The Western Reserve Academy boys lacrosse team spent the 2014 season putting in place a new foundation under first-year head coach Tim Randall.
The Pioneers played their usual high-profile schedule, facing off against nationally ranked teams from Culver Academy (Ind.), Kiski (Pa.), Upper Arlington and Brother Rice (Mich.).
The coaching staff spent the year stressing the importance of teamwork, technical ability and lacrosse IQ to a relatively young squad that responded with a competitive spirit that led to several close losses against top teams.
The work the team put in was evident as the season came to a close.
The Pioneers lost by one point to Seaholm (Mich.) in the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association Tournament and to eventual state regional finalist Solon.
The Pioneers were led by co-captain Robbie Markwell, a recent WRA graduate, and junior Otto Bohan, who shared Most Valuable Player honors.
"Robbie finished the year with more than one third of our team goals, while drawing the focus of every defense we played," Randall said. "He demanded excellence from every player on the team throughout the season and that mentality helped us continue to grow as a team.
"Otto finished the year with 290 saves, while helping us hold eight opponents under seven goals, including Peters Township (Pa.), Jackson and Chagrin Falls, all top 10 teams. Otto and the defense came together throughout the season and we were able to stay in games because of his skill in stopping the ball and getting us back on offense."
Sophomore Kyle Zenkewicz earned Most Improved Player honors.
"Kyle grew tremendously as a player and by the end of the season, he was contributing regularly in our varsity games," Randall said. "His hard work day in and day out allowed him to take advantage of some playing opportunities."
The Spirit Award was presented to recent WRA graduate Griffin Trau.
"Griffin's unwavering dedication to the program and his effort each day earned him the Spirit Award," Randall said. "He was an essential part of our offensive play this season, providing timely scoring in our first win of the season. His dedication to the team and the school will be missed."
Co-captain Spencer Chlebina, a recent WRA graduate, was the recipient of the Coaches Award.
"Spencer was an integral part of our success as a defense this year with his skill defending on the ball and ability to communicate," Randall said. "He led by example and held his teammates to a very high standard each and every day."
In addition to the school awards, five players earned league honors. Markwell and Bohan were second-team selections, while Chlebina and seniors Matt Fleischmann and Austin Rand were honorable mention selections.
The Pioneers will be led next season by tri-captains T.J. Bobinsky, a senior, Fleischmann and Bohan, and also will look to Rand, senior Trevor Grode and sophomore Kyle Zenkewicz to make an impact.