The Milton boys lacrosse program is one of the state's best, but didn't exist before Michael Ryan built them up. Milton is now the No. 1-ranked team in the state in Class AAAAAA. In 2009, Ryan left to build up the Northview Titans. Today, the Titans are the state's No. 1 team in AAAAA-A and seeking their first state title.
The Titans are off to a 15-0 start - 10-0 in Region 3 - a year after reaching the state title game. It was the farthest the Titans have ever advanced in the state playoffs after years of reaching the semifinals and quarterfinals. Now they're in a position to go even farther.
"If someone asked me before the season started if I thought we'd still be undefeated at this point in the season I never would have thought we would be," Ryan said. "I'm very proud of our kids."
The Titans' run comes despite losing three starters from last year's title game run, including two U.S. Lacrosse All-Americans - attackers Kevin Colton and Josh Porter. But a third All-American, midfielder Matt Biondich, returns as a junior this year and he and his teammates are ready to capitalize on lessons learned from past seasons' playoff runs.
"The experience (of making the state title game) was great for our program and our school," Ryan said. "The players who are back should be used to (making a run in the playoffs), so we're hungry and we want to get there again and hopefully win it."
Whereas last season the Titans relied heavily on their All-Americans, this year they're playing more as a team. Ryan likens his squad to that of the 2013 Duke lacrosse championship team, which had a reputation for playing team lacrosse.
"They played as a team and played together well," Ryan said of Duke. "That's how we play. Everyone on the field knows their role and is playing well as a unit."
In addition to Biondich, the Titans have gotten key contributions from senior attackers Max Lovingood and Ben Fleck, junior midfielder Matt Reny, senior defenseman Connor Seagraves and senior goalie Connor Redmond.
The Titans' team chemistry has paid off thus far in their undefeated season, which includes wins over defending state champion Westminster and Lambert, ranked No. 5 in AAAAAA.
Standing between the Titans and an undefeated regular season is crosstown rival John's Creek, ranked No. 8 in AAAAAA and region rival Blessed Trinity, ranked No. 7 in AAAAA-A.
"We'll see what happens," Ryan said.
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