When Cincinnati St. Xavier Bombers Head Coach Fred Craig first moved to Cincinnati in 1976, he couldn’t find a local lacrosse team to play for. Thirty-six years later, Craig is the head coach of one of the largest lacrosse programs in the state of Ohio. “Last year we had more than 220 players try out for our teams,” said Craig. “Up until last year the school fielded five teams but had to cut it down to four. Our teams were playing over 80 games a year and it was just too much wear on our fields and facilities.”
The nature of the highly competitive varsity program spurs many of the players on Cincinnati St. Xavier to play lacrosse during the off-season. “We have a lot of kids traveling across the state, which is an excellent thing to do,” said Craig. “You learn different things from players on other teams and it will have a really big impact on the season.”
Last year the Bombers lost to Archbishop Moeller, 11-7, to end their season short of their goal to win a state championship. “We had a really good group of seniors last year who did a wonderful job in setting a good example for the other players who worked hard,” said Craig. “Last year we were just striving to continue the legacy at St. Xavier and this year we just want to continue to improve.”
One of the seniors the team lost was attackman Connor Buczek. Buczek is now a freshman at Cornell and is a member of the U19 Men’s National Team. At Cincinnati St. Xavier, Buczek was a two-time High School All-American and is the state’s all-time points leader at 410 career points. Coach Craig knows that a player of Buczek’s caliber will be hard to replace. “We depended heavily on Connor last year, so much so that he got tripled team on a regular basis,” said Craig. “He played an important role but his departure gives the other guys an opportunity to step up on and off the field.”
Craig is looking forward to seeing his upperclassmen step out of the shadows and seize the spotlight. “Some of these players would have been the top players on the team last year except they were in Connor’s shadow,” said Craig. Due to the team’s strong competition, there are no freshmen players allowed on the varsity squad. “We’ve been really restrictive about who makes varsity because we are in a really competitive league and we want to put our players in a position to compete week in and week out,” said Craig.
One of the few sophomores on the team last year was junior attackman Ian King. King started alongside Connor Buczek and will look to fill the void left by the Cornell freshman.
Joining King at attack is junior Clay Russert. Russert is a transfer from California who will be able to play right away. “He played here with a traveling team this summer and I’ve heard nothing but good things,” said Craig.
Russert’s cousin Ben, who is a junior goalie, will anchor the defense from within the net.
The rest of the attack and midfield units will be filled by upcoming sophomores and juniors. “This is a rebuilding year because we lost most of our starting midfielders and defense,” said Craig. “We have excellent sophomores from junior varsity who will be contenders for the starting positions.”