When they start calling a player exclusively by his nickname, it usually means one of two things. Either there is a really embarrassing story behind it, or the player is simply a beast.
The Monarch boys lacrosse team has plenty of nicknames to go around, but none are based on a humiliating occurrence.
“The deal is we have a three-headed monster on this team,” said Monarch coach David Auday, whose Coyotes are off to a sizzling 8-2 start after Wednesday’s win at Fossil Ridge.
Po, Rocco and Big Max — otherwise known as goalie Connor Johnson and midfielders Chad Kreuzer and Max Wiesner — are the captains and players Auday describes as “the backbone of the team.”
“You’ve got Po in the cage, who’s all-state, All-American caliber,” Auday said. “You’ve got Rocco, he’s just unstoppable, a committed D-I player. And the third head of that monster is Max. Great leadership with those guys. They bring it every day and that’s why we’re really together.”
Kreuzer led the Coyotes with a state-best 32 goals and 22 assists through nine games and although only a junior, has committed to Furman University. Wiesner has added 23 goals and five assists and Johnson, who will play Adams State, is a four-year starter and widely known as one of the top goalies in the area.
“This year we’re all together as a family,” Kreuzer said. “Last year we kind of had some little mix-ups as a team. This year it’s one big family and we all love each other, and that’s what’s really contributing to what we do on the field.”
Johnson’s nickname of Po is a reference to the primary character on Kung Fu Panda, “because he has the quickest hands and he looks like Po a little bit, too,” according to Auday. Kreuzer is nicknamed Rocco because he’ll frequently come out of the game drenched in blood and “he just has a motor.”
Wiesner’s nickname is a little more self-explanatory, as he is a sizable scorer who is one of the Coyotes top performers in the weight room.
Outside of the big three, the Coyotes have gotten solid production from Andrew Zwiers (24 goals, 10 assists), Landon Waddle (15 goals, three assists) and emerging junior Brock Tausan (nine goals, one assist). In addition, a staunch defense has contributed to Johnson’s success in goal and the Coyotes’ No. 7 ranking in the CHSAANow.com state poll.
“We always come out as hard as we can and we really aren’t afraid of any team,” Johnson said. “We just want to win. We have good chemistry with each other and we just like to work as a team.”
The Coyotes’ tremendous start is even more remarkable when considering one of their top returners, midfielder Philip Bubernak, will miss the season. He initially endured a knee injury against Legacy during football season. Still in pain months later, Bubernak got a second opinion on the injury and discovered he had a torn ACL and MCL. He recently underwent surgery and can be seen on the sideline in Monarch gear and a bulky brace.
Monarch began the season with three consecutive one-goal wins, including overtime triumphs against Chaparral and Rock Canyon. The Coyotes’ only two losses also were by one goal, an 8-7 decision to Columbine and an 11-10 setback in San Diego against Rancho Bernadino.
The San Diego trip was a galvanizing experience as a whole, one in which the Coyotes went 2-1 and further bonded their already tight-knit group. As of now, the 2012 Monarch squad holds the benchmark as the program’s best ever. The Coyotes went 13-4 that season, advanced to the state quarterfinals, and had one of the state’s finest players in Nate Puldy.
“This team has even more potential than the Puldy team,” Kreuzer said.
Is that a player making a boisterous claim, or is there some merit to it?
“If Rocco says that, I’m all in,” Auday said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but yeah, we have potential to have a really good season. If you look at the Puldy years, we might have had more talent. But this is as together a group as we’ve had.”
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