Miners boys lacrosse takes control from Corner Canyon
April 21, 2018
On Tuesday, the Park City Miners lacrosse boys varsity team warmed the best they could as the temperature dropped into the 20s before their game against the Corner Canyon High School Chargers. Even with the cold, and with parents wrapped up on icy bleachers, it was not a game either team wanted to cancel – Corner Canyon stood at No. 1 in the Utah High School Lacrosse League, the Miners were No. 2. The Miners flipped those rankings by keeping the Chargers to two goals and scoring six.
The team would describe it as a "gritty" win, an adjective that could well describe the Miners this year. Last season, the Miners were stacked with talent, particularly on offense, where it had three seniors — Ryan Smith, Kyler Walterson and Carlos Kinder. However, the team lost in the semifinals of the state championship tournament to Juan Diego Catholic High School's Soaring Eagle, which they had beaten easily during the regular season.
eThe Miners defeated the Soaring Eagle again 7-5 last month. Though defensive coach Brian Bilzi said, just like last year, that regular season game doesn't count for much.
"You don't get revenge in April," he said.
But so far they are on track. The team had some close scrapes early in the season while it was developing its offense – winning in the last minute in its first two games – but the Miners managed to avoid defeat.
"It's been tough," Bilzi said. "We had a lot of seniors last year, then we have a lot of first-year varsity players, so there's been a lot of tinkering and working. If you asked me if at this point in the year if we would be undefeated, I don't know if I would have said yes. … The kids just come together and get it done. It's very gritty. Last year we got by on a lot of talent; this year we get by on a lot of grit, so it's cool to see."
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And a lot of that has to do with the defense. Under Bilzi, the team has only given up 42 goals all season and scored 103.
It's hard to compare this to other teams in the state, because for the most part, their statistics aren't available. But the defensive-leaning goals-for/goals-against ratio is the reason the Miners are on top. And according to Meyer, that comes town to both hard-nosed players and Bilzi's coaching.
"Well, the kids love playing for him, first off," Meyer said. "He has them bought into the system, and they play it together and work as a unit. And they have very high IQs for lacrosse; they understand when to slide and when not to slide. He's a very good teacher."
Sophomore Dylan Bauer, who has scored the second most goals for the team with 27, agreed with Meyer's assessment, saying Tuesday's win started with Bilzi, who has "coached our guys up pretty nice."
Nice enough that Bauer can comfortably call the defense "the best in the state."
Bilzi, who works in financial analysis when he's not coaching the Miners, has successfully coached the defense for the past four seasons.
It consists of mainly underclassmen, with Marc Colaizzi, a junior, and senior goalie Connor French as the defense's only upperclassmen.
Andrew Pedersen, Brady Bauman, Luke McCall, Nate Harwood and Teddy Elbert are all sophomores, and all but Elbert and Harwood started last season.
"They've improved so much starting (last season’s games), and now that they're bigger, stronger and faster, it's made a huge difference for us," Meyer said.
Then there's French, the goalie, who has an outstanding .67 save percentage – a testament to his skill and the kind of compromised shots the defense forces opponents to make. His lowest save percentage during a game this season was .50 against Judge Memorial Catholic High School on March 28, where the Miners won 14-2, while his highest was a five-save shutout against Skyline High School two weeks ago, which the Miners won 15-0.
On offense, senior Bernheardt "Beau" Pedersen leads the team with 34 goals, followed by Bauer with 27, junior Connor Hales with 13 and freshman Connor Monson with 12.
Now, with five games left in regular season and their toughest games until the state championship tournament behind them, the Miners must find a way to stay sharp.
The coaches are confident the team can do that.
"If we don't get better, we don't win the championship," Meyer said. "I think they know that and I think they're ready to go for that."
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