The sort of cockiness that comes from some of their northern opponents has become familiar to the coaches and players at Monsters Lacrosse Academy. When a team from the Midwest or Northeast sees this little-known team from Florida, they’re quick to underestimate their challenger.
The latest instance came last month when Monsters Lacrosse’s rising stars team traveled to Wesley Chapel for the National Development Program (NDP) Tournament of Champions National Championship and squared off against Team Total Michigan.
Total Michigan didn’t expect much of the Monsters until the two teams took the field. The Monsters eked out a low-scoring, one-goal win and were on their way to what would wind up as their biggest tournament showing so far. The Monsters eventually routed Maryland’s Lionheart, 11-3, in the championship game Dec. 31 for the first national championship in the team’s history.
The growth of lacrosse in Florida since Danny Robbins —one of the head coaches at Monsters Lacrosse Academy — first came to Sarasota from the University of Maryland in 1994 is remarkable. Robbins grew up on Long Island in New York, where lacrosse was a fixture in every public high school and kids decided to play because it was what all their friends were doing during the spring. He went on to become an All-American at Maryland, which was situated in another hotbed state.
Robbins, who now coaches at Out-of-Door Academy and is an officer with the Sarasota Police Department’s crime prevention unit, has witnessed the sport grow from the point where there was no league in Manatee or Sarasota counties into a big enough deal for a local team to claim a national championship.
“It was a little slow,” Robbins said. “Now it has completely exploded in the whole state of Florida since 2011, I would say, 2010 and now we’re getting these kids that didn’t want to play baseball. Now it’s giving them another sport, giving them another opportunity to be a student-athlete, to help themselves get into colleges.”
Robbins has coached this particular group — which now consists of high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors — since 2012, and the core has been intact the entire time. They play their high school seasons at Out-of-Door, IMG Academy, Cardinal Mooney High School and for the club Manatee Lacrosse program, then come together during the offseason to form one of the best club programs in Florida.
All-tournament team Cade Crowes, Copperheads (Ga.) Cameron Daffy, Team Sconnie (Wis.) Kollin Eckel, Bay Area Sand Sharks Dom Germanotta, Team Sconnie (Wis.) MJ McMahon, Monsters — MVP Andre Meyers, Lionhart (Md.) Carson Milburn, Monsters Cade Myers, Copperheads (Ga.) Ryan Stakes, Lionheart (Md.) Andrew Tallagsen, Pasco Lions
The victory at the NDP Tournament of Champions, though, was a landmark title. The Monsters have won state titles during each of their first six seasons together, but this was their first national championship in the program’s seven-year history.
“There’s a chemistry there,” Robbins said. “We run a motion offense and within that motion offense you have to know where one person’s going to be.”
And the Monsters have developed the talent to go along with their chemistry. IMG junior Carson Milburn was named to the all-tournament team at the Tournament of Champions and Cardinal Mooney sophomore MJ McMahon was the rising stars division MVP.
Collectively, the Monsters have drawn Division I interest from smaller programs like Lehigh University all the way up to powerhouses like Syracuse University and the Terrapins.
McMahon, who started for the Cougars as a freshman last year, seems to be the one with the chance to break through into the national consciousness, and his MVP trophy supports the potential. He’s already taken a visit to Syracuse and gives the Monsters the sort of player most programs can’t match.
“I really enjoy coaching him,” Robbins said. “His shot is abslutely amazing, the speed and his placement. He finishes the ball and I don’t care who’s covering him. He’s going to find a way to incorporate his game as far as shooting and then passing. MJ’s a guy that will beat you with an assist and a goal.”