By Travis Smola
To say it was an exciting year for the boys’ lacrosse team at Vicksburg would be an understatement.
After powering through the regular season with just a single loss to Harper Creek blemishing their record, the Bulldogs exacted revenge in the conference title game, defeating a very good Beavers team 9-7. They also defeated Harper Creek in a playoff rubber match 11-6 on May 25.
The season ultimately came to an end against a very good Okemos team in a 19-10 loss on May 31. But the team finished with a 15-2 record, the best in school history.
New head coach Erik Frank described the year as a “season of firsts.” In just the seventh year of the program’s existence, the Bulldogs earned their first winning season and their first Conference title. Just days before the title win, the Bulldogs defeated Portage Northern in a thrilling come-from-behind fashion in a conference semi-final playoff game by a score of 11-9.
It was the second time this season Vicksburg defeated Portage Northern. The victories over the Huskies are also the first in program history. “It’s been exciting, I have a great core of guys that love the game,” Frank said after the victory over Portage Northern.
Shortly after the celebration over the second Portage Northern game, the Bulldogs won their next playoff game over Battle Creek Lakeview 20-13. It was a rowdy game that saw many loud and excited Vicksburg fans in attendance. Bulldogs Senior Justin Gearig needed just 18 seconds to score the game’s first goal.
He also finished the game by scoring the last goal, using a beautiful spin move to fake out a Spartan defender before whipping the ball hard into the net. Gearig has committed to play the game at the next level for Trine University next season.
Continuing the trend of firsts, the games against Portage Northern and Battle Creek Lakeview were the first playoff wins in program history.
In addition to the talent on the team, Frank brings a wealth of experience as he is also the coach for Western Michigan’s lacrosse team. He brings additional high school level experience from his time at Mattawan.
Speaking of Mattawan, that was yet another first. The Bulldogs beat that team for the first time in program history by a score of 8-6 on April 28.
The victory was bittersweet for Frank, who learned a lot in his time working with the program there. But Frank couldn’t turn down the opportunity to coach at Vicksburg. “It was an easy decision to come here,” he said.
Much of the team is young, but the older players have been a big factor. “We’ve got great leadership from our seniors,” Frank said. There are only three of them and they include goalie Ben Dull and defensemen Bailey Slater. Along with Gearig, they serve as three of the team’s four captains.
The other captain is junior Blake Rankin, whom Frank expects will also potentially play lacrosse at the college level in the future. Near the end of the Portage Northern game, Frank and his staff asked Rankin, who had five goals in the contest, if he was tired and needed a break. “He just looked at us and kept playing,” Frank said.
But it’s been more than just individual efforts. Frank said the team has really learned how to work together as the season has progressed. “They’ve flourished as a team,” Frank said. “We have 8 or 9 players with four or five goals each.”
It’s pretty safe to say the next few years should be exciting for Vicksburg lacrosse.