Sterling Heights, Warren
Sterling-Mott Unified coach reflects on first season
May 29, 2013
ROCHESTER HILLS — In just its first year as a varsity program, the Sterling-Warren Mott Unified boys lacrosse team accomplished its goal of winning the Macomb Area Conference White Division title.
Unified coach Steve Hunter said May 8 that the title was a goal he and his players set at the start of the season. It was an ambitious one for a team in its infancy, but the Unified players were up to the challenge, according to Hunter.
Sterling-Mott did its best to make some noise in the 2013 Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state playoffs, as well. The Unified squad fell 17-16 to Rochester Hills Stoney Creek in a matchup played May 20 at Stoney Creek.
The game was a back-and-forth contest that saw nine ties and 10 lead changes. Stoney Creek outscored Sterling-Mott 6-5 in the fourth quarter to secure the win — not before the Unified team notched three goals late in the game to pull within one, with 1:09 to play.
“To be honest with you, the way we were practicing (prior to the playoff game) — we didn’t have good practices at all,” said Hunter, who guided Sterling-Mott to a 9-6 record, including an 8-0 mark in the MAC White.
“But they didn’t give up. They played as a team all night and didn’t get down on themselves, and they pushed one of the better teams in Oakland County to the point where they weren’t sure what to do with us.”
“You’ve got to give (Unified) credit,” Stoney Creek coach Mike Dungan said. “They’ve got some very talented players and they fought to the bitter end.”
The Unified team should be stronger next year, as Sterling-Mott loses just one senior, goalkeeper Aaron Rickabaugh, from its 24-man roster.
Junior co-captains Dylan Neisler (an attacker) and Austin Ross (long-stick midfielder) will return to lead the team. Neisler, who led the team in scoring in the regular season, notched seven goals in the playoff loss. Ross tallied four in the pre-regional setback.
“When I’ve got scorers like (Neisler and Ross) … I’m proud to be their coach,” Hunter said following the playoff game. “I couldn’t be prouder of everybody on this team. Everybody’s coming back, and they’ve already said they’re going to work harder in the offseason, and we’re just going to try to continue what we built this year. … Everything is positive right now.”