Local Lacrosse Team Finishes 2nd in National Championship
Burning River’s Elite travel team, with players from Lakewood, Medina, North Canton, Brunswick, Solon, Avon Lake, Rocky River, and Cleveland Heights, finished 2nd in the National Tournament of Champions in the Rising Star Division, losing in the Championship game 6-4 to the Copperheads Black (GA) after outscoring their opponents 59-12 in the five previous Tournament games. The Tampa-based Tournament of Champions is sponsored by Dick’s Sporting Goods and is the only National tournament for High School Lacrosse, drawing teams from 20 different states and Canadian provinces.
Despite a torrential downpour on Friday, the team started the tournament by going 3-0 in pool play with impressive (double digit) victories over the Tampa Tribe (FL), Copperheads Orange (GA), and the CT Cardinals Red (CT). In those games, the squad outscored its three opponents 39-2. Burning River’s coach, Woody Calleri, was proud of his team’s 3-0 start, noting, “The weather affected us a little bit early on today. In the first game, the footing was a little sloppy for the kids, but as the day went on, we got our legs back and at the same time our ball handling and stick work got clicking.”
As the tournament progressed to the medal round, the team continued to post impressive results. In the quarterfinal match against the Palm Beach Storm (FL), Burning River jumped out to a 9-2 lead at halftime before coasting to an 11-3 victory. Heading into the semifinals, the team had outscored its opponents 50 to 5. In the semifinals, Burning River Lacrosse faced tournament favorite Mesa Fresh (PA). The game was an awesome display of offensive and defensive skills showcasing the highest caliber of play. Burning River scored first, but was down by two going into intermission. They made a comeback near the start of the second half, tying the game at 6. Burning River then took charge of the game with 3 goals showcasing Geoff Geppert, Chris Humphrey and Bryce Pasquarello, each goal topping the other in terms of individual effort and athletic ability. The game was 9-7 with a little over 3 minutes remaining. An absolutely spectacular display of goaltending, athletic ability and will to win by Burning River’s goalie Andrew Harris kept Mesa off the scoreboard and propelled Burning River into the Championship game.
In a tight, hard-fought championship tilt, Burning River jumped out to an early lead, but were down 3-2 at the half. The Copperheads soon made it 5-2 in the second half, only to be answered by two more goals from Burning River, thanks to Edward Barksdale, James Dalheimer, and Gray Leeseberg. An unassisted netter by the Copperheads' DeBole with 1:53 left put the icing on the cake for coach Mike Mutzel’s Copperheads, as they had the insurance goal they needed at 6-4. The crew from Atlanta would become national champions less than two minutes later. "Our defense and goalie were phenomenal today," said a proud coach Mutzel. "What a great feeling it is to be with all of these kids here today."
The Burning River Lacrosee team impressed those who saw them at the tournament, both with their play and with their sportsmanship.