebody tell you that you can’t do something because it’s all within your own power. People have told me I wouldn’t make it in the lacrosse world, but I didn’t care what they said. I’ve heard those words echo in the back of my head in the weight room, on the track, and on the field, and it gave me a greater drive each day. I’m taking my same old mentality to college with me. Bryant University and Coach Pressler will hold many challenges for me, but if I remember what I did to get there, then I will be successful.
Nick: I think to be successful playing in college I just have to keep working hard and keep a positive attitude. So much of life is how you react, and your attitude towards what happens to you. There will definitely be bumps in the road, I just need to stay focused and keep pushing.
What song/band pumps you up for a game? What do you rock on the iPod?
Zach: The funny thing about me before a game is that I’m usually quiet. I enjoy being relaxed and level headed before a game. I like to chill out because it’s easier for me to make better choices on the field. I love seeing my teammates get pumped before a game, but it’s not usually my style. I love all kinds of music but I vibe to some Red Hot Chili Peppers, Atmosphere, and Andre Nickatina before a game. We also have some team mixes made by us and a coach/friend of ours that we can all go pretty crazy too.
Nick: I have a pump up CD that the team made up in the off season that is pretty sick. It’s got some Eminem on there, Lil’ Wayne, Disturbed, kindof a little bit of everything. I’m not strictly a rap guy or rock guy for pregame stuff. I just go with whatever I am feeling for that day. I think one time I even popped in a country CD that a friend made for me before a game. For every day stuff though I usually go with relaxed stuff. I’m always listening to Jack Johnson, or Red Hot Chili Peppers, or something like that.
The rankings basically stay the same with Cal popping back into the top ten. Bentley rejoins the rankings, but other than that it looks exactly the same. Could have a shakeup this week with San Ramon going to Monte Vista on Tuesday and Foothill going to Amador Valley.
Acalanes is also at Campolindo that day, while Foothill is at Monte Vista on Friday.
1. De La Salle (8-1)
2. Foothill (8-2)
3. Monte Vista (6-3)
4. Amador Valley (6-2)
5. San Ramon Valley (6-5)
6. Acalanes (4-3)
7. Berkeley (9-1)
8. Piedmont (7-5)
9. Las Lomas (5-3)
10. California (7-5)
11. Clayton Valley (9-3)
12. Miramonte (6-4)
13. Bentley (7-4)
14. Campolindo (4-6)
15. College Park (4-3)
Team Overall League GB
Cardinal Newman (7-3) 5-0 -
University-SF (10-4) 5-0 -
Marin Ac. (5-2) 5-2 1
Bentley (7-4) 6-4 1.5
Lick-Wilmerding (4-6) 2-3 3
Sonoma Ac. (3-5) 3-4 3
Urban-SF (2-4) 2-4 3.5
Head-Royce (2-5) 1-5 4.5
Stuart Hall (0-8) 0-7 6
Team Overall League GB
Berkeley (9-1) 4-0 -
Piedmont (7-5) 3-1 1
Bishop O’Dowd (3-8) 2-2 2
St. Mary’s (3-6) 1-3 3
Davis (2-9) 0-4 4
Team Overall League GB
Miramonte (6-4) 3-0 -
Acalanes (4-3) 2-0 .5
Las Lomas (5-3) 2-1 1
Dublin (3-6) 2-1 1
Campolindo (4-6) 1-2 2
Alhambra (3-7) 1-3 2.5
Dougherty Valley (1-9) 0-4 3.5
Team Overall League GB
Clayton Valley (9-3) 1-0 -
College Park (4-3) 0-0 .5
Northgate (4-3) 0-0 .5
Berean Christian (1-5) 0-1 1
Team Overall League GB
De La Salle (8-1) 6-0 -
Foothill (8-2) 5-1 1
Amador Valley (6-2) 4-2 2
Monte Vista (6-3) 4-2 2
San Ramon Valley (6-5) 4-3 2.5
California (7-5) 2-4 4
Granada (1-10) 0-6 6
Livermore (4-7) 0-7 6.5
For questions, comments, to report scores, update standings or add players to the watch list, please email Matt Smith at email@example.com.