Commentary

2012 Boys' Midwest Region Preview

Updated: February 22, 2012, 12:54 PM ET
By Brett Manney

Brad Lott, Trinity, Kentucky, Under ArmourJimmy Hurlburt/ESPNHSBrad Lott and Trinity (Louisville, Ky.) look to recapture the state championship in 2012.
Several teams from the midwest region finished 2011 in the POWERADE FAB 50. With powerhouse programs New Trier (Winnetka, Ill.) and Brother Rice (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) in addition to several top programs in Ohio vying for ranking, the FAB 50 voters will have plenty to choose from in 2012.

The Starting Lineup

(Position: athlete, year, high school (city, state), college commitment)

G: Ahmed Iftikhar, Sr., Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.), Pennsylvania
LSM: Wes Faulkenberry, Sr., Dublin Jerome (Dublin, Ohio), Ohio State
LSM: Chris Walker, Sr., Brother Rice (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Michigan
D: Zach Powers, Sr., Upper Arlington (Ohio), North Carolina
M: Joseph Bano, Sr., Dublin Jerome (Dublin, Ohio), Denver
M: Griffin Cassagne, Sr., St. Mark's (Dallas), undecided
M: Brad Lott, Sr., Trinity (Louisville, Ky.), Michigan
M: Zach Wood, Sr., Metea Valley (Aurora, Ill.), Virginia
A: Al Barnhart, Sr., Blake School (Minneapolis, Minn.), Denison
A: Ian King, Jr., St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio), Michigan

Sizing Up The Region

Illinois: The road to the state championship runs through New Trier (Ill.), which despite only returning two starters is not rebuilding. The Trevians returns the state's best goalie Jack Connelly (Providence) and junior face off stud Mike Germano (Navy). Saint Viator (Arlington Heights, Ill.) won't have to wait long to face New Trier as they host the defending state champions in the season opener for both squads. The Lions should be an athletic bunch and their early games will be a measuring stick for their success. Loyola Academy (Wilmette, Ill.) had one of the best defenses in the state last year and made it all the way to the state final. The Ramblers play some of the best out of state teams again this year and will rely on defenseman Nick Wright to anchor the defense. Barrington (Ill.) might be the sleeper team this year after finishing 11-7 last year. The Broncos return attackman Austin Rich (Roanoke) who can score goals in bunches.

Indiana: Nothing will change this year in Indiana as Culver Academy (Culver, Ind.) will be the lead dog again as the best team in the state. Over half of the Eagles games are out of state and they should continue their success in and outside of Indiana this year. Since Culver does not compete for a state championship there will be a few teams looking to take the title. Last year's defending champion Carmel (Ind.) was dominant, only losing one game. Last season the Greyhounds emerged to win their first state championship and will again look to repeat their success. One team which always is in the hunt is Cathedral (Indianapolis, Ind.), which returns Keenan Mulherin one of the state's best playmakers.

Kentucky: Louisville Trinity (Louisville, Ky.) suffered their only loss in last year's state championship and failed to capture their fifth state title after an impressive regular season. If the Shamrocks can play defense like last season and get production from Brad Lott they should have no problem returning to the title game. The Shamrocks rival Louisville St. Xavier (Louisville, Ky.) should shine once again in 2012. The Tigers were the only team to defeat Louisville Trinity last season and their tough out of state schedule helped them in the long run. The Tigers upperclassmen leadership will help them with tough tilts against Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.) and Saint Anne's-Belfield (Charlottesville, Va.) on the schedule. One squad capable of taking down the two lacrosse giants is Louisville Collegiate (Owensboro, Ky.). The Titans are battle tested after last season and have some talented underclassmen.

Michigan: Another year makes no difference in hierarchy of lacrosse in Michigan. This year is no different as the road to greatness runs through Brother Rice (Mich.), which has not lost an in-state game in 10 years. The nine-time defending state champions are loaded on offense led by their star-studded attack unit. Novi (Mich.) returns plenty of talent as four of their top seven scorers return and emerging star defenseman Travis Sparling. Forest Hills Eastern (Ada, Mich.) will look to follow up last year's success. Even though the Hawks lost some talented seniors they will have the experience to take a deep run in the state tournament. Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.) captured the 2011 Division II state championship and return every starter. The Yellow Jackets return goalie Ahmed Iftikhar who was selected to the Warrior 40 and the ESPNHS 100 last year along with and athletic midfielder Harrison Rosenfeld.

Minnesota: Once again the bull's-eye will be on Benilde St. Margaret (Saint Louis Park, Minn.) in 2012 after unexpectedly running the table in 2011. The Red Knights return Minnesota's most lethal attack unit. Without the services of the Hugdahl brothers, Eden Prairie (Minn.) will have a steep hill to climb to get back to the state championship. A lot of their offense depends on the development of junior midfielder Jake Woodring (Denver). Blake (Minneapolis) lost a ton of talent due to graduation, but with one of the best coaching staffs in the state this powerhouse can never be counted out. With two all-state players returning for the Wildcats there should be no reason why Eagan (Minn.) should not match last season's 13-win season. If Minnetonka (Minn.) can find a way to shore up their defense, they will be a dangerous squad despite losing their best player. Stillwater (Minn.) and Eastview (Apple Valley, Minn.) have some terrific individual players and each squad should top their eight win seasons from a year ago.

Missouri: Rockhurst Jesuit (Kansas City, Mo.) will be aiming for their third straight state championship in 2012. This year the athletic Hawklets will be anchored by their All-State goalie Emerson Hodes. John Burroughs (St. Louis, Mo.) has a very young team, which is led by midfielder Logan Gerard looking to make a statement after missing all of last year. Sophomore Christopher Wetzel is receiving early interest from several D-I programs and will be a player to watch in the midfield. Last year's state finalist Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School (St. Louis, Mo.) will be in the hunt again because of head coach Andy Kay. Chaminade Prep (St. Louis, Mo.) should once again be in the conversation as the best team in the state. The Red Devils early non-league games will be a barometer for the success this season. The wildcard this year is Eureka (Mo.), which despite losing six games last year was very competitive. If the Wildcats can finish out games this season they could win 15 games.

Ohio: With the most talent in the Midwest, the state of Ohio continues to churn out not only great teams, but gifted lacrosse players. Hudson (Ohio) will be looking to build off their Division I state championship and 13-game winning streak. Led by longtime head coach David Blue, the Explorers have great senior leadership complemented by a talented junior class. Worthington Kilbourne (Columbus, Ohio) finished 2011 strong after falling short in the state championship. Led by 2011 Division I faceoff specialist of the year, Tae Young Kim (Ohio State) the Wolves strong attack unit should get plenty of chances to score. Ohio powerhouse Upper Arlington (Ohio) fell just short of their sixth state title in 10 years last season. The Golden Bears tradition of excellence should strive this season led by Defenseman-of-the-Year Zach Powers (North Carolina) and a strong midfield unit anchored by Division I recruits. Western Reserve Academy (Hudson, Ohio) plays the toughest schedule in the state and that was evident in their 12-10 record last season. Captains Alex Spring (Bucknell) and Michael Gulasey (Fairfield) will look to right the ship competing against some of the best programs in the Midwest. Cincinnati teams Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio) and St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio) both had successful senior classes graduate and will need strong contributions from underclassman to achieve success. Green (Ohio) returns nine starters from a team that finished 12-7 last season. Seniors Alex Shepley (attack) and Zach Tepus (defense) are committed to Walsh University and will provide leadership. Green should be strong on the defensive side of the ball, with a goalie who has started the past two seasons and six returning defenders. In Division 2 Dublin Jerome (Dublin, Ohio) is the king of the castle and finished as the No. 31 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 last season. The Celtics have the most talent in the state evident by their six Division I recruits, including three players of the year returning. If there is a team which could knock the king off their throne it is St. Francis DeSales (Columbus, Ohio.). The Stallions return nine starters, including three Division I recruits.

Texas: The largest state in the midwest region has quickly emerged to produce big-time talent. With the season already underway teams will be jockeying for early success, which will pay off in May. Dallas Jesuit (Dallas, Texas) usually plays a tough schedule and 2012 is no different, especially on March 17 against Saint Ignatius (San Francisco, Calif.). The Rangers have a few stud underclassmen especially goalie Dan Morris (Maryland) who will need to shine this season as the state championship is within their reach. Crosstown rival Episcopal Dallas (Dallas, Texas) under new head coach Pat Kennedy should have a strong defense and scoring threats at the midfield in Barrett Anigian (Air Force) and Hayden Wilson (Hofstra). St. Mark's (Dallas) will go as far as their one-two scoring punch Will Perkins (Michigan) and Griffin Cassagne take them. The Woodlands (Texas) returns all four all-district performers including underrated Ian Seale (Fairfield). Austin (Texas) led by versatile scoring threat Mitch Reeder will surprise some people despite losing many players to graduation. Perennial Texas powerhouse Highland Park (University Park, Texas) should rebound after a rebuilding season last year. Coppell (Texas) brings in a new head coach after losing an abundance of talent, but with a promising defense and underrated players with a state championship under their belt, the Cowboys can not be taken lightly.

Wisconsin: As lacrosse continues to grow in Wisconsin so does the talent level. There has been great strides in lacrosse development and talent level. Marquette Univeristy (Milwaukee, Wis.) will be the front runner to win a state championship after coming close last year. The Hilltoppers return a strong nucleus from a 15-win team. Not far behind should be Verona (Wis.), which defeated Marquette in the state championship. The Wildcats will look for some underclassmen to help capture their second straight title after losing All-American Paul Romens. Arrowhead (Hartland, Wis.) looks to make a return to the state title game after a brief hiatus. The Warhawks led by third year head coach Erin Ennis will have a chip on their shoulder to prove after two rebuilding seasons. Waunakee (Wis.) looks to make the next step in 2012 to emerge as a state contender. After losing their four games last year by a combined ten goals, the Warriors should top their 11 win season from a year ago.

Underclassemen To Watch

(Position: athlete, year, high school (State), college commitment)

Attack: JT Blubaugh, Jr., St Francis DeSales (Ohio); Bryce Green, Jr., Highland Park (Texas); Carson Buell, Jr., Dallas Jesuit (Texas); Nick Wood, Jr., Metea Valley (Ill.); Ryan McNamara, Jr., Eastview (Ill.), Marquette.

Midfield: Hayes McKinley, Jr., University School (Ohio), Syracuse; Sergio Perkovic, Jr., Brother Rice (Mich.), Notre Dame; Joel Tinney, Soph., Culver (Ind.), Johns Hopkins; Garrett Van de Ven, Jr., Dallas Jesuit (Texas); Christopher Wetzel, Soph., John Burroughs; Jake Woodring, Jr., Eden Prairie (Minn.), Denver.

Defense: Will Debord, Jr., Saint Charles (Ill.), Air Force; Tanner Landstra, Jr., Indian Hill (Ohio), High Point; Austin Spencer, Jr., Culver (Ind.), Massachusetts.

Goalie: Dan Morris, Jr., Dallas Jesuit (Texas), Maryland; Tyler Zickel, Jr., Hudson (Ohio).

Games To Watch

March 11: St. Mark's (Texas) vs. Calvert Hall (Baltimore, Md.), Durham, N.C.
March 28: Louisville Trinity (Ky.) vs. Louisville Saint Xavier (Ky.)
March 29: New Trier (Ill.) vs. Worthington Kilbourne (Ohio)
April 1: Archbishop Moeller (Ohio) vs. Brother Rice (Mich.)
April 20: Dublin Jerome (Ohio) vs. Detroit Country Day (Mich.)

How This Region Affects The FAB 50

The midwest is emerging with talented players and teams. In Texas last year, St. Mark's (Dallas) spent the majority of the season in the FAB 50 and finished at No. 32. And Coppell (Texas), who won its state championship, finished at No. 28. This season, St. Mark's takes on the potential preseason No. 1 team when it plays Calvert Hall (Baltimore, Md.) at the Brine King of Spring tournament.

Dublin Jerome (Ohio) finished at No. 31 last year and 2012 could see Ohio get even more teams into the rankings this season. Upper Arlington should compete for a spot in the rankings this year.