Re-LAX. The 8th graders got this

The addition of four 8th graders to varsity boys lacrosse could be exactly what the team needs to win the district championship this year.

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Re-LAX. The 8th graders got this

The 2019 varsity boys lacrosse team. Credit: Ollie Leclezio

The 2019 varsity boys lacrosse team. Credit: Ollie Leclezio

The 2019 varsity boys lacrosse team. Credit: Ollie Leclezio

The 2019 varsity boys lacrosse team. Credit: Ollie Leclezio

Alex DeStefano, Staff Writer

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In recent years, Saint Stephen’s has not been known for having a hugely successful lacrosse program (as the program is quite new).  For a while, the team suffered through quite a few losing seasons. 

Last year, the team finally started to get a taste of success and this year, and the addition of new 8th graders could help them forget what losing feels like altogether.

With a fresh start this Spring season, varsity boys lacrosse has kicked off with an undefeated 5-0 record, showcasing some middle school stardom.

Last year, the team finished strong under the command of a much-needed new coach, Dan Rice. Coach Rice was exactly what the lacrosse program needed to get a push in the right direction. To keep the ball rolling, new incoming 8th graders such as Matt Vara, Justin Millican, Mason Dillingham, and Cole Ryskamp are rising up to the challenge.

Matt Vara (bottom left), Cole Ryskamp (top left), Mason Dillingham (top right), and Justin Millican (bottom right) putting in work after lunchtime. Credit: Alex DeStefano

These players, known as the “core four,” have been playing together since they were in the fifth grade, which gives them a dynamic advantage over some of the new players.

One of the key veteran players this year will be sophomore midfielder Connor Rice.  About the upcoming season, Rice said, “Coming into the season we really were not expecting much success because we barely had enough players to field a game at the first practice, but the 8th graders have restored our faith in a winning season.”

Sophomore Connor Rice, #6 beating a Lakewood Ranch defender to the goal. Credit: RedBirdPhotography


Some other key players to the team this year are sophomore attackman Cade Ryskamp, the top scorer on the team last year. Another key force on the team is star defender Jarrett Millican. Jarrett is an effective defenseman due to spending minimal time spent in the penalty box and contributions to the team when the ball is on our side of the field.

Further, we can’t forget about team captain, Colin Varady, who has been an incredibly effective leader since his return to Saint Stephen’s last year. Varady, a starting attackman, is not as focused on scoring as many goals as he is in giving scoring opportunities through selfless play and quality passing.

Sophomore Cade Ryskamp driving to the goal. Credit: RedBirdPhotography

The four young newcomers played junior varsity together last year as the backbone of the team, with Vara and Millican leading the team in scoring.

The varsity team has been anticipating the arrival of the “core four” ever since they showed their skills on the field last year.

But there is a big difference between the level of skill and intensity in junior varsity compared to varsity sports, especially lacrosse. But it appears that these four are ready for the challenge, despite factors like Vara’s height.

Matt Vara, an eighth grade stand out who is a little shorter than most, said “This won’t be the first time I play against people much bigger than me, so I don’t think my height will affect my success on varsity.”

8th grader Matt Vara #17, waiting to get the ball to score on the ODA goalie. Credit: Vicki Vara

During the opening four-game tournament of the season, the Falcons finished with an undefeated 4-0 record, facing off against opponents ODA, Lakewood Ranch, Wharton Hall, and Sarasota Military Academy.

The success these four brought to the team over the long weekend was just a small look into what is to come with these new middle school stars. A winning, or undefeated season, is anticipated for the Falcons lacrosse team

The Falcons will be playing ODA on Friday, March 1st. at 7:00. Make sure you come out and support the team.  It’s their year. 

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