The West region could be the region where lacrosse is expanding the most. For instance, when Mercer Island (Wash.) defeated Massachusetts powerhouse Duxbury (Mass.) last season, POWERADE FAB 50 voters took notice.
With several games pitting teams from the west against the more traditional hotbed areas of New York and Maryland, the chances for even more teams from this region to be ranked in 2012 could be increased.
Overall, 10 players in the ESPNHS 100 and five from the ESPNHS Top 50 juniors are from the West, and that number barely scratches the surface of the overall Division-I talent in the region.
The Starting Lineup
(Position*: athlete, year, high school (city, state), college commitment)
G: Michael Ortlieb, Sr., Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.), Holy Cross
LSM: Charlie Hushek, Sr., Brophy Prep (Phoenix), Bryant
D: Ryder Clark, Sr., Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village, Colo.), undecided
M: Mike Tagliaferri, Sr., San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.), North Carolina
M: Zack Fixen, Sr., Palos Verdes (Calif.), Maryland
M: Matt Florence, Sr., Kent Denver (Englewood, Colo.), Virginia
M: Patrick Worstell, Sr., San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.), Syracuse
A: Sean Doyle, Sr., Torrey Pines (San Diego), Cornell
A: Brendan Gaughan, Sr., La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad, Calif.), Michigan
A: Michael Marcott, Sr., Lincoln (Portland, Ore.), Denver
Sizing Up The Region
Arizona: It has usually been a two-horse race in Arizona for supremacy, and don't expect 2012 to be different. Chapparal (Scottsdale, Ariz.) is the returning state champion and is a scrappy team which plays hard-nosed lacrosse. Despite losing some stud seniors to graduation, it returns sophomore sensation goalie Alex Larson. Brophy Prep (Phoenix) will be looking for redemption and might have the most talented team in the state. The Broncos return the state's most dynamic player, Brock Ghelfi, and best defenseman and Warrior 40 alumni Charlie Hushek. Two programs looking to make some noise this year are Saquaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.), coached by former D-II Player of the Year Brett Neal, and Desert Vista (Phoenix), which looks to build upon last year's 12-win season, which was third highest in the state.
California: The class of the west is still in California, where the talent is golden. Torrey Pines (San Diego)broke out of its shell last year to win the CIF Division I title and should be favorites again.ESPNHS 100 attackman Sean Doyle (Cornell) and midfielder Lucas Gradinger (Maryland) are big names who will provide plenty of scoring. St. Ignatius Prep (San Francisco) has been a Northern California powerhouse for years and should be no different thi year as the Wildcats' junior class is loaded with Division I recruits, including two ESPNHS Top 50 juniors -- Matt Emery (Virginia) and Charlie Ford (Georgetown). Coronado (Calif.) rebounded after a down year in 2010 to notch the CIF Division II title in San Diego. The Islanders will challenge Torrey Pines for supremacy in Southern California. The key will be how head coach Alex Cade's highly touted but young defense plays in tough games. San Ramon Valley (Danville, Calif.) returns the best player in the state in U-19 Team USA member Michael Tagliaferri (UNC), who runs on the same midfield line as Syracuse recruit Patrick Worstell. Foothill-Santa Ana (Santa Ana, Calif.) has won 18 or more games every year since 2007. Will this be the year someone overtakes their Southern Section dominance?
Colorado: The usual suspects should return in 2012, and the lead suspect is returning state runner-up Kent Denver (Englewood, Colo.). Led by All-American and ESPNHS 100 midfielder Matt Florence (Virginia) and a talented supporting cast, the Sun Devils will be favorites to capture a title. Not far behind will be Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village, Colo.), which despite losing their best player, returns an experienced senior class that won a state title in 2010. Last year's state champion, Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.), will be in the hunt again. Wheat Ridge (Colo.) and Columbine (Littleton, Colo.) have some great young talent and are on the cusp of becoming elite programs. The race for the state championship is wide open this year in Colorado and there will be many solid programs vying to be crowned as the best in the state.
Idaho: Despite the small number of teams that play in Idaho, the in-state competition is fierce. In 2012, the forecast looks like there could be about a half of dozen teams in the race to be Idaho's finest. Centennial (Boise, Idaho) returns seven starters, mostly keeping intact its defense, which shined in the second half of last season. Senior Alex Irish should only improve his impressive 64 percent in faceoff circle to lead the Patriots. Last year's state champion, Bishop Kelly (Boise, Idaho), was hit hard by graduation, but head coach Blake Gaudet is optimistic about his young team competing behind the strong leadership from his returning seniors. Timberline (Boise, Idaho), led by head coach Tom Blanchard, is always in the hunt and had only one in-state loss last year. Boise (Idaho) had a great year and suffered three losses by a combined nine goals, so expect the Braves to be competitive again in 2012. Gonzaga Prep (Spokane, Wash.), due to its location, plays in the North Idaho Lacrosse League, and along with Eagle (Idaho) and Coeur d'Alene (Idaho), has talent coming back and should be in the hunt for the best team in the state.
Nevada: Even though lacrosse is scarce in Nevada, there is some serious talent on the rise beyond the Las Vegas city lights. At the beginning of the season, three teams will be vying for supremacy. Henderson (Nev.) won 20 games last season, but its only loss in three games against Palo Verde was in the state title. After struggling midway through their season last year, Palo Verde (Las Vegas) finished the season wining its last four games and the Nevada state championship. Coach Gary Campo's young squad has plenty of talent and will be anchored by senior midfielder Austin Collins. The Jacksonville recruit will be building off his strong four-goal performance in last year's title game. Centennial (Las Vegas) has always been a strong program in the state and will have one of the best young talents in the West on their squad. Sophomore Justin Anderson will be looking to build off his impressive showings at fall tournaments to lead the Bulldogs offensively. As Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) is becoming a sports powerhouse, the next sport could be lacrosse with budding star Mason Roik as the future.
Oregon: Once again in Oregon, the road to the state championship runs through Lincoln (Portland, Ore.). The Cardinals, who have not lost an in-state game since the 2009 state championship, will be looking for a three-peat. They are in good hands with the state's best player, Denver recruit and ESPNHS 100 selection attackman Michael Marcott. Besides the Cardinals, there are many teams vying to compete for a state championship. Could this be the year Sunset (Beaverton, Ore.) finally wins? Despite its record last year (11-11), West Linn (Ore.) gave Lincoln its toughest game last year. Oregon Episcopal (Portland, Ore.) has two experienced attackmen in Trevor Garner and Martin Winter to provide leadership and scoring.
Utah: The new year brings upon new change in Utah with new conference re-alignments. After the changes in the conferences, the Sandy Division looks to be the toughest. The division members are: Alta (Sandy, Utah), Bingham (South Jordan, Utah), Copper Hills (West Jordan, Utah), Jordan (Sandy, Utah) and Juan Diego (Draper, Utah). Last year's state champion, Brighton (Salt Lake City), had a stellar defense down the stretch. And if it starts 2012 how it finished 2011, it could repeat as state champions. Juan Diego has some nice talent in the junior and sophomore classes, but their senior leadership will be the difference. After last season's disappointing finish in the state semifinal, Alta will have a chip on their shoulder to take the next step despite losing its best player.
Washington: Slowly creeping up behind California and Colorado in talent is the Evergreen State. Not much will change from the hierarchy in years past, but some programs look to make the jump into the conversation. Issaquah (Wash.) will rely on its defense led by Air Force-bound goalie O'Neill Hughes and long stick midfielder Kole Lindor, who wrecks havoc between the lines. Bellevue (Wash.) has an established defensive unit led by Sam Leggett and a handful of sophomores and juniors, which will need to produce plays for the Wolverines to claw their back to a state championship. Arguably the best program in the state, Mercer Island (Wash.) looks like it will face a rebuilding year with only two starters returning. One program to never count out is Jack Visco's Bainbridge Island (Wash.) squad, which returns captain Jake Knostman and sophomore goalie Reynolds Yarbrough, who made a big splash at the end of the 2011 season. In Division II, it looks like Three Rivers (Redmond, Wash.) will be the team to beat with a top-notch offensive unit. After making the playoffs for the first time in their 12-year history North Kitsap (Poulsbo, Wash.) returns nine starters.
Underclassemen To Watch
(Position: athlete, year, high school (State), college commitment)
Attack: Jack Beall, Jr., Camas (Wash.); Wilkins Dismuke, Jr., Rock Canyon (Colo.) Johns Hopklns; Jake Gonzales, Jr., Columbine (Colo.); Lucas Gradinge, Jr.,Torrey Pines (Calif.), Maryland; Chase Warner, Jr., Tesero (Calif.).
Midfield: Justin Anderson, Soph., Centennial (Nev.); Kieran Eissler, Jr., Henderson (Nev.), Johns Hopkins; Matt Emery, Jr., Saint Ignatius (Calif.), Virginia; Colin Macllvennie, Soph., Eastside Catholic (Wash.), Maryland; Eduardo White, Jr., Kent Denver (Colo.), Georgetown.
Defense: Chris Carter, Jr., Torrey Pines (Calif.), Notre Dame; Charlie Ford, Jr., Saint Ignatius (Calif.), Georgetown; Matt Jungemann, Jr., Juan Diego Catholic (Utah); Kyle Mummau, Jr., Coronado (Calif.); Brian Wegner, Jr., Regis Jesuit (Colo.), Denver.
Goalie: Russel Bartle, Jr., Highland (Ariz.), High Point; Jared Bauman, Soph., Lincoln (Ore.); Jake Kennedy, Jr., Torrey Pines (Calif.).
Games To Watch
March 26: Cherry Creek (Colo.) vs. Loyola Blakefield (Md.)
March 31: Foothill Santa Ana (Calif.) vs. Torrey Pines (Calif.)
April 2: Mercer Island (Wash.) at Ward Melville (N.Y.)
April 13: La Costa Canyon (Calif.) vs Saint Anthony's (N.Y.)
How This Region Affects The FAB 50
Last year, two teams from the West Region finished the season ranked in the FAB 50. And with several players from the West being represented in the ESPNHS 100 and playing tough interstate games, that number could be exceeded in 2012.
Games pitting Colorado against Maryland and California against New York will go a long way with voters in determining how teams from the West should be represented in the rankings.