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Lacrosse Preview 2014: Former St. Francis lax player looks to make connection as coach

If anyone can renew past Monsignor Martin successes and bring stability to the St. Francis lacrosse program, it would be a former player and champion at the high school.

Mike Partridge brings both as the new head coach of the Red Raiders, the fourth new leader of the program in six seasons. If that’s not enough, the 2009 St. Francis graduate, a member of the program’s last championship team in 2007, also brings enthusiasm and humility to the position.

“Honestly, I love this opportunity,” said Partridge, who works in the Buffalo Schools system. “There’s nothing quite like playing the game, but being able to coach a program I played for is truly an honor. I just hope to make the school proud and bring back a title.”

Partridge will be starting over a bit, after the Red Raiders graduated a big senior class that led the team to a league semifinalist campaign, which included defeating eventual finalist St. Joe’s during the regular season. He sees a great deal of raw talent here.

“With so many seniors graduating, there are a lot of roles that need to be filled,” Partridge said. “They’re doing everything I’ve asked so far and laying it out on the line. I’m pretty confident in them.”

A former standout long pole himself and the defensive coach at St. Francis the past two seasons, Partridge realizes the importance of protecting a team’s backline. So, he’s happy to have Tim Biddle, a second team all-league defenseman and second-year captain, and fellow senior Tim Galley, a goalie, as leaders of the team. In his third year with the varsity, Biddle “knows the drill,” Partridge noted.

In fact, most of St. Francis’ defense is senior-laden. Another returning senior that should be key is Ryan Hornberger, who will lead the attack and like Biddle, serve as a captain.

“We’re looking to our core guys to keep us up when we’re feeling down and keep us modest when we’re feeling good,” Partridge said.

Among the all-league and honorable mention players that have graduated, four were from the midfield, including first teamer Alex Misterman and second teamer Brett Benzinger, so the middie unit will be a young one. Leading the way are juniors Zack Matecki and Ryan DiPasquale and sophomore Connor Stefaniak.

Biddle said he is looking to create a complete program from the junior varsity up to the school’s top level. He wants players to build a family atmosphere right from the start of their time with the program that extends until the very end of high school.

One of the bigger challenges will be finding away to eventually beat out Timon, a league champion the past four seasons which has grown into a nationally-recognized power.

“We need to start from the bottom to make a good foundation,” said Partridge, who’s being assisted by Frontier graduate Bill Kaiser. “I need to know what’s going on at the varsity level, as well as the junior varsity and that what I’m preaching at the varsity is the same at the JV. Players need to know they can trust me and need to know that I can trust them. We need to have each other’s backs.”
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