UTICA — In his second year as head coach of the Utica Eisenhower lacrosse program, Paul Mikaila is looking to translate the Eagles’ recent regular-season success into postseason success.
Eisenhower has lost just one game in MAC Red play over the last two seasons, but this year the Eagles are hoping to make it past the regional final round.
Eisenhower has had a lacrosse program for 13 seasons, and in that time, the Eagles have developed into one of Macomb County’s premiere programs. Because of the depth and popularity of the program, Eisenhower regularly features senior-laden teams, and this one is no different.
Captains Shane Pettke and Charlie Hayes are two of Eisenhower’s 18 seniors, and together they have developed as players while also increasing the popularity of lacrosse at Eisenhower.
“As a senior class, we’ve been playing lacrosse since we were in fifth grade, so we’ve just been trying to get lacrosse out there,” Pettke said. “A lot of people are seeing that our program has developed into a pretty good, reputable school, so you can tell that a lot of the younger guys are really getting interested in the sport and they’re all starting to play.”
To accomplish the Eagles’ goal of making a deep postseason run, Pettke explained that keeping the team focused late in the year will enable this year’s senior class to leave their mark on the Eisenhower program.
“We’ve been having very successful regular seasons; we just need to carry that momentum into the postseason and just keep focused and keep working hard constantly, so if we do that, I think we’ll go pretty far this year,” Pettke said.
Mikaila expanded on the importance of having Pettke and Hayes as two-year captains this year.
“Pettke and Hayes were both captains last year, as well, as juniors, and this year they’re more vocal; they’re supportive of all of their teammates,” Mikaila said. “I think last year, we had a couple senior captains, as well, so they didn’t feel that it was their team yet. So that’s why it’s important to have senior captains, so they can establish themselves and lead by example.”
Pettke is joined by senior Jake Smolarek and sophomore Nick Sedlock on attack this season.
Juniors Jack Tobiczyk, Evan Antishin and Chad Buczak make up a trip of midfielders.
Defensively, Mikaila called his pair of goaltenders, Logan Shamblin and Austin Beaudet, one of the best goalie combinations in the state. Jake Fredal, Alex Schneider, Ross Fender and Anthony Carlesimo will contribute on the back line.
“Their skill set on the field, basically everyone on the team, has really developed. They played through the summer and did the extra work,” Mikaila said. “All of the boys have contributed. We had a nice conditioning all offseason, so the boys are in shape, weight lifting and everything like that.”
Mikaila said that the program’s family atmosphere remains the same this year, but the players’ eagerness to win has been noticeable.
“There’s a big difference from last year. To start is their dedication, love of the game and wanting to succeed. I think we have a very disciplined team, and our No. 1 thing is everyone has to embrace their role and treat it as a family. We’re a big family.”
In the MAC Red, Eisenhower will be challenged again by Grosse Pointe South, but competition across the board in the MAC and statewide continues to increase as the sport gains more traction.
“I know that all of the other teams are competing and that they’re much improved, and they’re always constantly improving just as we are, as well,” Mikaila said. “The game is growing. There are better coaches and more youth programs so that these boys aren’t just picking up a lacrosse stick in ninth grade — they’re picking it up in fourth or fifth grade.”
Eisenhower is off to a 5-0 start with wins over Notre Dame Prep, Holt, Lake Orion, Troy and MAC opponent L’Anse Creuse North. After an April 22 road game against L’Anse Creuse, Eisenhower will host Warren De La Salle on April 26 at 3 p.m. at Swinehart Field.