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Boys lacrosse: Irish offense packs a punch

Rosemount players fight for the ball during a captains practice Tuesday morning at the Irish Dome. The Irish return seven of their top eight scorers from a team that went 10-4 last season.

Losing a few key players to graduation hasn’t stopped Rosemount from consistently fielding very competitive lacrosse teams over the last few years.

It doesn’t look like this year will be any different. Seven seniors helped the Irish to their fourth straight 10-win season last spring, but head coach Lance Kuehn is confident his group of returning players is capable picking up the slack, keeping that streak going, and putting up some big offensive numbers in the process.

“I think this will be another great year for the Rosemount lacrosse team.… We did lose some key seniors, but we’re returning our No. 1 scoring line, our starting goalie and some other strong attackers,” Kuehn said. “We have the cards in place. We just have to make sure we maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. Our advantage this year is we can score at will against pretty much any other program.”

The Irish won’t be able to rely on scoring leader Grant VanOverbeke, who is now playing at Florida Southern, but they do have their next seven top scorers back in the fold. Brothers Carter (59 points) and Conner Yepsen (57 points) were both all-conference selections a season ago and will play collegiately next year at Robert Morris.

Matt Johnson (Wingate University), Bobby Price (St. Thomas) and Trent Woodcock (University of Minnesota) give the Irish five players who have signed to play collegiately next season.

“Not many teams can say they have five guys who are going to play at the college level,” Kuehn. “We’re pretty excited about that.”

Also back up front are Mason Hille (24 points), Garrick Swanson (18 points), David Blanco (18 points) and Thomas Wheeler (15 points). Luke VanOverbeke, Grant’s younger brother, scored three points in limited action at the end of last season and is expected to be a major contributor, as well.

“Whether it’s been on his summer team or in winter league, (VanOverbeke) has excelled,” Kuehn said.

On the defensive end, the Irish are counting on the leadership of returning players Price and Jonah Halterman, who had a breakout season last year as a freshman.

“Price was a great leader in the off-season. He’ll be making sure the entire team is focused defensively this year,” Kuehn said. “Every year we try to shore up the defense and get better and better.”

Jared Coil, Simon Hatlen and Joey Neuens round out the list of field players who gained varsity experience last spring. Teddy Moeller is expected to contribute after missing last season due to injury and Justin Crowell is back with the team after sitting out last year.

In net, the Irish will rely on senior Shaun Skrbec, who went 6-4 with 138 saves in 10 games last spring.

“There’s a confidence in Shaun you can see now that he’s a senior and he’s earned that starting role,” Kuehn said. “Spending another year playing goalie, he’s added more experience to his tool belt. He’s going to help out this year keeping us in games and being in the right spot.”

Slowing down its opponents is going to be a key for the Irish if they’re going to reach their ultimate goal of reaching the state tournament. They gave up an average of just over five goals per game during the regular season, but allowed 17 to Eagan in conference play and 19 in a section semifinal loss to the Wildcats.

The Irish are scheduled to face Eagan and Eastview in back-to-back road games the second week of the regular season.

“That rivalry week will be a good measuring stick. Whether we win or lose, it gives us the rest of the season to build up from that,” Kuehn said. “We learned in 2011 you can win all the games in the regular season, but you have to win in the playoffs to make things really happen. Our goal is to make it to state.”