FLN’s Top 10 Stories of Florida Lacrosse for 2021!

Because of the COVID effects we did not do this annual story for 2020, but are back with one for 2021!  The past year, while still affected, did come to a conclusion with FHSAA championships and NCAA/NAIA tournaments. We’re all thankful for that, as well as living in a state where the environment allowed us to proceed as best as possible with some limitations (for example, the Sunshine State Conference, as well as a few high schools, did not allow attendance at games).

I decided not to rank them from 1-10 this year, and there were certainly more than 10 possible stories, as these did not make the cut:

The Rubber Match between LHP and AH-Delray in their rivalry

St. Thomas Aquinas wins their Semifinal game while shorthanded three players!

Vero Beach Gets Back to the Women’s Finals

Sarah Burlingame Named the Trina Mangano Award winner

FLN Starts a YouTube Channel! (okay, I get ONE self-promotion . . .)

But we certainly had a banner year for stories this year!

Jared Bernhardt Wins the Tewaaraton!

Nothing shows the spread of sport across the nation than the fact that the Women’s Tewaaraton Award went to a young woman from Texas (Charlotte North) and that the Men’s Award went to a Floridian named Jared Bernhardt.

Not only did Jared dominate the world of college lacrosse but he also followed up with an incredible last year of college eligibility in football by leading Ferris State to a national title in football a few weeks back.  Unreal.

Lake Brantley grad.  U-19 National Team member.  Likely U.S. National Team player in the near future.  Will he suit up for PLL this year?  All he has to do is say yes.  Or will he maybe take a shot at attending an NFL camp?

What an athlete and what a year.  And what a representative for our state’s growing prowess.

FHSAA Tournament with Two Classes Opens the Door for New Final Four Participants!

We’ll put aside the screwups of the event in the spirit of looking forward and hoping for the lessons learned to be corrected . . . but we did see many first-time participants and a new champion too!  St. Thomas Girls take the 2A title.  A few Final Four first-timers too!  FIVE to be exact.  Canterbury Boys, St. Edward’s Boys, Plant Boys, Community School Girls, Steinbrenner Girls.

Who joins that list in 2022?

And no one will forget either the incredible 2A Girls Semifinal between St. Thomas and Steinbrenner with the 11 on 8 second half, nor the great 1A final between LHP and American Heritage-Delray.

Keiser Women Win NAIA Crown!

Once again, the state has a national champion and this time it was the Seahawks of Keiser Women’s team, as they defeated University of the Cumberlands 13-11!  Head Coach Lauren Bennett was named the IWLCA NAIA Coach of the Year in honor of the team’s performance.

When you look at their roster and that most of the points and production in the championship game was from non-seniors, there’s a good possibility we can repeat this listing next year too!

Underclass Athletes Making Impact!

One major benefit of the increased quality of coaching in our state is that sophomores and freshmen are making major impacts on their high school programs.

Ryann Frechette led all the Girls in the state in both goals and points as a FRESHWOMAN (Frosh? Froshperson? Please don’t tell me my pronouns are off!) at Bartram Trail.

The Steinbrenner Girls sophomore class is stacked and they made the school’s first trip to the Final Four, led by Taylor Lapointe with 99 points

Avery Smith with 72 goals for Cypress Creek (Wesley Chapel) and Maeve Chamberlin with 70 at Satellite.  Samantha Swanovich and Alexa Vega and so many more!

On the Boy’s side, Plant’s sophomore Turner Ashby led the state with 144 points.  Payton Kassay of Alonso and Jackson Bennett of Windermere Prep with big seasons.  Dylan Gibson of Holy Trinity with 70 goals and Matt Vara of St. Stephens Episcopal with 62.

And yes, I know there are PLENTY of impact players not listed here, like Caden Harshbarger of Lake Mary, but I wanted to highlight some of the programs that we rarely get to this time!

Like 8th graders Finn Doherty of Northside Christian and Broden Dold of Windermere Prep, who scored 58 and 57 goals respectively! 

EIGHTH GRADERS!

This state is RAPIDLY building its’ depth . . . but remember all you broadcasters, don’t you DARE use MaxPreps national rankings next year UNTIL THE SEASON IS OVER FOR EVERYONE!

Saint Andrew’s Back in the Winner’s Circle/St. Edward’s Magical Run to the Finals!

Hard to believe but it was 2012 that St. Andrew’s last won their state title, after dominating the state title games for years.  Fighting through Covid shutdowns for them and a number of their scheduled opponents, they were able to run the table, and took down St. Edward’s in the 1A title game.

Saint Edward’s run to that game was also worthy of their own slot in this list but in reality they really should be paired together given how unlikely this matchup was going into the season.

Unfortunately for those who followed the St. Edward’s story, the two sides are in litigation so we’ll let things play out before further comment.

Saint Andrew’s, welcome back!

Rory Whipple Retires and is Replaced by J.B. Clarke as the SSC Coaching Positions Take an Overhaul!

What was usually a relatively quiet number of years for coaching changes in the Sunshine State Conference exploded this year, bookended by the announcement of Rory Whipple’s retirement at the helm of the Tampa Men and the stunning announcement in Melbourne that Mark Penn had been let go by Florida Tech, in the face of resistance by players, parents and alumni.

Making the Tampa situation unique was their hiring of J.B. Clarke, the head coach of Limestone, to replace Rory.  Hiring a legend to replace a legend is pretty rare in our sport.

PBA replaced both head coaches, as Katy Richardson took over the Women’s program from Jayson Schmidt and Men’s Coach Steve Tempone resigned to take over the new program at Bridgeport, with Jesse Vanatta moving up from assistant coach to Interim Head Coach for the upcoming season.

Banner Year for Florida Kids in College!

picture from US Lacrosse Magazine

What a year for our kids in college.

Bernhardt wins the Tewaaraton

Mike Adler and Wyatt Schupler in goal for Duke and Army

Dylan Hess blossoms down the stretch for Georgetown and Eric Dobson lights it up for Notre Dame

Ashton Wood among the nation’s leaders in faceoffs

And a whole lot of others, as this article highlighted:

FLN’s Top 15 Power Ranking of the Florida D1 Kids! — Florida Lacrosse News

Too bad I don’t have the time and resources to do all 3 NCAA divisions and the Woman’s side too . . .

FHSAA Gives the Go-Ahead to At-Large Bids in 2022!

If you don’t think this belongs on the list, just pay attention to the top programs and their upcoming 2022 schedules!

There are some counties in the state where the administrators are requiring schools to play their District opponents in the regular season, but in areas where that is not being required you will see a HEAVY load of top schools playing each other in order to produce as high as a MaxPreps power ranking as they could, as the FHSAA will seed districts with it as well as grant the 4 new at-large berths to the FHSAA tourney brackets.

If you want to see how this works you can check back to our ‘FLN Tournament’ matchups articles, if those rankings were used the past few seasons.  The District winners get an automatic bid in each region (maybe Gainesville could have a little fun and use a little more colorful terminology for the Regions, like the old NHL used to with Norris, Smythe, etc?  Maybe retired coaching names?) and the next four ranked getting invitations.

As an example of how one school is scheduling, here is Benjamin’s 2022 schedule (Only St. Edwards is a District Game and note the home and home with Jupiter, which I would love to see with other natural rivalries, particularly if they are not in the same Class!):

Friday February 18 @St Andrew’s 7:00pm

Monday February 21 @Jupiter Christian@GLADES TBD

Wednesday February 23 Canterbury School 4:00pm

Friday February 25 @Jupiter HS 7:00pm 5:00pm

Tuesday March 1 @St Edwards 7:00pm

Thursday March 3 @North Broward Prep TBD

Tuesday March 8 NSU University 4:00pm

Friday March 11 @St Thomas Aquinas 7:30pm

Wednesday March 16 @Lake Highland Prep 5:00 pm

Thursday March 17 @IMG 4:00pm

Tuesday March 22 @ St John Paull II 7:00 pm 5:00pm

Friday March 25 Pinecrest 7:00pm

Tuesday March 29 @Miami Country Day TBD

Friday April 1 Oxbridge Academy 7:00pm 5:00pm

Tuesday April 5 Palm League Championship TBD

Friday April 8 Jupiter HS 7:00 pm 5:00pm

Tom West Moves to Bolles!

The builder of a dominant program at Ponte Vedra, Tom West had guided the Sharks to a state championship, another title game, and a number of Final Fours.  The program developed many Division 1 recruits, making an impact at that level.

Pretty much the gold standard for building a program from scratch.

Which made it such a surprise when the announcement came out that he had moved to Bolles.

I smell a rivalry brewing . . . although they are in different classes.  One thing is for sure and that is Class 1A just got even better

The Migration of Events to Florida Rapidly Expands!

Just a sample of events: 

The IMLCA Convention in Orlando

The IBLA Championship in Lakeland

Ohio State vs Harvard announced in Naples for February

A leap in volume of showcases and clinics across the state

The SELC tourney moving to Jacksonville

And don’t forget one of my favorite weekends of the year when the Florida Lacrosse Classic resumes its’ event as the National Championship of the Master’s age groups!

That’s just a partial list . . . or as the great George Carlin used to say, “here’s a partial score, Stanford 24!”.