By Travis Smola
The Vicksburg Bulldog lacrosse team is rolling after winning its second consecutive Southwest Michigan Men’s Lacrosse Conference title in an 11-1 victory over Harper Creek on May 10.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Head Coach Erik Frank said of the season after the victory. The Bulldogs also defeated Portage Northern on May 19 in their first tournament game 15-0 on home turf.
Much of the Bulldogs’ success this year has come with a decidedly different defensive look. The system is called “Ten Man Ride.” The extremely aggressive defensive style brings the goalie out of net for long periods to cover an attacker on the opposing team.
The basic idea of the system is to have everyone on the opposing team covered man-to-man, even the goalie. When executed properly, it limits opponents’ opportunities simply by forcing them into difficult passing situations.
Frank said it helps several of the boys also play linebacker or defensive back in football. It helps them read the plays on the field better.
It’s also not a system every team has the personnel to run. Frank said the players have to be extremely knowledgeable about the game. The goalie has to be athletic and willing to take the risks that come with leaving the net. The players all have to understand and buy into the system for it to work.
It’s a big risk, but big reward,” Frank said.
But it gives the team approximately 20-25 percent more opportunities on offense. And it seems to work. Goalie Sam Gearig made just four saves against the Huskies in the shutout as the Bulldogs used their stifling physical play to keep much of the game around the Portage Northern net.
On the offensive side, Portage Northern could seemingly do nothing to stop the onslaught of goals. The score might have been much higher had the Huskies goalie not made a lot of stops.
Leading the way in scoring were senior Jacob Day and junior Tim Gearig with four goals each. Junior Gavin Leach had three.
Two of Tim Gearig’s goals came after excellent interceptions of attempted Portage Northern passes.
Frank gives a lot of credit to the seniors for their veteran leadership this season in making the 10-man ride work and setting the tone for the younger players. He praised their ability to go hard all game long. “It comes back to the mentality we set on day one,” he said after the Conference-clinching Harper Creek game. “To see the boys continue to push and work hard is a testament to their heart and character.”