West Ranch lacrosse player Zach Van Bennekum relishes one-on-one opportunities.
“I get almost excited when I get that opportunity,” Van Bennekum said. “I get the ball up high, have the chance to dodge against someone. You have to think quick, make a move, be committed to it and then just be able to react to what the defense does.”
Van Bennekum’s instincts not only helped the Wildcats to a Foothill League title, but they also earned him the first-ever title of All-SCV Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.
West Ranch has yet to lose to a Foothill League school in the entirety of the program’s existence. But this year’s formation of an official Foothill League gave the team something to play for.
Van Bennekum said he used the race to the title as a way to motivate himself and his team. His coach noticed his enthusiasm for the title, too.
“We had a lousy game against Saugus in the first game, we didn’t pay well, I think we overlooked them a little bit and they’re a solid club that’s got some athletes and we thought we were going steamroll them,” said Wildcats coach Mike Borsos.
“And Zach said, ‘It’s time,’ he put the boys on his back and he drove us to a 10-goal second quarter. He did that for us all year long.”
As an offensive midfielder, Van Bennekum scored 34 goals and had assists on another 40 in his junior season. He collected 36 ground balls and had 11 caused turnovers.
Van Bennekum said he worked on his passing and shooting abilities in addition to his natural dodging ability this season as he was part of a strong junior class that meshed well with the seniors. Borsos and the team were able to continuously reap the rewards.
“The great thing is he was able to beat most of his matchups, which allowed other players on the team to succeed,” Borsos said. “Jeremy Demsher and Ethan Doty got a lot of their goals because Zach was able to… make the defense rotate, which opened up so many options for other players on the field.”
In July, Van Bennekum will travel to Columbus, Maryland with the LA Cobras lacrosse team for the National High School Lacrosse Showcase. It’s a chance for him to be seen by college scouts, but Van Bennekum has yet to choose between playing football and lacrosse at the next level.
While he’s still deciding between the two sports, Van Bennekum will rely on his instincts once again in his senior year in West Ranch’s quest for another Foothill League title.
“Definitely we want to repeat the title, remain dominant,” Van Bennekum said. “We’re already putting work in the offseason. It’s already the offseason, it’s time to get better, prepare for next year’s title.”
All-SCV Boys Lacrosse Team
JB Benfeldt, West Ranch, senior
The Wildcats always had a chance to win with Benfeldt in goal. As the starting goalie for the 2019 season, Benfeldt logged a .643 save percentage in addition to 14 ground balls and five caused turnovers.
Charlie Bland, Saugus, freshman
As part of a talented underclassmen group, Bland was part of the Centurions offensive core in their first year as a varsity program. He ranked second on the team with 19 goals and had seven assists as an attackman.
Cole Clayton, Valencia, junior
Clayton was named the Vikings’ defensive player of the year and was also an All-Foothill League first-team selection. Clayton led the league in caused turnovers with 42 and also had 48 ground balls.
Evan Dean, Valencia, senior
He earned the title of the Vikings’ most valuable player after completing his fourth year on varsity. In his senior year, Dean scored 29 goals and collected 25 assists and 52 ground balls for a career total of 103 goals, 73 assists and 129 ground balls.
Ethan Doty, West Ranch, senior
The attackman scored a team-high 58 goals in the Wildcats’ title-winning season. Additionally, he had 13 assists, 24 ground balls and eight caused turnovers.
Darryl Evans, West Ranch, senior
Evans generated some offensive production despite playing defense, scoring two goals in his final year with the Wildcats. Evans picked up 26 ground balls and had 32 caused turnovers as well.
Jacob Montes, Hart, senior
Montes ranked third on the team in terms of goals with 25 and could easily be identified by his aggressive finesse on the field. The NAU commit and midfielder chipped in 31 assists, too.
Jason Nunez, Hart, senior
As the Indians’ top-scoring attackman, Nunez potted 32 goals and had 25 assists. In the Indians’ win over Valencia this season, the first in program history, Nunez scored four times.
Jared Steinman, Saugus, freshman
Steinman was the other half of the Centurions’ offensive one-two punch. His style of play complemented fellow freshman Charlie Bland’s as he went on to score a team-leading 30 goals. He tacked on 26 assists in addition.
Joe Tempesta, West Ranch, senior
As an offensive midfielder, Tempesta used his size and physical style of play to score 42 goals, the second-most on the team. He added nine assists, 28 ground balls and 11 caused turnovers.
Hart — Matt Sorensen, senior
Saugus — Nick Tuszynski, senior
Valencia — Chris Franz, senior
West Ranch — Jeremy Demsher, senior