To recite all the honors and accolades West Genesee boys lacrosse head coach Mike Messere has received building the nation’s most successful high school program would take too long – perhaps half a century.
That’s the astounding amount of time that Messere has spent with Wildcats lacrosse, with 42 of those years as head coach. There will be a 43rd season, too, but no more, as Messere announced Wednesday that the 2018 season will be his final campaign on the sidelines.
What started as a student at WG continued when Messere returned to his alma mater to teach and coach. In 1976, he took over as varsity head coach, and within five years the Wildcats were state champions, the first of 15 Messere’s teams have attained, to go with eight state runner-up finishes and 33 Section III titles.
Even with last Tuesday’s 15-6 defeat to long-time rival Fayetteville-Manlius, WG has won 91 percent of its games in Messere’s tenure that has landed him in both the National Lacrosse and National High School Sports Halls of Fame.
Beyond the astonishing win totals and the championship ledger, though, is the fact that hundreds of players he has coached went on to the college and professional levels, and dozens of them branched into coaching, too, none more famous than Syracuse University head coach John Desko.
Now, though, there’s one more challenge for Messere – trying, both this season and next, to win more championships with a young and talented Wildcats roster that won eight in a row and rose to no. 4 in the state Class A rankings before the trip to F-M.
Back on April 13, a great first half helped WG prevail 11-8 over the Hornets in Camillus. But the rematch proved far different, thanks to dominance in the face-off circle by Zak Van Valkenburgh and a seven-goal effort from Donovan Welsh .
Van Valkenburgh won all five of the first-quarter face-offs. As a result, WG didn’t take a shot until the game was nine minutes old. By that point, the Hornets had a 4-0 lead, and Welsh owned a hat trick. His first two goals came 23 seconds apart, followed a minute later by an assist on Mac Fish’s tally before Welsh struck again for a third goal.
Ultimately, thanks to Van Valkenburgh, F-M won eight of 10 face-offs in the first half. Gaining even more possession time, the Hornets made it 6-0 early in the second quarter on goals by Luke Burnam and Luke Hamel.
Not until Ryan Sheehan scored with 4:47 left in the half did WG get on the board. But James Rettinger answered, and Welsh’s fourth goal eight seconds before halftime made it 8-1 at the break.
The margin got as big as 13-3 in the third quarter as Welsh connected for three more goals, with Fish and Nick Papa also finding the net. After the Wildcats made a brief surge early in the final period, Burnam and Papa netted goals 21 seconds apart to cap off F-M’s winning effort.
No WG player had more than one goal, with Ryan Sheehan, Kevin Sheehan, Ryan Smith, Manny Castro, Max Rosa and Jack Howes earning those goals. Jay Considine joined Kevin Sheehan in the assist column. Luke Staudt had six saves, two less than F-M counterpart Ryan Boshart.