While falling in the regional finals, South’s journey included a Macomb Area Conference-Red league title win over Macomb Dakota May 12.

While falling in the regional finals, South’s journey included a Macomb Area Conference-Red league title win over Macomb Dakota May 12.

Photo provided by Patrick Koeppen

South lacrosse’s ‘special group’ of seniors end career on high note

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 6, 2023

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Two Macomb Area Conference-Red league titles, three-straight winning seasons and a culture that keeps on growing year after year — Grosse Pointe South’s 2023 senior class did its job and more since first stepping onto the field.

“I would say it’s been very successful,” senior goalkeeper Patrick Koeppen said. “We’ve won more games than we lost, and record-wise it’s been very good, but I think I’ve learned a lot, experienced a lot, and made a lot of new friends and got close with people. I think it’s been a very successful past four years here.”

The seniors’ high school story ended May 31 in a regional finals loss to Detroit Country Day, one of the top teams in the state, but they made sure their final season was one they’d never forget.

For the past three seasons, South’s kryptonite, aside from reaching the regional finals, was getting past one team who continued to stand in their way — Warren De La Salle Collegiate.

In back-to-back seasons, De La Salle outscored South 34-21. Prior to this year, South had failed to make the regional finals since the 2014-15 season, when the team fell to Country Day.

But after knocking off Macomb Dakota on its turf to take the MAC Tournament Championship May 12,  just before the start of the state tournament, South’s confidence was at an all-time high.

Not only did they clear the regional finals drought out of the way, but a 16-6 win over De La Salle on May 25 at Grosse Pointe South High School solidified the legacy of these seniors and took care of some unfinished business in the process.

“This class is going to be very hard to replace,” coach Justin Macksoud said. “I say it every year, but this class in particular is going to be extremely hard to replace. They’re just the best kids. The parents are amazing. This is just a special group.”

There are all-state players across the board with this group, starting with senior captain Griffin Adams, who tallied 50 goals and 72 assists this season.

A staple for South lacrosse since his first season, Adams has consistently been a leader both on and off the field for Macksoud’s squad.

“He’s the best player I’ve ever coached at South,” Macksoud said. “I’ve never seen a kid make people better the way he does. He’s almost LeBron-esque, because he scores his goals, and he scores a lot, but he gets way more assists than he does goals.”

Alongside Adams, senior all-state honorees Harrison Wright, Jack Hannigan and William Rauh continued to impress on the field this season.

Rauh led a stout defensive effort with seniors Luke Dixon, Jonathan Klunder, Joseph Labadie and Owen Domzalski that allowed just over seven goals per game during the regular season.

Koeppen, who had never played goalie until his sophomore year, sported a 65% save percentage this season.

“Those guys right there saved us on defense this year,” Macksoud said.

But the seniors didn’t have all the fun this season, as a freshman phenom caught the attention of South opponents too.

Jack Smith eclipsed the 40-goal plateau this season and will be the focal point of South’s offense for years to come.

“I heard about Jack all summer long and how skilled he was coming into the year, but what I was most surprised about was his size and athletic ability,” Macksoud said. “I kind of have to look up at Jack a little bit. He’s all of 6-foot and maybe 170 or 175 pounds, and he’s afraid of no one.”

Sophomore Richard Linnell was a consistent contributor on the defensive side as well.

With almost half the team graduating this season, South will look to its underclassmen and juniors to take the reins next season.

“We have 20 seniors, so it’s very easy for the young kids to really look up to us, so we’re really hoping that next year when we leave, that all the kids that are still on the team can be leaders to the new kids coming up in the program so we can keep the culture going,” Adams said.