GREEN  With a young offense and a more experienced defense, the Green boys lacrosse team is working to grow and improve as it nears the latter stages of the season.

With a 5-4 record through nine games, the Bulldogs have scored some big wins, but as is often the case with teams that have inexperienced players in key spots, there have also been some rough patches. Given the overall youth on the roster, the four-game winning streak Green engineered to start the season went a long way toward building a solid campaign.

"We are an extremely young team on the offensive side of the ball so it was paramount we started the season on a good note in building confidence in their ability,” head coach Richard Keefe said. “(It) allowed them see success and focus on team play.”

The offense has underclassmen in many key spots, which has placed an added degree of importance on the defense to be a steadying force in order to keep the Bulldogs on track in games when goals are harder to come by. Seniors Marc Dawson and Jimmy Gibson anchor the defense and according to Keefe, their experience at the back end of the formation has been a valuable asset throughout the season.

Behind Dawson, Gibson and the rest of the defense, goalie Tony Crouse has proven to be solid and reliable in the net, recording plenty of saves to keep the team in games. A recent game against Jackson underscored the challenges facing Green as it works its way through the season.

The Polar Bears, annually one of the stronger programs in the area, earned a 14-2 win that showed the power of a veteran team with good balance against a Green squad that faced the challenge head on, but wasn’t able to keep pace with a balanced attack.

“Our defense has been a staple for us even though they have given up some goals. They are playing great being under the work load and pressure they have had to carry,” Keefe said. “They played a great game the other night stopping almost all of the Jackson fast break opportunities, but we just found ourselves playing too much defense.”

The defense has faced steady pressure all season long and had its most difficult stretch in a three-game losing streak from April 10 to April 21 in which the offense scored just 17 goals in losses to Hoover, Strongsville and Mentor. The streak ended April 22 with a resounding 17-3 win over Stow, a victory that was significant for multiple reasons.

“The win against Stow was huge. We had lost to them in regular season last year and were knocked out of the playoffs by them so it was a game we had marked early on the schedule for needing a solid game to get redemption from last year,” Keefe said. “The team showed up and executed extremely efficient and had bounced back from some of the repetitive errors we had been making. It helped the offense refocus to the task at hand.”

Getting a win against a solid Stow team helped Green stop its losing skid and gain confidence in the process. A strong outing from the offense also temporarily relieved much of the pressure on the defense, giving defenders chances to rest instead of having to fend off opposing attacks all game long.

With five games left in the regular season, Green has several big tests ahead of the postseason. All five foes entered this week with a .500 or better record, including one of the Bulldogs’ closest geographic rivals, Lake, which is 8-3 and having one of its best seasons in recent memory. Add in a matchup two days later against 8-1 Brecksville and it’s clear that there won’t be any let ups for a Green team that hasn’t had many chances to catch its breath all season long.

The key to a strong finish, according to Keefe is the maturity and progress of an offense that has shown flashes of what it can do throughout the year.

“We are working on being more consistent and patient with the ball on offense. Being so young we make some errors from a lack of experience,” Keefe said. “The group of guys we have are extremely talented we just want to work on ball possession and total team offense (and) focus on making the most out of every opportunity we get with the ball.” 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB