Orchard Lake St. Mary's Making Splash in Michigan

By Eric S. Smith

Zombies have long been a part of culture, dating their origins back to the development of Voodoo. In the 1960s, they made their way onto the big screens as a mainstay in horror films. But now nearly 50 years later, zombies may have found a way into high school lacrosse. Not literally, but figuratively.

A zombie rises from the dead and wreaks havoc on those around it. Similarly, the Orchard Lake St. Mary's High School lacrosse team in Michigan has risen from the dead and begun to shock the traditional lacrosse hierarchy in the Great Lakes State.

Before current head coach Greg Normand arrived in 2008, the Eaglets won five games in the previous two seasons. Last year, OL St. Mary's had a more respectable 9-9 record, but this year they have started on a 12-4 tear with two regular season games remaining, and have also earned a top seed in the region for the postseason.

"I took over a program that was pretty down for a while," said Normand, who is also the head coach at Eastern Michigan University. "They had no real scheme and needed to be reminded that this was about having fun. The talent was there--it just needed to be rediscovered."

Consider it rediscovered. This season, through the first 15 games, OL St. Mary's has eight players with more than 40 points and has averaged 11.8 goals per game on more than 49 shots. Leading the way has been junior Ian Brambs, who has 42 goals and 53 assists. The trio of Scott Koenigsknecht, Taylor Docking and Drake Chwalibog rounds out the high-powered attack of the Eaglets.

"We have the fastest team in the state," Normand said. "Most people can run with our first line, but our second line is even faster. We can get up and down the field and have a lot of weapons. We do have a high number of turnovers, but we play very fast so that is to be expected."

Their cranked-up tempo and speed almost allowed them to pull off an upset of epic proportions. The Eaglets played Brother Rice, which hasn't lost an in-state game in six years, and took them to the limit. The Warriors led Orchard Lake St. Mary's, 12-11, with eight seconds left when the Eaglets came within inches of forcing overtime. Instead, the last shot rang off the crossbar and kept the Warriors' perfect run in tact.

"That was the best high school lacrosse game I have ever been involved with," Normand said. "Both teams had a great amount of respect for each other. But Rice had to figure out what we were doing on offense. Rice went into a zone against us for the first time that anybody can remember."

Since that near-miss against the Warriors, the Eaglets have played them again in their conference championship with Brother Rice prevailing, 10-6. But that game was also close after three quarters of play. The good news for the Warriors now is that they will head to the Division I playoffs while the Eaglets are slated to start the Div. II postseason.

OL St. Mary's heads into the Div. II playoffs after playing a bunch of high-quality Div. I teams during the regular season. That tough schedule may help the Eaglets as they return to the playoffs.

"We are still learning, but hopefully our tough schedule bodes well for us," Normand said. "We've been down in 10 of our 16 games and won 12, so that shows that we don't quit, but we need to get off to better starts."

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2009-05-14



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