Spotlight: Michigan's Brother Rice - Don't Use the 'R' Word

By Eric S. Smith

Whatever you do, don't use the "R" word around Brother Rice head coach Rob Ambrose.

He preaches to his team that the "R" word is not apart of their vocabulary, nor should it ever be. Ambrose makes no qualms about it; he just plain doesn't like the term rebuilding.

"Our team motto is that we never have a rebuilding year," Ambrose said. "But this year may be a greater challenge than other years."

Last season was one of epic proportions for the Warriors. They ended with a 23-0 record, a Michigan state championship, were listed at the top of many polls and landed at No. 15 on the final LaxPower rankings with a 99.10 Power Rating, the highest in the Midwest. By the way, the two teams that finished second and third in the Midwest -- Western Reserve Academy and Upper Arlington -- were both defeated by Brother Rice, twice.

"Last year we did our job that was needed to meet our goals," Ambrose said. "The stars aligned for us."

The Warriors were loaded with talent in 2008 and nine players graduated onto Division I programs. They included guys like Joe Fontanesi (Maryland), Andrew Cote (Johns Hopkins) and Joe Payne (Villanova).

But those guys are gone and the pieces that are left may have to re-um-well you know. Granted, Ambrose does have some great players still left on his roster from that team including three All-Americans.

Nick Dolik was the team's leading scorer last season, but now may not have the help up front to create as many chances, so he'll need to create his own. Danny Henneghan is a faceoff specialist and is coming into his own as a scorer and will join Dolik at Penn State next season. The team's third All-American is goalie T.J. Yost, who will have some inexperienced defenders in front of him this year.

"T.J. is T.J., and we'll need him more this year than ever before," Ambrose said. "These guys have been there and done it, but now they have to show others how to do it. There is no substitute for experience, and these guys have that experience."

Brother Rice has received a lot of another "R" word- recognition, and rightfully so. The Warriors haven't lost a game to another Michigan team in six years and have won 13 of the 15 state championships. They also play a difficult schedule against other top Midwestern programs. The state of Michigan does limit their schedule some, but Brother Rice doesn't shy away from competition.

"We earned our way into the spotlight," Ambrose said. "We don't try to massage our schedule for wins and losses. We play every tough game we can in the format we're given."

While Brother Rice has proven a great deal through the years about the quality of its program, now they have to prove that the motto Ambrose lives by is true.

With so many quality players leaving, answering the bell may be more difficult than ever before. Ambrose and his team, however, have faced pressure before and hope to respond well to new demands.

"Last year we were expected to win every game, and that was the pressure on us," Ambrose said. "This year is a different kind of pressure. Teams think this is the year to beat us. Now we have to develop the skills to play on a higher level. We need to get on track quickly."

Whether or not this is actually a re-oh what the heck-a rebuilding year remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure. What the Warriors have been able to accomplish in Michigan and the region as a whole demands a ton of one "R" word respect.

2009-03-13



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