657. That is the number of days that it has been since Saint Ignatius Lacrosse last played a game. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 season was canceled. In 2021, the Wildcats return to the field to open their season against the Western Reserve Academy Pioneers at 5:30 p.m.
Although the Wildcats have not played a game since the 2019 season, the players and coaches have been hard at work during the off-season to be ready for the upcoming 2021 season. Most of the student-athletes play on club and travel teams during the off-season. “The nice thing is we have gotten to the point where we have a lot of lacrosse first players,” says varsity coach Joe Boehm ’05. “These guys played a lot in the summer with club teams, even though it wasn’t with us, that gives them the comfort of being out there for this season.”
“The kids had a great offseason; they took the extra effort and did a lot of things on their own,” explains varsity coach Dave Cerny. “It is neat watching these kids progress over the last 40-50 days of practice.”
The student-athletes for the Wildcats are chomping at the bit to make a run for a state championship this season. “We had a great team last season that was unfortunately lost,” says senior captain Kyle Geary. “I feel like we owe it to them to prove what we deserve.”
The excitement level for players and coaches to return to the field is tangible. “We got so close to having a scrimmage last season, and then that weekend, we got canceled,” says senior captain Luca LaSpina. “We have put in a lot of hard work in the past two off-seasons, we’re excited to get back out there and play.”
“It’s great and energizing,” says Cerny. “This is a fun group of guys; there is a lot of excitement heading into this season to see what we can accomplish as a team.”
Even though the Wildcats have had the opportunity to return to practice, they did not have the chance to scrimmage before the beginning of the regular season. WRA will be their first live simulated game in 2021. “There are always growing pains, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how we have looked,” explains Boehm. “We are grateful for the MAGIS Center and keeping these guys ready.”
The schedule is subject to change week by week, but at the moment, nine home games are on the docket for the Lax Cats. Typically the lacrosse program would travel during the majority of the regular season. In 2021, that changes as the Wildcats will play a good amount of games in the friendly confines of Wasmer Field.
“That will help us a lot,” says senior captain Kenneth Klubnik. “It will be great playing at home and not taking a long bus trip.”
“Guys are comfortable playing here,” explains Boehm “It is always good to come out to our music and fans, and the parents are thrilled.”
Cerny has been a part of the Saint Ignatius community for 32 years, and although he is not an alumnus, he understands the importance of playing at home. “Homefield is an advantage in lacrosse,” says Cerny. “I’m not an Ignatius grad, but I have been associated with the school for 32 years, and I feel the specialness of playing at home.”
There is no shortness of leadership on this season’s lacrosse team. “We look at everyone as a leader; it is not just the captains,” says senior captain Kyu Shim. “That mentality is what makes our program so great.”
The Wildcats will face-off against the Pioneers, a great opening test for the Lax Cats. “Possessions and playing the game we are capable of and getting the nervousness off, explains Cerny. “WRA is a good team and a good test.”
“Playing a smart lacrosse game, we need to win the ground ball battle,” says Boehm. “We want to turn it into a six-on-six game; WRA has a great team and coach, we can’t give them any easy ones.”
The game will be broadcasted live on the SIBN at 5:30 p.m. as the Lax Cats play host to the Western Reserve Academy Pioneers from Wasmer Field. There is excellent optimism heading into the new season, and WRA should be an ideal jumping-off point for the Lax Cats. “Play fast, work hard on defense, we just have to play our game,” says Klubnik.