Eagles on the up and up

Even with key injuries, Klahowya laxers look to keep improving.


Sports editor

In getting ready for the 2008 boys lacrosse season, Klahowya coach Rob Hawley wanted to up the ante for his players.

Klahowya, which has made the Washington High School Boys Lacrosse Association’s Division II playoffs for the past four seasons, is a program eager to take the next step, with each of those appearances ending in a first-round outing.

So in order to better prepare his “army,” Klahowya coach Rob Hawley scheduled some of the top lacrosse squads in both Division II and Division I.

“We’re trying to play every tough team we can,” he said. “Every playoff team we could get on the schedule we did. And some Division I teams.

“They’re really excited about the schedule,” Hawley continued, speaking of his team. “They realize we’ve been the big fish in a small pond for a couple years. They’re excited to play better teams.”

Those teams include D-I powerhouses like Lakeside and recent D-I call-up Puyallup. But that challenge is one the Eagles are eager for.

“That’s gonna be fun,” senior midfielder Alex Schell said. “That’ll really show what we’ve got.”

With a new format in D-II that now sees the formation of the Southwest, Central and Northeast regions, the Eagles will compete in the Olympic Division, one of two divisions in the Southwest. Klahowya will play its division opponents (North Kitsap, South Kitsap and Port Angeles) each twice while taking on the Evergreen Division of the Southwest Region once per team (Lake Tapps, Stadium, Tacoma and King’s Way (Vancouver)).

“I like it,” Hawley said. “I like that we’re becoming more regional. I think that ultimately, Division I and Division II will go away and we’ll just have some Olympic or West Sound-type conference or league.”

It won’t be easy waters for the Eagles to navigate, however, as early injuries have hampered the team’s second midfield, a vital cog in the Eagles’ plans this year.

Sophomore mid Neil Sell suffered a leg fracture lastweek, keeping him out indefinitely. Mid Chris McGuire, a freshman at KSS, and Yancey Lever, one of the team’s top defenders, also are both out for the time being.

But with a large group of returners on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field, and a healthy and capable first midfield line, Hawley thinks his team can overcome the early vacancies.

“The attack is all back,” Hawley said. “The defense is all experienced players. Midfield is where we’re a little lean, especially with Neil out now.”

Even after the graduations of key contributors like Chris Hawk and Seth Hertenstein, everyone is optimistic the Eagles will have what it takes to compete for the Olympic Division.

“We lost a lot but we picked up enough that we should be fine,” Hawley said.

Senior attacker Karl Neumann, an all-state second-teamer a year ago, agreed.

“It seems like our program gets a little stronger every year,” Neumann said. “It’s hard losing the players we did. It’ll be a little different without them. But it looks like everyone is making progress.”

The attack will once again be fronted by Neumann and fellow senior Tyler Flowers.

“The usual suspects are going to lead the charge,” Hawley said. “We’ve got Karl on the attack and Tyler, we’re gonna need him to score a ton.”

The first midfield line is set with Schell and juniors Danny Zimny and Cody Hertenstein.

“I think a huge (key) is how productive our first midfield gets,” Hawley said. “Now they’ve got to be primary scorers, make things happen. I’m pretty confident they’ll step up.”

Again, depth at the spot is the only lingering question for the Eagles.

“Me and Zimny and Cody will do fine,” Schell said. “But we’re gonna need a break.”

The team is strong again defensively with Chad Reeder, a junior, locking up the goal while Sean and Dvyn Byrnes, Lever, Trevre Cusma and others shore up the defensive unit.

“We’re trying more guys out on defense,” Hawley said. “And just being able to bring more pressure defensively. Especially with a guy like Chad. We can take some chances.”

Sophomore Andrew Holm is one of those defenders who will get a shot to contribute regularly.

“He’s grown into his body,” Hawley said. “We’re gonna use him a lot.”

Having two years already under his belt, Reeder is one Hawley is particularly excited to see between the posts this season.

“He’s got two full years of experience and two years to go,” he said. “It’s a luxury.”

With the formation of the Kitsap Youth Lacrosse Association, Hawley said the team’s younger players are coming in with the fundamental skills, meaning more time to work on more complex strategies.

“The nicest thing this year is just seeing the kids coming up from the youth team,” Hawley said. “There’s three guys not having to catch and throw on the first day. I think that’s gonna help us.”

Freshmen Kevin Bastein, Josh Taylor and McGuire all played for KYLA’s 7/8-Grade Team, while the KYLA in general also now houses a 5/6-Grade and 3/4-Grade teams. Taylor (Ridgetop) and Bastein (Central Kitsap Junior High) also are the only non-KSS players after junior James West transferred to Klahowya from Olympic.

Overall, the vibe is a positive one around the Klahowya team right now as everyone seems eager to get the new season under way.

“I’m definitely excited,” Neu-mann said. “It’s gonna be a fun season. Everyone is pretty pumped.”

“I just can’t wait to play in a game,” Schell added. “I want to see what we’ve got.”

The Eagles will get a chance to see just where they’re at Wednesday at 5 p.m. when the Port Angeles Roughriders come to town to battle the Eagles at Central Kitsap Junior High.

“We won’t have our whole army for Port Angeles,” Hawley said. “But shortly thereafter we should be OK.”

Still, it’s a game Neumann said will allow the team to kick off the season with a bang.

“That should set the tone for the season,” he said. “It’s definitely a good opener.”

The team is just hoping that tone sounds like another postseason berth.

“We’ve got to be one or two,” he said of a division finish. “I think our chances are pretty good of being in the playoffs.”

But a berth alone isn’t enough, Hawley said.

“I think this group wants to be the one to push farther than the first round of the playoffs,” he said. “That’s the feeling I get from them. They want to take the next step.”