Despite losing in the Nebraska High School Lacrosse League semifinal game last week, the Valley Tigers completed another successful season. Iowa’s only high school lacrosse team finished the season with an amazing 15-3 record overall!
For the first time in team history, the Tigers defeated Creighton Prep at the varsity level and finished the regular season firmly in second place. Victories against two members of the Kansas League* helped reinforce Valley’s prowess in the region. The unexpected loss to Millard West in the semifinal may have kept the Tigers out of the championship game for the third year straight, but provided the team with a high quality match up nonetheless.
Despite that loss, the 2012 season was amazing – especially considering the amount of rebuilding the team underwent defensively. Starting goalkeeper Hunter Couch, a two-time Team MVP and All State honoree, graduated last season leaving a big question mark in goal; the departure of former JV goalie Graham Taylor prior to the season further complicated matters. Two thirds of the 2011 starting defense also graduated (Jamie Tornberg and Collin Mundus; an additional pole, Will “Texas” Cafferata also left the team prior to the season due to schedule conflicts. Will Tornberg (So) and LSM Tanner McDougal (Sr) were the only returning players on the defensive end. Newcomers Jake McEntee (Jr) and Eric Cushing (Sr) picked up the game quickly and made an immediate impact with their physical presence and athleticism.
Ben Oberender (Jr) starting working in goal before preseason practices in January. Ryan Voggesser (Fr) and Jacob Oberender (Fr) began working in net once preseason training got underway. The younger Oberender left the cage in favor of playing pole. Though somewhat reluctant, Voggesser showed an aptitude for goal and his aggression with saves impressed both his coaches and teammates early on. As the season wore on, both new keepers demonstrated the poise and confidence all teams desire.
All State Attackmen Ted Crites (So) and Hunter Levis (Sr) provided continuity up front. Key face off man Nick Harrington (Sr) was one of several returning midfielders, including Cole Griess (Jr), Ben Arends (Fr), and Sam Arends (Jr). The coaching staff felt confident that this group could more than make up for the goal production of former leading scorer Dylan Griess. The addition of experienced newcomer Andrew Long (Fr) simply added to the team’s arsenal. The offensive continuity helped ease concerns about the new blood guarding the net.
Team First Award: Hunter Levis (A)
Most Improved Player: Tyler Scrimager(M)
Freshman of the Year: Ben Arends (M)
Sophomore of the Year: Will Tornberg (D)
Junior of the Year: Cole Griess (M)
Senior of the Year: Nick Harrington (M)
JV MVP: Ryan Voggesser (G)
Defensive MVP: Ben Oberender (G)
Offensive MVP: Ted Crites (A)
Varsity MVP: Tanner McDougal (LSM)
All State Recognition
First Team: Ted Crites (So, A), Nick Harrington (Sr, FO),
Second Team: Tanner McDougal (Sr, LSM), Will Tornberg (So, D)
Honorable Mention: Ben Arends (Fr, M), Cole Griess (Jr, M), Andrew Long (Fr, M)
Head coach Zach Zielonko formally announced that he will be leaving the team and the Central Iowa Lacrosse Association later this summer. Zielonko is relocating to Colorado to advance his professional career. He plans to pursue new coaching opportunities once he is settled. Zielonko was Valley’s first head coach and the mastermind behind the team’s evolution from an intramural group to a varsity club.
Assistant coach Tyler Nielsen will alsonbe leaving the team. The recently married coach is moving to Memphis in support of his wife’s medical career. Nielsen has been with the team since its inaugural JV season (2009).
Current assistant coach Austin Ladd will assume head coaching duties. Alec Sundermann plans to return as an assistant next season,barring unforeseen life events. I will be back as well. Decisions involving additional volunteer coaches will be disclosed at a later date.
Next season should provide a much smoother transition with only a handful of seniors graduating. McDougal’s absence will undoubtedly be felt as he has been the confidence of the team all season – and with good reason. To say McDougal’s 132 ground balls lead the team would be accurate, but it would be minimizing his ability to snatch impossible balls and strip opponents. The LSM even managed to grab seven goals over the course of the season. Harrington is also a major loss; winning 68 percent of this 167 draws helped keep the ball away from Valley’s defense. Levis has been a solid and consistent presence on attack. Cushing and Colin Cook provided nice, physical options on defense. Perhaps the most underrated loss will be Tyler Scrimager. Scrim (as he is known by his teammates) had the ability to come in as a defensive midfielder, create a turnover, and sub off for an offensive player in less than 30 seconds.
Sam and Ben Arends should be able to cover the bulk of Harrington’s face off production. A plethora of young, talented sticks are waiting in the wings for Levis’ spot on attack. Jacob Fay (Fr) spent time on Scrim’s unit this season and looks to be version 2.0 next year. The JV squad offered up a couple of solid poles this year that will compete for varsity time next spring. McDougal’s shoes will no doubt be the hardest to fill, but Seth Thompson (Jr), Jack Kapustka (So), and Austin Turner (Fr) all seem to have the potential – and desire – to try.