Country Day seeks competitive balance with Brother Rice in lacrosse
Beverly Hills – Over the last few years Detroit Country Day, which had been a regular contender for the Division 2 boys lacrosse title, has made it clear that its goals are loftier than competing for a state title.
The Yellowjackets moved up to Division 1, a division dominated by Birmingham Brother Rice. The Warriors have won the Division 1 title every season since lacrosse became a Michigan High School Athletic Association-sanctioned sport in 2005.
Country Day coach Michael Cappelletti, in his third year with the Yellowjackets, said that his team’s aspirations remain the same each year.
“Our expectation this year, we put it up in the locker room every year, is to win a state championship, to not lose to teams from Michigan,” he said. “Those are goals that we have every single year, our standards are to get better every single day, being good teammates, being excellent students athletes.”
In Cappelletti’s first year Country Day snapped Brother Rice’s historic in-state winning streak, which spanned over the course of 12 seasons.
Country Day senior Cooper Belanger said that win, three seasons ago, helped set the tone and instill confidence that is still a part of the Country Day program.
“It totally confirmed it,” he said. “Believing in yourself like that and getting the result that you want is always a confirmation that you’re doing the right thing in practice and when you buy into a system, things go well. I think that was good for us.”
The Yellowjackets haven’t managed to defeat Brother Rice since 2014 but Cappelletti said he’s honored just to be a part of the program, which has had close games with Brother Rice each season.
“I was proud of that group,” he said. “But more than anything else, I’ve honestly been at least that proud if not more proud the past two years with our guys just being competitive with them.
“I think it’s a really hard narrative to flip in anything in high school, because high school athletics is so mental, where you have a program or a team that’s been so good for so long and it’s just everybody’s expectation that they win every game in state, they win every state championship. That’s all a credit to them, they do a great job, but I would like to think that they want more people competing with them too and they want the level of lacrosse to raise to the level where it’s not as easy and it only makes them better.
In the only game Country Day and Brother Rice played in this season, Country Day held a second half lead, but lost 8-3.
Country Day won two state titles (2005, 2011) before Cappelletti's arrival. The Yellowjackets won their third Division 2 title in Cappeletti's first season. Country Day has raised its level of play since 2013 and has set its sights on being the best team in Michigan regardless of the division.
The recent success Country Day has enjoyed recently had its beginnings years ago when Belanger and his teammates played in the junior high and earlier.
“We all started playing with one another at a young age,” he said. “In the fourth grade, our dads got together and started the feeder program for Country Day and ever since then we’ve had a tradition of excellence. And now there are guys who are coming up to high school and have seen the mentality change here to expecting a state championship every year. Expecting to win and taking pride in it and having fun with it.”
Cappelletti’s teams have grown accustomed to the expectations and all of his players share the same goals for this and every year.
“We just expect them to be really great leaders and to come with great attitudes every day,” he said. “I’m in my third year here now and the consistency has really paid dividends for this year, where the expectations are already known and I don’t really have to talk a lot about expectations. It comes from the guys who have been here for two years with me and our staff.”
Country Day opens tournament play May 26 against the winner of the Canton-South Lyon Unified contest to be played May 21.