By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Despite losing nine seniors to graduation, the Menlo School girls' lacrosse team had its best offensive player returning for 2013 along with its starting goalie. At least those two positions were covered as the Knights embarked on perhaps their most ambitious schedule ever.
Along with bringing in St. John's from Texas, Menlo coach Jen Lee lined up Radnor (Pa.) for a scrimmage, Cleveland Heights, NorCal rival St. Ignatius and preseason nationally No. 2-ranked St. Stephen's St. Agnews -- all among the first nine matches of the season.
No problem. The Knights did have senior goalie Hannah Rubin and senior do-everything Michaela Michael to handle some of the nation's best, or so Lee thought.
Rubin suffered a knee injury during soccer season and Michael suffered a torn ACL in her left knee last fall during a club team workout. Both are currently sidelined and their return this season is questionable.
Thus, the Knights are 0-2 heading into Friday's nonleague match at California High in the East Bay before hosting Amador Valley -- one of only four teams to beat Menlo last year -- on Tuesday in the first of six straight home matches featuring the aforementioned national powers.
While Lee is expecting Rubin to return at some point, she's mentally preparing not to have Michael.
Michael, who is headed to USC in the fall on a scholarship, finished her junior year with 131 goals and 31 assists for 162 points. She ranked No. 3 in the nation and No. 1 in the state for goals scored while her points total ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 6 in the country according to MaxPreps.
Not too surprisingly, Michael was named one of the top 10 seniors in the nation by Inside Lacrosse magazine's preseason preview.
"She is a total gem," Lee said of Michael, regarded as the best player in the Western states. "It (the injury) is very unfortunate, but she will come out stronger on the other end for it. We are trying to keep perspective and also the bigger picture in mind."
Michael suffered her injury last September and quickly had arthroscopic surgery to repair the damage. She was never in a cast but continues to go to physical therapy at APEX in Foster City twice a week while keeping her stick skills in shape daily.
"I'm bummed," Michael said. "I've had three great seasons at Menlo. Last year we accomplished so much. We beat SI (for the first time in more than a decade), were ranked in the state . . . that was important to me. There's nothing that I'm upset about missing my senior year."
Michael already has accomplished everything in three years that most lacrosse players never do in four. She holds all the school records, which should remain untouched for years, and led the Knights to WBAL playoff titles three consecutive seasons. Menlo last year was ranked No. 10 in the state and No. 14 in the West Region by Laxpower.com.
"With regards to Michaela, I don't know what else she has to prove in high school," said Lee. "She will make incredible contributions from the sideline for our team, and her records will stand for a long time."
Michael hopes to be fit to compete in two big tournaments this summer the Under Armour All-American Senior Games in Baltimore, Md., and the U.S. Lacrosse Champion All-American Showcase in Florida.
With Michael sidelined, Lee will turn to senior co-captains Ali Kim and Brooke Bullington for scoring support. Each had four goals plus an assist in Menlo's 22-19 loss to visiting SI on Tuesday. Freshman Parvathi Narayan added four goals with junior Alyssa Sherman adding three goals.
"Ali Kim and Brooke Bullington will step up," Lee said. "And, when Hannah Rubin is back in cage, that will be a big help. Those four, plus Michaela, are all captains and headed to play in college. I have four tremendous freshmen, who are going to have a big year."
Michael will serve as a volunteer assistant coach and attempt to be a vocal leader from the sideline while helping the younger players. She had hoped to do that while playing this season.
"It will be hard," Michael said of the preseason schedule, "but by league, we'll be good to go."