To hear Briarcliff coach Al Meola tell it, getting Tim Schurr on his staff was nothing short of a coup.

The Bears will have a decidedly different look to them when they take the field in 2009. They lost 13 players to graduation and along with them a lot of the team’s offensive firepower.

But Meola has some steam in his strides this season – and for good reason.

By bringing aboard Schurr, one of the most respected defensive minds in all of Section 1, Meola isn’t as worried about what he lost from last year so much as he’s excited about what he’s gained.

“In due time, once Timmy gets his defense together we’ll be fine,” said Meola, a 1992 graduate of Lakeland and former long stick at Elmira College. “Once we get the players buying into his system, it’s going to be great. Every time we step on the field I see a difference. We’re more confident, more fluid. Tim is an artist at making defenses amazing.”

Many will concur.

Schurr was a great defenseman at Yorktown back in the day and later turned Somers into one of the better small schools in the state. Now the associate head coach with Briarcliff, Schurr brings a tough-as-nails approach to playing defense the right way. Meola said he often just sits back and watches in amazement as Schurr drills his players on the importance of always knowing assignments and playing with disciplined aggression.

“There has been a difference in our players since the second they stepped on the field for the first time this season,” Meola said. “Timmy is just awesome.”

Meola started the Briarcliff program as a teacher’s aide back in 2001. He’s coming off several consecutive winning seasons, but, oddly, has never had a player make the Hudson Valley Empires team — not that he’s losing any sleep over it. He seems very at ease with it because his players have shown a dedication to getting better from season to season, and because the Briarcliff feeder program is now “really taking off from third grade on.”

“We’ve put up some pretty good records so I’m okay with not having guys on Empires. They have had great experiences playing travel teams in the summer,” Meola said.

Briarcliff, which lost 7-6 to Pleasantville in last year’s Class C sectional quarterfinals, has just four seniors on the roster and will start nine sophomores. Meola said even though his team is young, he stopped short of saying it will be a rebuilding year. He still has talent on attack and is confident his top middies and d-middies will more than hold up their end of the bargain.

Briarcliff’s top returning offensive player is senior attackman Mike Perlow. He will be joined by sophomore Chris Varcasio and junior Ryan Connery, two players who will have to make up for the loss of the Bears’ leading goal scorer the last two years, All-Section selection Eric Brandel, and the reliable Matt Levy.

“Perlow will be asked to do a lot, but we have a lot of guys who can play now. We’ve seen it in scrimmages. We make mistakes, but at times we look pretty solid,” Meola said.

At midfield, Meola is high on short sticks John Haeling and Matt Tompkins, as well as long pole Brian Levine.

Asked what his players’ other strengths should be, Meola didn’t hesitate, offering an answer that should make Schurr happy.

“Goaltending,” he said. “Junior Greg Ellson has been looking really solid between the pipes. He’s been very solid in scrimmages. He’s done a nice job.”

All the positive vibes aside, the questions remain: Should Briarcliff be expected to do some damage this season? Can the Bears hang with the Ryes of the world in Class C?

“I’d like to,” Meola said. “It’s always our goal to be as good as Rye. They do an excellent job. They teach the game the right way and are always very classy.”

Meola said his team performed fairly well last week in a six-team jamboree at Briarcliff, but added he should have a better feel for his team’s potential Wednesday when it scrimmages Mahopac. The Bears will then compete in a three-team scrimmage with Lakeland/Panas and Section 2’s Latham Shaker on Saturday at Lakeland.

Briarcliff then starts the season on April 1 at Clarkstown North.

As far as Meola is concerned, his team’s youth isn’t something he’s hung up on. He said his players’ attitude and work ethic is already where it needs to be for them to be successful.

“Our No. 1 goal is to play in June. That’s what we’re playing for every day. We want to get to the sectional finals if we can. Timmy’s winning background … that’s his mantra as well. He wants to get these guys believing.”

Considering the guys they have blowing the whistles in practice each day, that shouldn’t be too hard.

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7 Responses to “With Schurr in tow, don't expect Bears to have to rebuild”

  1. swinglax says:

    Briarcliff’s biggest asset is the ‘faith’ that Meola and Schurr have in the kids that they coach. I am sure that Brian Dooley knows the speed in which Briarcliff will be brought up to speed with his friend and mentor, Tim Schurr, joining the Bears team. It will be fun to watch Briarcliff lacrosse grow to be a power in Class C. I am sure the Briarcliff players and parents will learn very quickly (if not already) of the coaching gift their AD has bestowed upon them.

  2. BigBadBear says:

    thanks ‘cuse for this very nice write-up. the parents think that not only do we have a great coaching staff, we also have a great AD (you owe me “D”), who has always supported lacrosse. We still not have seen the impact of the youth program, still probably a couple of years away. But with 9 sophs, we should be ok for the next couple of years. This team will definitely be better in May than it is now

  3. Syracuse says:

    Hey guys,

    I just got an e-mail from Al Meola. He didn’t give me a score, but from what he wrote he seemed mighty impressed with Mahopac today.

    Here’s the full text of the e-mail:

    “Mahopac played well. Their attackmen are excellent to say the least. We had a very tough time in transition. Again, we are very young and our IQ is a bit down at the moment.

    “On defense, Mahopac played very agressive and did a very good job, giving us very little opportunity.

    “We need to get better everyday. That is our mantra.”

    So, if someone knows what the score may have been, feel free to post it, but I think Meola’s words speak volumes. His team has a lot of work to do and Mahopac is right on course to start the season.

  4. scooter says:

    the score was either 12 or 13 to 5. It was 10-0 going into the 4th.

  5. Exlax says:

    Oldest youth program kids are in 8th grade. Expect modified to be tough and varsity get benefits when those sophs are seniors. It should be fun to see!

  6. Glax says:

    Tim Schurr was my coach on Team Superstar along with Roy Colsey. I have never learned so much in one summer… He knows what hes doing and can turn any athlete into a great defender. He’s definitely a huge asset to the Briarcliff program

  7. Gonzo says:

    Briarcliff has 7 seniors, 7 juniors and 6 sophomores on its roster. Beyond John Haelling at middie, not sure how many of the sophs will technically start but all should see alot of playing time. Of the juniors, three will certainly start, and at least two others should regularly see PT. Of the seniors, there are at least 4, possibly five starters.

    The team has been somewhat inconsistent in its scrimmages They got beat badly by PValley, Greely and Mahopac but more than held their own versus Hen Hud and Rye. Only two starters return from last year but there is alot of upside for the others once they get settled. The offense is stronger than the defense, but there is more depth on defense than offense. Mike Perlow is clearly the man on attack and is playing very well. Junior attackman Ryan Connery and soph middie John Haeling have alot of upside. Junior goalie Greg Ellson is playing very well. The team is still in the process of getting its feet under itself though

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