After three years of training with the Lakeshore Lacrosse Club, Whitefish Bay seniors Anders Bjella and Andrew Reidy were ranked by college recruiters as top players at the Chicago Showcase last weekend, where 230 players came from across the country to compete for attention.
Bjella was the top pick for midfield, and Reidy was the fourth pick for defense. Both players have been fielding calls from colleges all week, after their names were sent in an email blast to recruiters across the country.
"At this point in my college search, I just kind of wanted to go have fun as a chance to play," Bjella said. "Going in, I was pretty set on just playing club in college. This definitely opened a ton of doors for me."
Both players, who are now looking to play Division III lacrosse next year, said they were surprised by how well they ranked at the Showcase.
"I went through it like any other kid, and just did what I was supposed to do," Reidy said. "I'm proud of myself."
At the Showcase Jan. 15 and 16, the players were divided into teams to compete in six full-field games. Reidy said he thinks he stood out by letting his skills and work ethic speak for themselves.
"You gotta leave everything on the field," Reidy said. "I don't try and do really flashy things; I just do my job and hopefully that works out."
Reidy, who Bjella credits for getting him to join lacrosse, said Bjella shone through the crowd with his ability to adapt.
"He's really versatile," Reidy said. "You put him on attack and he'll score; you put him on defense, and he's really quick."
Both players were co-captains in the spring for the Lakeshore Lacrosse Club, which draws from Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Nicolet, Homestead, Cedarburg and Port Washington. Head Coach Tom Gough said Bjella and Reidy brought a strong ethic of comradery and support to the team, giving pep talks and singling out players for personal pregame encouragement.
"They are both very team-oriented," Gough said. "I take a step back and I try to rely on the captains to do a lot of the motivating. They get the players ready from a mental aspect."
Bjella and Reidy were the only team members Gough recommended for the Showcase. Both being from Whitefish Bay High School, Gough credited the school's athletic programs for preparing the students as wholistic athletes.
"I encourage all my players to play other sports other than just lacrosse," Gough said. "I think most of the players that have played for me from Whitefish Bay have always done very well."
As coaches are not allowed to run formal practices in the off-season, Bjella and Reidy had to rely on themselves and other sports to stay fit. Reidy said his Whitefish Bay wrestling team is what kept him in shape.
"It's basically like going to Hell everyday and coming out, so that keeps me real in shape," he said. "I felt like I could run forever out there."
Bjella said he frequented the racquetball court at Elite Fitness leading up to the Showcase to throw the ball around by himself and lift weights.
"Anders has taken it upon himself to develop himself physically and mentally," Gough said. "He has probably worked harder than anyone on his game in the off-season."
When the season starts back up in the spring, the players hope to lead the team to the state championship. Last year, the team lost in the quarterfinals.
The team will have another change in organization this year, with a new team starting for Ozaukee County. Ozaukee County students who've already been playing with Lakeshore will continue with Lakeshore, but new players will join the Ozaukee team, phasing out the Ozaukee County schools from the club.