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Bloomfield Hills

Brother Rice lacrosse under new leadership

April 9, 2014

» click to enlarge «
Birmingham Brother Rice coach Ajay Chawla speaks with his team during a break against Birmingham United April 3 at Seaholm. The Warriors won 13-3 to go 3-0 overall. Brother Rice was 4-0 at press time. The Warriors haven’t lost to a team from Michigan going on 12 years.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — It can be daunting looking at the numbers, and new Birmingham Brother Rice lacrosse coach Ajay Chawla gives a quick smile when thinking about them.

He’s taking over for Rob Ambrose, who in his 21 years coaching the program won 16 state titles, eight Midwest titles, 16 Catholic High School League championships and a national title in 2008.

The Warriors also haven’t lost to a team from Michigan for 12 years.

“I think there is a certain amount of pressure when you take over any position. There’s pressure in the back of my mind, but at the end of the day, it’s about what these kids can do on the field,” Chawla said during a break from practice April 2, which just so happened be taking place on Ambrose Field.

“I don’t feel the pressure every day; the pressure is to come out here and make these kids better every day — grow as a team and a program every day. The chips will fall where they may,” the coach continued.

Chawla isn’t new to the standards set at Rice. He’s been with the program as an assistant for 11 years and graduated from the school in 1993.

“It’s been pretty exciting for me. I’ve been with the program a long time and was part of building it with Rob and the other coaches,” he said. “To take it over your alma mater, it’s a pretty big deal, especially with a storied program like this.”

The Warriors were 4-0 at press time.

Chawla’s tenure started with a 10-7 win against New Trier March 28, a lacrosse power from Illinois. 

“There were a lot of feelings at that point when I walked out on the field in Chicago,” he said. “It was a big game with a formidable opponent. New Trier is ranked pretty highly in the Midwest. The game was pretty meaningful for us.”

The victory also marked the first taste of varsity lacrosse for the majority of the players on the roster. Brother Rice returns 10 total from last season, including five starters. That leaves 19 first-year varsity members, 10 of whom are underclassmen.

Seniors Joe Plaskey, Jason Alessi, Reid Fisher, Chris Lievois and Liam Reaume are captains.

“I think the kids have been in the program for a while; they understand the standard and demands of excellence that we have for them both on and off the field,” Chawla said. “I think the senior leadership is doing a pretty good job of instilling that in the younger guys.”

Plaskey agreed.

“All the seniors have been leading, not just the captains. It’s your senior year — you don’t want to mess anything up,” he said referring to the numerous streaks alive, including nine straight state championships since the Michigan High School Athletic Association recognized it as a varsity sport in 2005.

“At the same time, you can’t try to think about that all the time, or that will kill you,” Alessi added. “We try to do our own thing — not really think about losing a game in Michigan, all that kind of stuff. We just have to go out, play our game the way we know how to play. It’ll all work out.”

Catch the Warriors against Western Reserve Academy at 2 p.m. April 12 at home.

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