Indiana lacrosse excels as team in transition
In his first year as coach, Allen Affolter has seen a lot of changes with the Indiana boys lacrosse team.
The Indians (8-4, 4-0) are poised to claim the first section championship in program history, with only a Wednesday game against Division II, Section 1 opponent Latrobe (1-7, 0-3) left.
With two seniors on the roster — captains Keldon Spicher and Garrett Sharp — Affolter saw the young team as a chance to start from the ground up.
“We've implemented a new system, and the kids have been learning it in stages,” Affolter said. “It's been a little bit of a work in progress, but the guys have really bought into the offensive system and are getting better each week.”
The team has responded well, and players have stepped up in big ways, including sophomore attackman Dylan Stapleton, who leads the Indians in scoring.
But Affolter is glad to have his seniors around for the rebuild. Spicher was named all-section last season in the midfield, and Sharp leads a defensive group that has been key to the team's growth this season.
“Our defense is a lot faster, and the skill of the long-pole has really affected our play,” Affolter said. “We try to play a fast game and our long-poles facilitate a good transition game.”
Having defenders that can push the ball in transition is a luxury on the high school level, but it also forces the offensive players into a new role of playing without the ball. Much like in basketball and hockey, it's important for players use the full space of the offensive zone for a play to develop.
“I think everybody knows what you do when you have the ball, but one of the biggest things in lacrosse is getting the kids to create space by moving without the ball,” Affolter said. “They've been very unselfish in moving so the ball carrier has an alley or a lane.”
While Indiana has been dominant in its section, its success against other top teams in Division II has been mixed.
The Indians lost 7-5 to Moon and Mars, the leaders of Sections 2 and 3, respectively, but defeated likely playoff teams Canon-McMillan, 8-7, and Greensburg Central Catholic.
Although Wednesday's tuneup with Latrobe isn't against a team of the same caliber, there will be plenty to work on before playoff seedings are announced Thursday.
“One of my goals as a coach is to sort of turn them loose,” Affolter said. “I like to let them see what they can do themselves and call their own plays. If they understand the offense and can implement it themselves, I think they play faster and relax that way.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.