Men’s lacrosse ends rebuilding season under new coach

Tyler Aki, staff writer

After a third place finish in the CSL Conference last year, the Titans entered a rebuilding phase, according to Dan Leipert, first year head coach. This year, they finished third in the southern CSL conference, but lost 4-8 in the first round of playoffs to Libertyville.
Leipert believes that the team’s success was not necessarily reflected by their 6-12 record. Instead, he believes that this year was more about setting a bar for the future of the program.
“Our goals [had] nothing to do with wins and losses,” Leipert said. “Our seniors have had five different coaches in the past four years, so there [was] a lot of adversity for them to overcome. Our goal [was] to play as a team and develop a set of standards that we want the program to go by for years to come and also to establish a work ethic that we want to have.”
As a first year coach, Leipert knew the challenge of taking on the rest of the CSL, a conference that he believes is the best conference in the state. However, he expressed confidence that his team had what it takes to compete against the other conference teams.
“I knew we had high level guys so my expectations were that their stick skills would be there and that they would be able to beat anybody one-on-one because they have that talent,” Leipert said. “I expected the [team] to learn and want to learn complicated and rigorous offenses and defenses.”
After a multitude of coaching changes, Leipert is pleased with the way that the team handled the situation.
“The players [took the coaching change] well,” Leipert said. “I think it’s something that we [had] to grow into. I was learning about the players just as much as they were learning about me so I was learning about the culture of GBS and their lacrosse history.”
Senior captain Jackson Irwin expected the team to enter a rebuilding phase this season. Irwin believes that Leipert did a good job in his first season, but the transition will still difficult because Leipert was his third coach in four years.
“[Leipert did] well for his first year as a head coach,” Irwin said. “This year was probably one of our main building years [by] trying to get a new offense in, trying some new defense stuff and just helping the underclassmen learn the ropes of the system. I feel like we [did] very well […] adjusting to a new coach.”
Leipert enjoyed a successful coaching debut at South as the Titans beat Grayslake North 8-7 in overtime on March 17. According to senior captain Will Reynolds, the win boosted the team’s confidence due to their ability to handle adversity.
“We were up four goals and [Grayslake North] came back in the second half and they tied it and [the game] went into overtime,” Reynolds said. “[In overtime], Chris Clifford took the ball, dodged through three people and I knew right then as soon as he got that first dodge through I knew that the ball was going to go to the back of the net.”
Despite winning their first game, Reynolds admitted that the team struggled with the coaching transition, but acknowledged that the change was all for the better and will help the program for the future.
“[The change was] shaky, but we knew that was going to be the case coming into it,” Reynolds said. “[Leipert did] a good job, but we can’t be expected to win a state championship in his first year here. It’s a shame that it has to be my last year but I think the program will be built over the next few years.”
According to Reynolds, aside from Irwin, the Titans were also led by EJ Reynolds, McLain Murphy, Quinn Conaghan, Patrick Mihelic and Chris Clifford.