The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 13, 2010

GRA lacrosse team a big hit

Star Beacon

AUSTINBURG — This past year has been a year of firsts for Grand River Academy. GRA’s first football team in 75 years was launched last fall, students participated in several new academic competitions, lights were added to the tennis courts; and to finish off the year, another GRA sport was created, the hard hitting game of lacrosse.

GRA’s lacrosse team will play mainly Cleveland area schools as the Eagle’s lacrosse team is the only one in Ashtabula County. The Eagle’s current record is 2-2.

“I never thought our lacrosse team would be as successful as it is now,” said Frankie Nichols, a junior from Chicago and the Eagle’s goalie.

This season is Nichols’ first playing lacrosse, a common trait among most of the 22 players with only seven team members even touching a lacrosse stick before March. Practices began in early March with the athletes conditioning and whereever possible, including the new Geneva sports complex, The GaREAT.

“I didn’t think the conditioning would have been as hard as it was, but it has made us a better, more fit team” said Nichols.

Lacrosse was envisioned as an opportunity for students who are not participating in a spring sport to be active and to become part of a team, but it has rapidly become more than that.

“As a team, we have definitely grown closer as the season moves on,” said Nick Carey, a senior from Flager Beach, Fla. “Our team is filled with hard working guys who all share a common goal of getting ourselves a banner for the first winning lacrosse season in GRA history.”

Carey is one of the few lacrosse players who had played on an organized team before this season and had tried to bring a team to GRA for the past two years.

“I had been trying to get a team together with some other students for a long time. So when athletic director Scott McNevan told me we would have a team this year, I was stoked to hear about it.”

The Eagles are coached by first-year head coach Michael Racutt and assisted by GRA’s Spanish teacher Michael Gardner. Racutt is a Mentor native who had coached from 2006 until 2009 at Mentor Junior High and Gilmour Academy. Gardner has been with GRA for four years and has been a soccer and indoor soccer coach.

“I think we have a lot of potential. We have some great skill players on the team. With the leadership of coach Racutt and Mr. Gardner we will do great this season; and, of course, with all of the help from the experienced players who help out the first year players, we can only improve,” said Nate Bueche, a freshman from Loveland, who is playing lacrosse for the first time.

The lacrosse team’s first home game was played on a cold and wet April 17, GRA’s Parent Day. The varsity soccer field was transformed into a lacrosse field with a large crowd of cheering students and parents, despite the weather. The Eagle’s competition was The Gow School from Buffalo, N.Y. Gow has a long and successful history in lacrosse; this caused some of the athletes to be uneasy about their first ever home game.

The result of the Eagle’s game was a 6-5 sudden death overtime victory when top scorer Kevin Kates hit a wicked 20 yard underhand snap shot for a victory that had the crowd rushing the field.

“I thought we might not even win one game this season, but thankfully I have been proven wrong. I also hope that we can continue to win and improve through the rest of the season,” said Peter Horwitz, a junior from Chicago.

“As a senior, I hope that this year’s lacrosse team can set a strong foundation for future GRA teams,” Carey said.

GRA is expected to continue the lacrosse program next year, and there has even been interest from students around the country who are looking to play lacrosse at a college prep school.

Nichols summed things up by saying, “This sport has been amazing, and I am proud to be part of a new tradition at Grand River Academy.”