Bishop’s lacrosse is playing with the big boys

When Steve Sepeta started the boys lacrosse program at The Bishop’s School back in the spring of 2002, he began with a small team full of mostly inexperienced players and very little buzz on campus about this relatively unknown sport. Now, with the program in its sixth season, he believes he has finally reached a point where he can say the program is firmly established.

Perhaps the most convincing evidence of that point came last week, with the Knights’ 10-8 victory over Torrey Pines, the No. 2-ranked team in the CIF San Diego Section poll and a perennial powerhouse in San Diego County lacrosse.

“I think our first defining moment for the program came when we beat La Jolla High School, who had had a team for years, in our first season,” Sepeta said. “The second defining moment was when we won the Coastal League in 2004. This could certainly be considered our third defining moment.

“I just think it brings some legitimacy to our program. I’ve never been happier after a game than I was after beating Torrey Pines.”

Bishop’s entered the week of April 9 with a 3-3 record, off to a solid start and clearly energized by its watershed win over a team it had never been able to beat.

Many of the Knights’ current players played alongside Torrey Pines’ players coming up through local youth programs, and some even play on the same teams in offseason club programs. Sepeta said that familiarity was a factor in the win.

Like many teams facing a higher-ranked opponent, the Knights came out energized and soared to an early lead. They were ahead, 7-1, by halftime, but Sepeta said he was concerned that his team would fade in the second half and succumb to the Falcons’ experience.

The Knights held on, though.

“I was pretty surprised - pleasantly surprised,” Sepeta said. “I knew we were up for it. In years past, I think there’s been a little intimidation factor, but as we’ve gotten more experienced and had some more success, I don’t think that has been there as much.

“I knew we would be up emotionally to start the game, but I was a bit surprised that we stayed up like that all game. We kept it up all the way. We knew we had to be prepared for a five- or eight-goal flurry in the second half, because Torrey Pines has proved they can do that kind of thing.”

Will Geier led the team offensively with four goals and one assist, just two days after splitting his chin open in a game against La Jolla Country Day and requiring eight stitches to close the gash. Dillon DuPont registered a hat trick and had one assist, and three other players scored single goals.

The victory was a big one for Bishop’s, but Sepeta said he made it a point in his post-game meeting to emphasize that his Knights don’t want to peak for the season in early April. He is hoping the victory and the legitimacy that comes with it help provide the Knights with some momentum going forward in their 2007 season.

They were scheduled to play Marin Catholic and La Jolla High School this week and then move into the meat of their league schedule. The CIF San Diego Section playoffs begin in mid-May, and Sepeta is expecting his team to go deep into the postseason.

“Although this is a big win, we feel it’s a stepping stone to bigger and better things,” Sepeta said. “The goal is to go as far as we can in the playoffs, and I think this team is pulling together really well.”

Part of that has to do with the fact that so many of the Knights’ players have been with the team for four years now. Geier is the undisputed leader, a team captain since his sophomore year.

“He’s one of those guys who came up through the local youth programs, and he’s really been a leader,” Sepeta said. “He just plays hard and sets a great example.”

Defensively, Scott Bollert has been a standout, consistently beating opponents to ground balls and anchoring a defense that at times has been impenetrable. And Luis Montiel has stepped in to win a position battle at goalie; he made nine saves in the win over Torrey Pines.

But while the Knights have had several individuals stand out at certain positions, Sepeta stressed that his team’s progression has truly been a group effort.

“It’s really all 18 guys,” he said. “Each player is truly as important as the other. The other guys might not be scoring all the goals or getting their names in the newspaper, but what they’re doing on the field is helping Will score four goals, and I think they all realize how important that is.”