Defense leads Bethlehem to unbeaten start in Suburban Council

The loss of one of its top players may have slowed down the Bethlehem boys lacrosse team, but it hasn't prevented the Eagles from starting the season strong.

Bethlehem (3-0 league, 4-1 overall) won three of its first four games including a 6-5 victory over Suburban Council South Division rival Colonie last Wednesday.

We set a goal at the beginning of the year not to give up more than eight goals in a game, and so far we've done it, said Bethlehem coach Dave Rounds.

The Eagles have had to be strong defensively after senior midfielder Pat Johnson injured his knee in the second game of the season, an 8-6 loss to Christian Brothers Academy. Johnson was one of Bethlehem's primary offensive weapons, providing both goals and assists.

"We lost Pat Johnson, and that took some time to adjust to," said Rounds. "But we seem to have found our footing again."

The way Rounds helped Bethlehem regain its footing was by moving senior attacker Andy Conroy to Johnson's central midfield position. Rounds has also increased Conroy's playing time by keeping Conroy on the field when the second offensive line comes in.

"With Pat, we had a much more balanced pair of lines," said Rounds. "When he went down, we had one line that was strong and one that was weaker. By moving Andy to first and second lines, he's made both lines stronger."

Other players have stepped up in Johnson's absence. Senior attacker Eric Halek scored 12 of his team-high 16 goals since Johnson's injury, and senior midfielder Stephen Russo has chipped in with six goals over that time span. Senior attacker Mike Rondinaro has picked up the slack on assists with a team-high nine helpers, including four assists in last Wednesday's victory over Colonie.

Still, Bethlehem wouldn't be where it is without its defense. The Eagles have allowed only 16 goals in four games, thanks in large part to goaltender Theo Ferguson (.64 save percentage) and a defensive unit that has allowed an average of 12.25 shots on goal per game.

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