Birmingham Brother Rice senior Brandon Murphy, left, and junior Manny Betrus participate in a faceoff drill April 24 at practice. At press time, the Warriors were undefeated at 11-0 overall.

Birmingham Brother Rice senior Brandon Murphy, left, and junior Manny Betrus participate in a faceoff drill April 24 at practice. At press time, the Warriors were undefeated at 11-0 overall.

Photo by Donna Agusti

‘There’s no secret sauce to Brother Rice lacrosse’

Warriors using hard work to avenge last year’s state title loss

By: Jacob Herbert | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published April 30, 2019


BLOOMFIELD HILLS — The Michigan High School Athletic Association began to recognize lacrosse as a sport in 2005. Birmingham Brother Rice lacrosse had won every Division 1 state championship since its inception — totaling 13 straight — until last season.

That streak was broken last year with an 11-10 loss to Novi Detroit Catholic Central. The Warriors led 10-7 midway through the fourth quarter. Then Catholic Central rallied, scoring four straight in the last four minutes to win.

“We had it in our grasp; we were up in the fourth quarter,” Rice coach Ajay Chawla said. “I think it was a little disappointing, but all streaks come to an end at some point. There was a renewed sense of motivation this year, and I think people are seeing that now.”

That renewed sense of motivation trickled down through the whole team, but started with the senior class. Led by captains Justin Glod, Michael Cosgrove and James Donaldson, the Warriors began to hit the weight room, worked one on one and did whatever it took to get better.

“Everyone is doing the same work we’re doing in the offseason, so you’ve got to differentiate yourself by some kind of competitive edge, whether it’s working hard in the weight room, working hard on the field or spending more time in the film room,” Donaldson said. “Really, it was a culmination of those things this offseason. Everyone else’s season started (March 11), but our season started last June 11. We’ve been prepping for a long time.”

The sixth-year head coach called his senior class “phenomenal,” with a work ethic that is second to none. The work ethic showed with how little Chawla needed to be involved in the offseason. The team took care of things itself, and the tone was set by a group of seniors determined not to lose a state title game again.

“We’ve got great leadership,” Chawla said. “They are so focused, it is unbelievable. From a coaching standpoint, it makes a world of difference when you don’t have to worry about discipline and focus every day, when you know you can walk out on the field and just teach.”

All of the hard work throughout the summer has paid off in the early going. At press time, the Warriors were 11-0 and came in at No. 24 nationally in the April 24 edition of the Under Armour/IL Top 25 High School Power Rankings on

One thing that has helped the Warriors succeed this season is their familiarity with one another. Other than a small handful of new players, Rice returned virtually the same roster from last year.

Chawla said that helps his players by leaps and bounds on the field, knowing where each other will be on the field at any given time. Passes are more crisp and plays run more smoothly.

Another thing that Chawla has been impressed with so far is the mental toughness of the team.

“Just how smart they are on the field,” the coach said. “We’re playing smart, and we’re playing tough. There’s very little I have to say before a game to pump these guys up. They’re self-motivated and they play that way.”

Up and down the program, the Warriors have a laundry list of goals to be crossed off this season. Chawla wants Rice to be the top academic team in the state — that one is most important to him. The state title and the Catholic High School League title are there like they are every year.

But when asked about his goals for the team this year, Donaldson had one particular thing in mind.

“Only one goal: undefeated season,” the senior said. “That’s it. Everything else, the Catholic League titles, the state titles, are byproducts. We’re going to do whatever we can to make that happen handily.”

Rice expects to be back in this year’s state title game, perhaps against Catholic Central. The Warriors beat the Shamrocks 16-5 in late March.

Last year’s team was young and struggled with closing out games, but the sophomore class still managed to score eight of the Warriors’ 10 goals in the state title game.

That same class returned this season, and the junior class returned as seniors. Both classes have an entire offseason of highly motivated work under their belts. Just like last year, Rice is poised to be back atop the Michigan lacrosse world.

“There’s no secret sauce to Brother Rice lacrosse. It’s hard work, hard work, hard work,” Chawla said.