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Independents Lacrosse Preview

03/21/2024, 1:00pm CDT
By Rick Dedrick & Jason McGillivray

Special to WSN from Rick Dedrick & Jason McGillivray of Wisconsinhighschoollax

The group of independent programs has grown significantly this year.  Mostly due to the impact that existing high school conferences had on the sport.  The group has the returning Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation (WLF) Champion in Hudson, expecting to be near the top again this year.  Pushing them for that spot will be Middleton.  The Cardinals have maybe the best offense in the state.  Other contenders will be Neenah, Wausau and Appleton.  The trio battled it out last year, with Appleton getting a 1 goal victory over Wausau in the playoffs.  One newcomer to the group is Superior.  The growth of the sport now reaches fully across the entire state.

Last Year: 19-0
Results: WLF State Champions
Head Coach: Jordan Ruggeri

One of the most decorated senior classes has graduated.  The group of 17 were able to reach the WLF State Championship game three consecutive seasons, winning it all last year.  2024 will be a year of transition for the Raiders, having to replace much of their offense and defense.  They’ll also have a new head coach in Jordan Ruggeri.  The biggest returning player is senior Davis Miller who was an All-State Attack and had an incredible 63 goals last year.  Sam Dickman will lead the team on the defense and he’ll have the help of Liam Getschel and Graeme Anderson.  Aside from filling in more help on the offensive side, the Raiders need to replace Brooks Bluske at goalie.  This year’s schedule is loaded with teams from Minnesota, but they are still expecting to play Kettle Moraine, which has become a very fun rivalry.  

Last Year: 13-3
Results: 3rd Round loss to Oregon
Head Coach: Nate Lutterman

It’s going to be hard to find a better offense than what the Cardinals have, returning the top 5 in scoring.  Each one has 30+ goals scored.  Any of the bunch can score at any time.  Parker Leslie, Gabe Passini, James Grosspietch, Arjay Johnson, and Troy Teff will give every opposing coach nightmares.  Helping to get them the ball will be FOS Will O’Brien.  He has become one of the best in the state.  The defense has Gavin Gall and Sam Pilof holding ground in front of keeper Tony Peters.  They will have fresh legs as the offense probably won’t turn the ball over very much.  The expectations are high this year.  Middleton is one of the favorites to become the first WIAA Lacrosse State Champion.

Last Year: 15-4
Results: Quarterfinal loss to Oregon
Head Coach: Eric Marsh

An incredible season last year for the Neenah Rockets as they were the Bay Valley East champs and making it to the quarterfinals in the playoffs.  This season brings back 50 goal scorer, Jackson Brown.  It was an impressive sophomore campaign for the 2025 midfielder, leading the State in points/game.  Brown is joined by a strong offensive line up that includes seniors Owen Grotenhuis, Jack Meixl, Evan Hans and junior Keane Sulivan.  This team will have firepower to score with anyone.  Defensively Luke Keller and Hunter Weinke lead the way.  They’ll be joined by All-Conference goalie Jack Romsos.  The Rockets have some interesting matchups later in the season against Waunakee and Hudson.  Expect those games to be high scoring and a lot of fun to watch.  

Last Year: 13-5
Results: 2nd round loss to Appleton
Head Coach: Trevor Maki

Last season was a breakout year for the Wausau team, a second place finish in their conference and 13 total wins.  Their loss to Appleton, by only 1 goal, was a close and competitive game.  Now combined with the DC Everest program, this season brings even higher expectations.  Led by junior Attack Sam Galang (2025), who led the State in total points last season, Jasper Krueger (M, 2025), and Isaiah King (M/FOS, 2025).  The DC Everest program graduated most of the scoring from last season, but the returning players will bring a lot of depth at every position.  Last year’s young team came out strong, but now that they had that success this year will be a challenge.  The schedule gets tougher and more eyes will be watching.

Last Year: 13-6
Results: Quarterfinal loss to Hudson
Head Coach: Danny Rafalski

Landon Larson and Ryder Hill are a dynamic attack combo.  Both were 1st Team All-Conference.  Larson led the state in total assists.  Elliott Olm at face-off probably has the biggest impact on Appleton’s ability to score.  His 67% win rate will help to keep possession in favor of Appleton.  Last year the defense was young, but with another year of experience Rowan Cihlar and Aiden Eckes should continue to impress and have a solid lineup for the next two years.  With no conference opponents to commit to, the schedule has some interesting games with two games each against Middleton and Wausau, and games against Kettle Moraine and Neenah.

Sun Prairie
Last Year: 10-10
Results: Lost Round 2 of WLF Playoffs
Head Coach: Andy Schantz

The Sun Prairie United team is probably eager to turn the page on what was considered a down year.  They did graduate 15, but have key offense returning in Austin Weber and Chris Anderson at attack.  And with the offensive middie play of Jaxon Hanson and Jackson Jerzak, they will be able to feed the attack line and have the potential to keep scoring with most teams.  Rylee Blair can be a force on defense, but the team will be getting new support in goal.  This may cause some challenges this season.  Overall, with some changes in the schedule over last year, the United should bounce back and improve on last year’s win total.

Last Year: 7-10
Results: 2nd Round loss to Arrowhead
Head Coach: Roger Hornberger

2023 ended up becoming a transition year for the Kimberly program.  They come into this season with a large junior class that should help push for a rebound.  Last year’s scoring leaders are back, led by senior Landon Rebman at attack.  They’ll have Abe Ritschel back in goal as well.  Defensively is where we’ll see some new names and have the most questions.  That side of the field will be under a lot of pressure if the Papermakers can’t find some consistency at faceoff.  There is a good chance they can improve on the 7 wins from last year, we could possibly see them push 10 or 11 if things go right.

Last Year: 2-8
Results: 1st round loss to DC Everest
Head Coach: Curt Summers

The Oneida Nation Thunderhawks return 26 varsity players from last year.  The most interesting returning players will be Jonas Johnson and Micah Goodeagle.  In limited games last year Johnson was able to average 2.5 goals/gm and Goodeagle was at 1.3 goals/gm.  They also saw solid play out of Josef Conrelius and Vernon Stevens on defense.  This season should see a jump in total wins and continue to grow in the coming years.

Last Year: 3-12
Results: 2nd Round loss to Waunakee
Head Coach: Alex Kramer

With only 3 total wins last season, the Verona Wildcats are ready to turn the page.  There were some bright spots, though.  In two games last year against Arrowhead and Appleton (both in the final 8).  They ended up with a loss in each game, but the Wildcats were competitive and had opportunities to pull off an upset.  This year the team will rely on faceoff specialist Owen Lang to get them the ball.  He was All-Conference Honorable Mention last year.  

Last Year: did not play
Head Coach: Aaron Anderson

The Spartans are back in action after several years away.  Very little is known about the team.  They’ll play most of their games against teams from Minnesota, but also take on Wausau, DePere, and Hudson this season.  It will be interesting to see how the program enters into play and help grow the game across the state.

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