Lake lacrosse fitting in at Division I level

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
The Lake boys lacrosse team has experienced success despite jumping up to the Division I level this season.

LAKE TWP.  – Last year was supposed to be the year to make the leap for the Lake boys lacrosse team.

The 2020 campaign was to be the one where the Blue Streaks made the move from Division II to Division I, putting them in the same region as perennial powers such as Hudson, St. Ignatius and Hoover.

The COVID-19 pandemic had other ideas, wiping out all but three preseason scrimmages and delaying that move up one division until this spring.

Eight games into that first season in Division I, the change doesn’t seem to have rattled the Blue Streaks. They’re 6-2, thankful to be back on the field and making the most of their season to date.

“It's really exciting to get back out there and we’re fortunate enough to almost bring back everyone offensively,” fifth-year head coach Mike Dixon said. “Our defense is still young and we’re trying to gel together there, but we have 10 seniors back all on the offensive side of the ball and that’s huge.”

Dixon noted that his players are well aware of what they lost when last season was canceled and also said the expectations were high for that lost year.

Given a chance to return to competition and play in Division I, the squad has been energized and the offense has been led by the duo of junior Andy Grey (18 goals) and freshman Nate Baker (24 goals), who have emerged as its leading scorers, while senior Tommy Clark has amassed 16 goals and six assists.

With that duo and their senior teammates on the offensive end, Lake is averaging 13 assists per game thus far, which is the highest number during Dixon’s tenure. The defense, while young, has an improving keeper in junior Nolan Pascu.

Pascu played as a defenseman coming up through the program prior to high school, but that shifted in his freshman season.

“It’s really only his second year playing goalie … he grew up playing defenseman, but his freshman year we needed a goalie, so we had a tryout and he was the only one who came out. Last summer, he was going to clinics, talking to a lot of college goalies and doing anything he could to get better.”

With Pascu improving in goal and the offense coming out of the gate strong, the Blue Streaks have been able to attack a schedule Dixon intentionally made more challenging in preparation for his program’s first postseason as a Division I team.

Knowing they could face a rival such as Jackson, Hoover, Green or Hudson in the tournament, their focus is on building throughout the year and learning from tough moments such as losses to Hoover and Wadsworth earlier in the year.

The Wadsworth loss came on senior night and was a tough experience to digest, but what stood out to Dixon was what happened in the next game.

“We’ve yet to lose two games in a row and our mantra this season has been that good teams don't lose two games in a row,” Dixon said. “With teams like Ignatius, Hoover, Jackson, Green and Mentor in our region, we’re working super hard to get ready for the tournament.”

There is, underneath the excitement, an appreciation to be back to part of life as normal as the pandemic hopefully begins to wane. Some players are still doing online learning, meaning lacrosse is their opportunity to get out from behind a screen and interact with friends.