The fields are thawing and spring is in the air - it's time for lacrosse season again in Montana! Last season ended with another D1 championship for Bozeman, while West Helena rolled to the D2 title (and will now be playing in D1). There were a number of significant underclass performers last season, so a lot of talent returns to the fields this spring. The off-season was action-packed for a lot of the state's top players, who have individually stepped it up and are competing at a high level. We expect there to be a lot of close games this spring, with several teams battling at the top, and a big chunk of teams in the middle. The difference between finishing in the Top 5 or at the bottom of the league will be nominal - it's going to come down to who prepares the best at practice and who shows up on game day.
Below we've shared our thoughts on who are the Players to Watch, who the Difference Makers will be, and who are the Rising Stars in the Boys D1. We've also shared our own pre-season poll. These thoughts are in no way affiliated with the MHSLA, just our take on things as the spring season gets rolling.
We chose 10 players to watch this year. Players are listed alphabetically by last name.
Austin Baller - Goalie - SO - Bozeman
Austin is the top goalie in the state and the #1 hurdle for opposing teams going against the Hawks this spring. He had a standout offseason on the club circuit, garnering recognition at the Western Invitational, Legends National Cup, and Sandstorm. It will be a tall order for any team to hang more than 10 on him this spring.
Luke Bilau - Midfielder - SR - Glacier
Luke has the athleticism to be a nightmare for opposing teams, there's simply not much you can do to neutralize him. There are strategies to contain him, especially in 1v1 scenarios - but if Bilau can find ways to be effective as a feeder and off-ball operator, then watch out. After coming up short in the big game a couple times, we'll see if this is the year Bilau can lead Glacier to its first title. After the spring lacrosse season, Luke will be taking his talents to Montana Tech next fall as part of the Oredigger football program.
Mekhi Davis - Attack - SR - West Helena
The lefty attacker is an experienced goal scorer and field general. Mekhi is a talented dodger, has the vision and skill set to feed, is lethal operating at GLE, and finds creative ways to attack the cage - including coming out of the midfield. He had a big summer with TSL Selects, where he was oftentimes the best player on the field against top teams at the Chicago Cup and Richmond Invitational. Mekhi will be playing at Montana State University (MCLA-2) next fall.
Chase Egan - Mid/Attack - SR - West Billings
Chase is a talented dodger, distributor, and goal scorer. His ability to keep his head up while dodging is superb, and his offensive versatility will be huge toward jumpstarting the Bandit's team offense. Chase has the ability to put up big numbers against any team if he can get hot, and expect him to carry the load of quarterbacking the Bandits offensively.
Jacob Johnson - Attack - SR - Bozeman
Jacob is an athletic lefty shooter who plays a tough style offensively. In 1v1 scenarios, he can create his own space to get his hands free, plus he has some serious range. Bozeman will be able to attack individually out of the midfield and attack, and I see Johnson as the recipient of a lot of opportunities to score. Jacob grabbed the attention of many college coaches on the club scene this off season with TSL Selects and Top Left Nationals, including being named an All-Star at the Chicago Cup.
Quill Keller - Goalie - SR - West Helena
Quill "The Thrill" Keller is a towering presence in goal for West Helena. He has quick hands and is a vocal leader on the field. Quill is coming off a strong summer season in the MPLL and heading into a senior campaign with a determined effort.
Kaden Kinney - Midfield - SR - Bozeman
Kaden is probably the most experienced player in the MHSLA this season, and coming into a senior year having never lost in the state championship game. He can dodge both ways and score with either hand, he plays with his head up, and has the patience and skill set to stay composed and make the right play. Kaden will play a big role in steering the Bozeman offensive machine this season.
Cole Soper - Midfield - SR - West Helena
Cole may be the toughest midfielder to guard in the state. He's got size, good stick protection, plays physically, and is a great goal scorer once he gets by his defender. Cole is nicknamed "The Sergio Perkovic of the MPLL" due to his range (he can flat out shoot the ball from deep) but he's also a great on-the-run threat. His greatest asset though is as a short stick defender - he simply does not get beat. Cole turned heads during the club off-season playing in the Chicago Cup, Richmond Invitational, and Legends National Cup. He'll be on scholarship next fall at Dominican University, and is going to be an immediate contributor at the college level.
Dylan Whitten - Defense - JR - Glacier
Glacier has a number of players who will contribute on the offensive side this spring, but the biggest question for the Wolfpack will be who will step up defensively with the graduation of goalkeeper Thomas Beccari - enter Dylan Whitten. He's coming into the spring season after a determined effort this past summer and fall playing with TSL Selects and Top Left Nationals. Dylan is good enough 1v1 to neutralize an opposing attacker, but is probably most valuable as a field general leading the defensive communication.
Harrison Wolpoe - Midfield - SO - Bozeman
Harrison is an offensive weapon, able to create off the dodge and a good on-the-run shooter. He's going to cause match up issues with Kinney also drawing a lot of attention out of the Bozeman midfield, and will be playing confidently this spring. It will be his first season with the Hawks, but he's going to have no issues transitioning to this team and will be a big part of the game planning for Bozeman.
The Difference Makers group consists of players who's individual successes this season will make the biggest impact on their team's overall success. This group is also listed alphabetically.
Ethan Guge - Face Off - SR - East Helena
We expect East Helena to be in a lot of battles this year, and in close games possession of the ball matters even more. Guge is probably the top face-off specialist in the state this year and could play a major role in his team's Win-Loss ratio. After a strong performance at the Chicago Cup last summer, Guge earned a scholarship and will be attending Northland College in Wisconsin in the fall.
Alden Hellem - Attack - JR - Wild
The Wild are a team with a lot to prove this spring season. They aren't particularly deep at any position, and on-field leadership will play a major role in how the team fairs. Alden's play will either elevate this squad, or detract from the team system, so a lot of the Wild's success will depend on how he plays this spring. He's a capable dodger and scorer, but won't be able to do it all alone.
Carlos Hernandez - Attack - SR - Bearcats
In a lot of ways, the Bearcats are poised well for what might be considered a break out year. They have a good goalie and balance of talent at the other positions, but their biggest need will be a dominating scorer. We expect Carlos to step up in this role and have a big season. He's a tough guard because he plays with some attitude and has good size and stick protection. He's going to draw a lot of attention, but will still be able to contribute every game (reminds us of how Matt Rambo plays and is always a factor).
Reece McIntosh - Midfield - SR - Great Falls
Reece is a do-it-all guy, and he's going to have to do a lot for Great Falls this year. He's got a solid skill set and great demeanor, and should be in a well-established leadership role in his senior season. Reece will be continuing to play next year at the collegiate level for the Montana Grizzlies.
The Rising Stars consist of underclass players who we believe are poised for breakout spring seasons.
Matteo Bugni - Defense/LSM - SO - West Helena
Ryker Davis - Defense/LSM - SO - West Helena
Gabe Fjheld - Midfield - SO - Glacier
Josh Malo - Goalie - SO - Sentinel
Radd Rabinsky - Attack - SO - Bozeman
Hudson Weins - Midfield - SO - Bozeman
BOYS DIVISION 1:
2) West Helena
4) West Billings
5) East Helena
8) Great Falls