BE boys' lacrosse team seeking second state trophy
Encore? What will Sean Keiper do for an encore?
Keiper set the bar extremely high last spring in his first season as coach of the Bishop England boys’ lacrosse team. The Bishops captured their first state championship in the school’s history since the South Carolina High School League sanctioned the sport in 2010. This year, the expectations are extremely high as Keiper attempts to go 2-for-2 in the gold medal count.
“I think, what you do is stick to the standards you have in place,” said Keiper, whose team entered this week’s play with a 5-1 record, with the only loss being to SCISA power and archrival Porter-Gaud. “You build a program and keep moving in that direction. What makes it easy is that we’ve had success and the players have bought into the program.”
“It was an exciting year, especially toward the end of the season,” Keiper said of last year’s run to the title. “It was a great playoff run with a great group of seniors and upperclassmen.”
The Bishops, who had 12 seniors on last year’s squad, were well-represented on the Lower State and all-state teams. Lower State picks included Andrew Pizzo, Connor Malark, Ryan Reich, Justin Lively and Justin Counasse.
Pizzo and Malark, who scored a hat-trick in the state championship, were first-team all-state picks as well, while Malark was honored as the lower state player of the year and the lower state midfielder of the year.
The only returner of the bunch is Counasse, who is back as the team’s goalie.
Keiper said the key to this year’s success is the unification of the returning players with experience with the newcomers. The state championship increased interest in the sport and the program should continue to grow.
“The players have worked hard to become one,” Keiper said. “They’ve worked together in the weight room and during the offseason to create that unity. They are unified with one goal and that is to win the state championship again. They come out on the field to practice and work hard.”
There is still talent on the roster. Key players for 2018 include Counasse at goalie, senior attacker Dan Russler, senior defender Tim Taylor, senior midfielder Christian Greavu and sophomore midfielder Sawyer Thompson.
“Last year, everyone knew how big our senior class was,” Keiper said. “The seniors helped bring in the underclassmen, who bought into the program. Last year’s seniors did a great job of setting the bar high for future teams.”
Last year’s state championship run was a little easier after the High School League broke lacrosse into two classifications: AAAAA and AAAA. That meant the Bishops didn’t have to play schools that had as much as five times the enrollment that Bishop England had.
This year, Keiper expects Academic Magnet and Hilton Head to challenge the Bishops for state supremacy.
“Both schools do a very good job,” Keiper said. “They have the talent and great coaching. But what we have to do is focus on ourselves. I tell the players that great teams get better every week. If we improve every week, we will be in great shape.”