In the days after his team’s 8-6 loss to Columbus DeSales in the Division II state lacrosse title game, Rocky River head coach Steve Anderson looked back at his Pirates’ historic season.
“We were ready to play. It’s a different experience,” said Anderson, who in his third season led River to its first state semifinal win and a berth in the championship game.
“DeSales is a very good team,” Anderson said, whose team trailed 8-2 before rallying in the fourth quarter. “We really didn’t touch the ball much in the third quarter. We finally got things going on the offensive side in the fourth.
“The kids gave it their all, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach,” he added.
Rocky River, the top team this season in the Northwestern Division, found the going tough against once-beaten DeSales. The Pirates rallied in the final quarter and made things close on single goals by Andreas Tjotjos and Bobby Perez, as well as back-to-back goals from Eric Sperli.
Goalie Aaron Blossey held his own against the DeSales attack with 16 saves. That performance earned him Defensive Player of the Game honors, topping off a season where he allowed just over five goals per game. He had 12 saves in the 8-7 win over University School in the semifinals.
Despite the loss, Anderson felt his team had taken another strong step toward the ultimate goal of winning a state championship for the Rocky River community.
“Let’s face it. Rocky River hans’t had many teams go to a state championship game,” Anderson said. “This was a great learning experience. It’s something we’ll shoot for every year, to get back to Columbus and have a shot at the title.
“The fact of the matter is, to win a state title is really difficult,” he admitted. “The fact that we got down there is incredible. So now, my expectation is for us to continue building from the youth program on up. The kids see our expectations and want to work toward that.
“Talent wise, it’s not only the most talented players that make it, but how they play together. This year’s team never quit, and that’s quite remarkable. It’s been that way the last three seasons, and it’s great to have,” he added.
There were a number of accolades for this year’s edition of River lacrosse.
Senior attacker Ty Daugstrup led the way for the Pirates, earning All-America honors as well as first team All-Ohio and All-Region. The team captain scored 34 goals with 13 assists. Perez, a junior attacker, was named first team All-Ohio and All-Region with 32 goals and 17 assists.
Junior midfielder Mike Poe earned first team All-Ohio and All-Region, while junior faceoff specialist Bennett Kellogg made first team All-Region as well. Defensively, junior Michael Dickey and Blossey were both named first team All-Ohio and All-Region.
Senior midfielder Michael Henry was second team All-Ohio and first team All-Region, while Tjotjos was honorable mention All-Ohio and first team All-Region. Sophomore defender Jimmy Brown made second team All-Region as well.
So with seven seniors now graduated, the Pirates will look to reload with a number of talented returning players for 2013. Anderson said the players the past three season, as well as his coaching staff and community, have all played a role in the team’s success.
“I’ve had incredible support from our parents in the program, and my assistant coaches during these years have helped the program succeed,” Anderson said. “So, it’s not just me. They’ve played a big part. We’re all on the same page in that we want the kids to succeed.
“The message to our players is that I am incredibly proud of them, looking at everything they have accomplished. They should really be proud of the season they put together as a team. There is no reason to hang heads.
“We lost to a team that was blowing out teams during the season. To come back against them showed me something,” he added.