Editor’s Note: Please welcome Anthoy Crimmins and StickStarLacrosse.com to LAS! Anthony and StickStar will be writing about High School, College, and youth lacrosse in the great state of Texas this year, and kicks things off with a killer Texas HS preview!
Two annual tournaments that precede the regular season in Texas are the Jesuit Lacrosse Invitational and the Woodlands Mudslinger. Each tournament has its own feel, drawing from a variety of different programs from all over the State. Each gives us an opportunity to catch up on several squads at once while providing the teams with the opportunity to finally compete against someone else.
The DJ Invitational is a two-day tourney and gives teams at least four contests to help polish their game. Held in Dallas, the Jesuit Invitational draws from mostly Dallas-based squads. This year, at least its sixteenth of operation, we saw Jesuit (V & JV), the Woodlands (V & JV), Plano West (V & JV), Westwood (V & JV), HPD2, Hillcrest, Episcopal School of Dallas, and Flower Mound.
The most impressive squad at the DJ Invitation was, indeed, the host program, the #1-ranked team in the state, the Dallas Jesuit Rangers. Proficient in every phase of the game, DJ is already in midseason form. Applying pressure on defense, drawing slides and moving the ball with purpose on O, and just flat out having more talent, Jesuit looked strong.
Another program with a strong outing included D2 State Championship favorite, Flower Mound. For a D2 team, Flower Mound can compete with anyone in D1. In Texas, squads are broken down into several classes, D1, D2, and D3. D1 is the highest level, while D2 now has at least a dozen teams that can compete at a high level. Over the past two years, Flower Mound has actually faired very well against D1 competition and could be next in line to move up.
The final squad to impress at the DJ Invitational was the Woodlands program out of Houston. Currently ranked #5 in the State, the Woodlands put together a list of very solid wins under new coaches Keith Tintle and Al Christopher. Executing offensively and defensively, the Woodlands put up big numbers on the offensive side of the field against opponents such as Flower Mound and ESD. The Woodlands ultimately fell to a more polished Jesuit squad 7 – 2 in what was the match-up of the tourney.
The Woodlands Mudslinger has a different feel from the DJ tournament. It is a one-day, round robin held down in Houston. The Woodlands Mudslinger is referred to as such due to the early spring showers that are customary in mid-February for Houston. Add nine games to drenched fields, and a Mudslinger usually ensues. This year, though, the temps and weather were perfect, and, for the first time in several years, the event name did not jive up with the conditions. We will take it!
Participating at the Mudslinger were the following programs: Austin High (V &JV), Houston Christian, Memorial (V & JV), The Woodlands (V & JV), McNeil, the OKC Knights, Lamar, Alamo Heights (V & JV), Seven Lakes (V & JV), Episcopal School of Dallas, Bellaire JV, Klein JV, Magnolia JV, and several other junior high programs.
Episcopal School of Dallas was the lone Dallas team to make the trip down south. ESD, missing much of its upperclassmen offensive core, used the preseason tournaments to evaluate players and give everyone the opportunity to compete. Houston Christian, another strong SPC competitor, was also missing a healthy grouping of talent. They, too, found themselves evaluating new positions while getting young, inexperienced players real-time reps. Both ESD and HCHS will have their full complement of players moving forward.
Two surprising squads that we had the opportunity to watch at the Mudslinger were the OKC Knights and the McNeil Maveriks. The OKC Knights, hailing from Oklahoma City, played a tough, athletic brand of lacrosse. They were definitely an exciting group to watch as they were spirited in their competition. Another spirited group of competitors were the McNeil Mavericks led by Head Coach Scott Aubin. McNeil, a strong program out of Austin, has a core group of sophomores led by LSM Jacob Malone that could make some noise in Austin in the next couple of years. Each of these squads competed with tremendous passion for the sport. It was refreshing to see them exhibiting such fervor and excitement!
Now that the pre-season tournaments are over, the games that really count have begun. On Sunday, the unofficial start to the StickStar regular season, we saw Plano West defeat Westlake in OT. It was a great way to kick the year off. We look forward to keeping you covered every step of the way.
For more from StickStarLacrosse.com, check out the following posts:
2.) Jesuit Invitational (W/ Commentary)
3.) Plano West vs. Westlake (OT Game)