12/19/11 9:00 AM
The upcoming 2012 season will be Hoover Vikings Head Coach Matt Gregory’s 10th season at the helm of the program. Over the past 10 years, Coach Gregory has seen the sport grow exponentially in the state of Ohio. “When I started there were only 15 programs in North East Ohio,” said Gregory.
Now there are nearly 50 programs in North East Ohio, a testament to the growth of the sport over the last 10 years. Despite the recent growth of the sport in Ohio, Gregory knows the sport still has a long way to go. “After 10 years of coaching you see where things are going and where they need to be developed,” said Gregory. “Because the sport is so new it’s a first generational sport. Once you begin to have second generation lacrosse players you will begin to gain ground on the other sports.”
The recent development of lacrosse in Ohio can be seen through the evolution of the youth program in the area. “Our youth program is getting better and better and it helps that we have experienced upperclassmen to help mentor them,” said Gregory. Gregory will be relying on their youth program to help replace the team’s 14 graduates with new players. “We have nine seniors this year but for most of the kids this year will be their first varsity experience,” said Gregory. “This year will have a learning curve and we expect some ups and downs while they learn.”
Despite having an inexperienced team, Gregory has high expectations for a squad that went 12-4 and made it to the regional semifinals last year. “Our main goal is to beat our rival Jackson and our second goal is to have a winning record and make it back to the playoffs.”
Looking to lead the Vikings back to the playoffs is senior attackman Seth Brown. Brown averaged two points a game last year and is the team’s top returning scorer. The rest of the unit is comprised of new starters.
Coach Gregory is hoping Brown is ready to step into that leadership role. “You need someone early on when the offense starts to falter to step up and we’re hoping Brown can be that guy,” said Gregory.
Nate Weltman returns at midfielder for the Vikings, who tallied two points a game last year and will carry the offense along with Brown. The Vikings defense consists of several young players but returns senior Shane Breckenridge who started at midfield last year.
After losing their starting goalkeeper to graduation, the Vikings will look to replace him with a fresh face. Coach Gregory expects an intense competition for the position to ensue between the returning players. “It’s great when we have a position at stake,” said Gregory. “Who starts at the beginning of the season will come down to who has the best practices throughout the scrimmages.”
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