The official newspaper of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

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The official newspaper of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

Inside Prep

The official newspaper of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

Inside Prep

The Rise of Intramural Basketball: A Slam Dunk Season
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Roadblocks drive boys’ lacrosse to success

A look back on the story of the 2023 championship-winning team
Tori Reisz ’24
Defenseman Peyton Cummings prepares for a game against rivals Bishop Chatard. Brebeuf went on to win 15-3.

When the Brebeuf lacrosse team lost to St. Joseph in the 2022 state playoffs, the mood in the locker room remained hopeful. Although the defeat had been a letdown, the team knew everything pointed to success in the spring of 2023. 

With key players like Eli Backus ‘23, Cam Reisz ‘23, Michael Garver ‘23, and Dom Sicuso ‘23 returning for one last year, Brebeuf was already a consensus preseason favorite to hoist the 2023 1A title trophy. But nobody, players or fans alike, could be prepared for what was to come during the offseason.

One of the biggest storylines during the 2022 season was the success of coach Brenden Fitzgerald. Affectionately called Coach Fitz by players, Brebeuf’s head defensive coach was chosen as the 2022 IHSLA boys’ lacrosse assistant coach of the year. Fitzgerald was gearing up for a run at the state title with his team until everything suddenly changed.

In an unprecedented series of moves directly before the beginning of the 2023 season, Brebeuf found themselves with completely new coaches. Both the offensive head Coach Perkins and Fitzgerald left in the same week, tossing Coach Clark into the fray as Brebeuf’s new head coach and defensive leader. 

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Clark would not work alone in his coaching of the Braves, with a plethora of other coaches comprising a committee of leaders for the team. Together, this group of coaches worked together to lead Brebeuf to the state title.

Even though Fitzgerald was no longer on the sideline for the Braves, his impact was still felt. 

“Before our state tournament game, (Coach Fitzgerald) bought us shirts including the quote for our year on it,” said defender Peyton Cummings ‘24.

That quote? “Wolves do not concern themselves with the opinion of sheep.” All year long the Braves put the adage into action, working hard without worrying about how others viewed them.

That example is just a testament to the interconnectedness of the team. Even when faced with a treacherous challenge posed by managerial changes, the lacrosse team simply adjusted to new coaches and continued to fight towards their goal: the 1A title. The 2023 Braves truly were a family, which played a massive role in their ability to overcome coaching turmoil.

However, it is impossible to talk about the lacrosse family without mentioning their other overwhelming roadblock: the loss of a brother. In early December, faceoff specialist Tav Van Natta ‘23 tragically passed away. Although the players were shocked and devastated, they did not let this deter them from the ultimate goal. Instead, it simply brought their family closer together than ever before. 

“We had one motivation, and that was to play for Tav,” said defensive midfielder Andrew Rossie ‘25. All players wore the same three letters somewhere on their jersey or helmets for the entire season: LLT (Long Live Tav). 

And when Coach Fitzgerald provided the team with those T-shirts leading up to the state championship game, they also had Van Natta’s name, something that had meant so much to the team all year.

Midfielder Carson Huse ‘25 expanded on this thought, mentioning that the loss of a teammate “made us work a lot harder.” He also said that it “fueled their need to win the state title.” Although the lacrosse team faced challenges, they responded to them by working harder and driving for success.

Keep in mind that the two major roadblocks mentioned thus far both took place in the offseason. Perhaps more impressive than the way that the lacrosse team responded to these challenges mentally was their actual performance during the season.

On paper, the numbers are incredible. The Braves finished 14-1. Their only loss came to Zionsville, a 2A team that went 13-3 in a schedule chock full of strong opponents. Attacker Will Kerker ‘24 finished with 34 goals, the fourth most by a single player in 1A. Goalkeeper Cam Reisz ‘23 had a save percentage of 70.7%, the highest in 1A. 

For the casual stat-watching fan, everything points to a near-perfect season for Brebeuf. But even that classification would be something of an understatement. 

Take Brebeuf’s game against Castle, for example. After making the long drive to Evansville, some Brebeuf players got into a verbal skirmish with Castle players during warmups. As a result, star goalie Reisz was dealt a stray lacrosse ball in the head, dealing him a concussion and tossing backup Colin Stevens ‘25 between the sticks for the massive game. 

But Brebeuf still rose to the occasion and toughed out a gritty 10-9 win in a game that Cummings called the “worst game that I have seen in my life.” Even when the team wasn’t at their best, they were still grinding out positive results. 

Another notable close result came in Brebeuf’s first game against Heritage Christian, as the Braves won 8-7 after a last-minute Ford Lee ‘26 goal. Lee scored just ten times all season, but in a big moment, the freshman stepped up and delivered for his team. 

In games decided by one goal, Brebeuf was 4-0. When the margin of error was small, the Braves rose to the occasion and got the job done. They also had plenty of statement wins. 

Cummings mentioned that “a fire lit under the team” motivated Brebeuf to a 14-2 rout of Fishers in the first game of the season. Other blowouts included a 19-1 win over Roncalli, an 18-3 win over North Central, and a 15-3 win over #5 Bishop Chatard. 

And of course, Brebeuf won the state title game. They didn’t just squeak out a close win though, they dominated. When Brebeuf defeated Heritage Christian 13-7 on a Saturday afternoon in June, the feeling was incredible for players, coaches, and fans alike.

The team overcame so much on and off of the field on their way to the title, which made the victory even sweeter. “To know that we came out on top in the end and proved everybody wrong (was great),” said Rossie. 

From here on out, the team is solely focused on defending their title in 2024. Rossie claimed that although the team lost a few important players, they have the “players to fill the gaps.”

Until next season, the players will simply continue to work hard, remembering both the successes and challenges of 2023. A Brebeuf lacrosse team left undeterred by unexpected roadblocks is a scary one. Look out for the Braves this spring.

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