May 22—TRAVERSE CITY — Kobe Kolarevic couldn’t have asked for a better day.
It’s easy to see why when the Traverse City St. Francis senior lacrosse star finished his final day of high school Friday, rolled into his school’s first home playoff game and piled on seven goals in a 20-2 thrashing of Holland Christian.
The Division 2 regional quarterfinal win marks the first playoff victory for the Gladiators in Traverse City and punches their ticket to face Jenison next Tuesday at Spring Lake.
“Definitely happy that things opened up recently across the state and we could have a lot of people here and able to play a home game and get a win,” Kolarevic said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better day.”
Kolarevic said the lifting of mask and spectator restrictions made the day even better for TCSF as he added two assists, with his final one leading his team to a mercy win with 98 seconds left to play.
“We are attack strong … all of our attack guys are seniors and they’ve been playing together forever,” TCSF head coach Ryan McGee said. “I came into an easy job … they had the chemistry, so we just kind of dialed in the X’s and O’s.”
It took only eight seconds for the Gladiators to hop on the board with a goal directly off the opening faceoff from Freddy Kopplow. Freshman Larson Millar started the day with the faceoff win that led to Kopplow’s goal and earned the assist on his way to an 80-percent winning percentage from center.
“We didn’t have an answer for their faceoff guy,” Holland Christian head coach Micah Kool said. “He was winning them pretty cleanly and then they just do a great job or finding space, transitioning, knowing where to go and making that extra pass.”
The Gladiators repeatedly jumped on the Maroons from the onset of the faceoff and had six of their eight goals in the first quarter come within one minute of the previous score.
TC St. Francis allowed one goal late in the first to hold an 8-1 lead after one and matched that scoring total in the second to take a 16-1 lead into half.
“They changed a lot since the last time we played,” McGee said. “They dropped their zone defense. They went high pressure man-to-man, so we had a good day of scouting yesterday and came out firing.”
These teams met on May 8 with the Glads taking a 15-0 victory. St. Francis left no doubt they deserved the No. 1 regional seed, even as they dialed back the second-half pressure.
Holland Christian held TCSF to only one third-quarter goal and two fourth-quarter goals while scoring once more with just over eight minutes left to play.
McGee said his team has higher expectations than previous seasons because of the large senior class that will graduate shortly. Kopplow, Kolarevic and fellow attacker PJ Carroll, who combined for 15 of the Glads goals, are all in their final season.
Joining them are goaltender Kaleb Miller, who made six saves, defender Gavin Nickodemus, and midfielders Bret Bertschy, Marcus Rysztak, Anthony Piedmonte, Owen Mueller and Tim Shacklette.
Kopplow ended the night with five goals and two assists, Carroll had four assists and three goals, Shacklette netted three goals and an assist, Piedmonte had a goal, Millar had a goal and an assist and Mueller added an assist.
“It’s a long time coming,” McGee said of his team’s chances at a regional crown. “I’ve coached this same group since they were 13 and we got some distance between us, but I came back and its full circle. I knew this year was going to be something special for these guys.”
Follow Jake on Twitter @JakeAtnip