Even while coaching lacrosse on the east coast, Michael Cappelletti had heard of Birmingham Brother Rice and it’s prowess as a state power.
Cappelletti coached in Rhode Island before taking the job at Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day this spring.
“Brother Rice, especially with its national championship run in 2008, it’s a program everyone knows about no matter where you are from,” Cappelletti said. “Coming here, I knew they had a run.”
Rice’s run included an undefeated streak against teams from Michigan since 2002, which all changed the night of April 16 when the Warriors and Yellowjackets met.
Country Day came away with an 8-7 overtime victory at home.
“It was one of those games that felt like the last team with a really good possession was going to win. We were fortunate to be the team to make the last play,” Cappelletti said.
Jack Bergmann scored the winning goal off of the opening faceoff in overtime. Devon Callaghan earned the assist.
“They came ready to play,” Brother Rice coach Ajay Chawla said. “What it boiled down to, they wanted it more that Wednesday night.”
Country Day led 3-0 early and 4-2 at the half before the Warriors battled back to make it 5-5 going into the fourth, according to Cappelletti.
“We’d be lying to each other if we said that we knew 100 percent that we were going to win (after Rice came back),” the coach said. “That’s probably one of the most satisfying things as coaches — we survived the moment of Rice putting our backs up against the wall.”
Country Day was 8-1 overall at press time. Rice was 6-2 including a loss to Culver Academy Prep from Indiana. Culver also defeated the Yellowjackets earlier in the season.
As big as the win is for the Country Day program, Cappelletti was quick to point out that there are bigger goals ahead.
“When you can be the first one, you have to say it’s special; it’s special for the kids and a cool moment no one can take away from them. At the same time, beating a Division 1 opponent isn’t the biggest goal of the year. We want to win the Division 2 state championship,” he said. “When I went to the locker room after the game, I thought they would be on cloud nine, which they were, but our seniors were great. The first thing they said was, ‘Who’s next?’”
The coach credits his seniors for the success this season. Cappelletti is the group’s third coach in the last four years, and he uses Rice as an example of the type of program he’s trying to build at Country Day.
“We talk about how you get to being that good all the time. However, you want to quantify (Rice’s) success, whether it’s 12 years without losing to a team from Michigan or nine straight state championship since the state sanctioned it, they’ve always had a level of consistency,” Cappelletti said. “That’s what we’re trying to do at Country Day. So in our first year, to be able to scrape out a win, it was a really nice teaching moment for the kids to realize that this is what it’s going to take all the time.”
Chawla said there was also a lesson learned for his team that night.
“I think the kids realize that we can’t take any opponent for granted, especially one like Country Day,” Chawla said, adding that the following practice was intense and that he won’t let the team dwell on the loss. “Overall, we have to move on. The message to the team is that there is still a lot to accomplish.”
As for Rice’s opponent that night, Chawla added that it’s good for lacrosse in the area to have competition at the highest level.
“(Country Day) came in with a great game plan, and they’re very well coached. They’re doing a great job over there and pointed in the right direction. I’m glad to see it,” Chawla said.
Catch the Yellowjackets against the defending D-2 state champion, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, at 6:15 p.m. April 23 on the road.