Mike Adler has felt a shark sink its jaws into his left foot. He has seen blood gush out of his body.
But Adler, the starting goalie for St. Thomas Aquinas, has never felt more pain than what he endured on May 2, 2015. That’s when Aquinas’ dream of an undefeated season ended with a 13-11 loss to Lake Highland Prep in the state final.
“One hundred percent,” Adler said when asked to compare. “That definitely hurt more than the shark.”
Adler, an 18-year-old senior, is nothing if not tough. He has been back surfing hundreds of times since he got bit by a five-foot shark in May of 2013, an injury that required surgery to repair four damaged tendons and also 40 stitches.
As for lacrosse, Adler and his Raiders will get a chance to take a bite out of Lake Highland Prep when the teams meet Feb. 19 in Orlando.
That will be a big game psychologically, but the ultimate goal for Aquinas is to be the last team standing when the state finals conclude on April 30 in Jupiter.
Since the FHSAA started sanctioning lacrosse championships in 2008, no Miami-Dade or Broward team has won the title. Aquinas has a shot this year, even though it lost stars such as J.P. Crowley (Towson University) and Alex Tumminello (Maryland) to graduation.
Coach Terry Crowley returns six starters, including his other son, Terry, a junior who has committed to Hofstra; Lou Yovino, a senior who has committed to Furman, and Adler, who has pledged to St. Joseph’s.
“There are about 10 teams that can get hot down the stretch and win the title,” Terry Crowley said, mentioning St Andrew’s, Benjamin and Lake Highland. “(Locally), you have to think Gulliver is the best team in Dade, and Douglas is good in Broward. If you don’t take them seriously, you’ll get whipped.”
Speaking of whippings, Adler has been taking a beating for years. Long before that shark in Melbourne Beach left 20 teeth marks on his leg, Adler was getting tortured by his older brother, Max, 21, who plays Division II lacrosse for Bentley University.
“When he started wrestling in high school, that was my worst nightmare,” Adler said. “I was his practice dummy.”
When Adler committed to St. Joseph’s, he earned a rare shout out from his brother on social media – grudging respect at long last.
In the meantime, all those brotherly beatings may have had a positive effect. Adler believes it built his pain tolerance, and that’s a good thing when you are a lacrosse goalie and are the last line of defense in an effort to keep a solid rubber ball, traveling at speeds of 70 mph and higher, from hitting the back of your net.
Adler, who became an Aquinas starter midway through his sophomore season, is a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder. But he plays bigger than that because of his courage. He was a catcher in baseball, and that instinct to stop the ball served him well when he took up lacrosse in the fourth grade.
Lacrosse goalies don’t wear pads on their arms or legs, but that doesn’t deter any of the good ones, Adler included.
“I like the pain of making a big stop with my leg,” said Adler, who has never missed a game due to injury. “Taking a shot off your shin is not bad at all.”
That attitude comes as no surprise to those who know Adler, who was back surfing three weeks after his shark bite. He was still wearing a cast on his foot while on the board.
Surfing, Adler said, is a pleasant break for him.
“It’s nice to get away from coaches screaming at you,” Adler said with a laugh.
Adler said the 2015 Aquinas team had a “swagger”, and he believes this team will build its confidence as the season progresses. Next season, Adler will be at St. Joseph’s, where he plans on studying business.
And when he’s not studying or working on lacrosse, the Jersey Shore is only 45 minutes away … sharks or not.
April 4-8: District tournaments
April 15: State first round play-in games
April 19: State second round play-in games
April 23: State third round play-in games
April 29-30: State final four in Jupiter
2015 STATE CHAMPIONS
Boys: Orlando Lake Highland Prep; Girls: Vero Beach.
TOP RETURNING BOYS’ PLAYERS
ATT Hunter Bell, Douglas, Sr.
ATT Noah Dearman, Pine Crest, Sr.
ATT Shane Kreutzer, Cypress Bay, Sr.
ATT Trevor Pelletier, Gulliver, Sr.
ATT Gabe Telleria, Coral Reef, Sr.
ATT David Tescher, Pine Crest, Sr.
MID Jarrett Alfaro, American Heritage, Sr.
MID Walker Gautier, Gulliver, Sr.
MID C.J. Hassan, Gulliver, Sr.
MID Mike Perry, Columbus, Sr.
MID Lou Yovino, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
DEF Brody Speno, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
LSM Anthony Courcelle, Cypress Bay, Sr.
FOGO Carlos Romero, Belen, So.
GK Michael Adler, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
GK Matthew Salas, Belen, Sr.
TOP RETURNING GIRLS’ PLAYERS
ATT Carley Adams, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
ATT Amanda Anderson, Pine Crest, Jr.
ATT Lala Cohen, Ransom Everglades, Jr.
ATT Izzy Lopez, Pine Crest, Sr.
ATT Christina Miranda, Palmetto, Sr.
ATT Isabella Teijelo, Coral Reef ,Sr.
MID Erin Bakes, Ransom Everglades, So.
MID Cassidy Hidalgo, Coral Reef, Sr.
MID Bianca Tedesco, Pine Crest, Sr.
MID Madison Woodall, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
DEF Sofia Caro, Pine Crest, Jr.
DEF Catherine Kolski, Ransom Everglades, So.
DEF Patricia Medina, Killian, Sr.
DEF Logan Millican, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
DEF Lauren O’Connell, West Broward, Sr.
DEF Shelby Reamer, Palmetto, Sr.
GK Madison Cunningham, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
GK Skye Moradi, Ransom Everglades, Jr.
TEAM-BY-TEAM BOYS’ OUTLOOKS
AMERICAN HERITAGE: Coach: Chad Moore; Last year: 9-6; Top players: Jarett Alfero (sr. M); Jason Brown (jr. D); Matt Kirchmier (jr. M); Noteworthy: All but two starters return from last season.
COLUMBUS: Coach: Jim DeLang; Last year: 12-6; Top players: Mike Perry (sr. M); Austin Volovar (sr. M); Chris Melendez (sr. A); Noteworthy: Seniors Kyle Youmans and Danny Ramirez also contribute.
CYPRESS BAY: Coach: Joe Courcelle; Last year: 17-3; Top players: Anthony Courcelle (sr. LSM); Nick Countrymen (sr. M); Dylan Pultano (sr. A); Courcelle, a 2015 All-American, signed with Marquette.
DOUGLAS: Coach: Ryan Burton; Last year: 16-2; Top players: Hunter Bell (sr. A); Tyler Gaffney (sr. A); Kevin Horwitz (jr. M); Noteworthy: Goalie Jason Wyner had a 65-percent save percentage last season.
GULLIVER: Coach: Jim Piggot; Last year: 14-5; Top players: Trevor Pelletier (sr. A); C.J. Hassan (sr. M); Walter Gautier (sr. M); Noteworthy: Pelletier has a scholarship to play for Manhattan.
LASALLE: Coach: Anthony Vuono; Last year: 4-6; Top players: Charles Damon (sr. D); Carlos Lopez (sr. D); Diego Aguirre (sr. M); Noteworthy: Defensive-minded team has 12 seniors who have been in the program for four years.
MIAMI COUNTRY DAY: Coach: Chaka Bainbridge; Last year: 4-11; Top players: Tyler Grosman (sr. A); Ryan Finvarb (so. M); Matthew Barron (sr. A); Noteworthy: Barron led team in goals (25) and Grosman in assists (30).
NSU UNIVERSITY SCHOOL: Coach: Jan Northrop; Last year: 7-11; Top players: Matt Gittelman (sr. LSM); Max Hermann (jr. A); Wyatt Martin (so. A); Noteworthy: Deepest University team in the past four years.
PINE CREST: Coach: George Harris; Last year: 14-6; Top players: David Tescher (sr. A); Noah Dearman (sr. A); Chris Dunne (jr. A); Noteworthy: All three attackers return, but there’s a new goalie and a young defense.
RANSOM EVERGLADES: Coach: Roy Kelly; Last year: 8-8; Top players: OJ Armstrong (jr. M); Declan Cummiskey (jr. M); Reece Ritzenthaler (so. D); Noteworthy: Coach says Armstrong could play lacrosse or football in college.
SOUTH PLANTATION: Coach: Mike Collins; Last year: 7-8; Top players: Zach Sjogreen (sr. D); Dillon Neir (sr. M); Jayce Collins (fr. G); Noteworthy: Defense is the team’s strength.
ST. BRENDAN: Coach: Doug Shanahan; Last year: 4-12; Top players: Jay Pinckney Cabal (sr. D); Carlos Clanijo (sr. M); Noch Barthlemess (jr. M); Noteworthy: This is the second year of the program.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS: Coach: Terry Crowley; Last year: 23-1, second at state; Top players: Lou Yovino (sr. M); Mike Adler (sr. G); Brody Speno (sr. D); Noteworthy: Yovino signed with Furman and Adler to St. Joseph’s. Speno will play football in Auburn.
TARAVELLA: Coach: Joseph Chiarella; Last year: 5-9; Top players: Joseph Monterey (sr. M); Jake Schneider (sr. D); Curtis Bigby (sr. LSM); Noteworthy: Chiarella is a new coach, and there were major losses to graduation from last year.
TEAM-BY-TEAM GIRLS’ OUTLOOKS
CORAL REEF: Coach: Erin Shelow; Top players: 8-6; Top players: Cassidy Hidalgo (sr. M); Isabella Teijelo (sr. A); Ashley Scarry (sr. D); Noteworthy: Hidalgo and Teijelo are returning All-Dade players.
DOUGLAS: Coach: Tim O’Rorke; Last year: 11-5; Top players: Selena Lugo (sr. M); Kristen Sparrow (sr. A); Gabby Schwartz (jr. A); Noteworthy: Nine starters return, including Delaware recruit Lugo.
NORTH BROWARD PREP: Coach: Gail Sousa; Last year: NA; Top players: Ilana Wolf (jr. M); Candela Samarin (so. M); Victoria Fletcher (fr. M); Noteworthy: This is the program’s first year back playing varsity competition after three years as a JV team.
NSU UNIVERSITY SCHOOL: Coach: Marykate DiBenedetto; Last year: 9-9; Top players: Caroline Kapp (sr. M); Sydney Soltau (sr. G); Bryn Tolchinsky (sr. D); Noteworthy: This is a deep program with 30 players, varsity and JV.
PALMER TRINITY: Coach: Meg McCarthy; Last year: 0-10; Top players: Salma Atassi (jr. A); Valentina Lopez (jr. A); Casey McCarthy (fr. M); Noteworthy: Four of top six players are freshmen.
PINE CREST: Coach: Eileen Pliske; Last year: 17-5; Top players: Bianca Tedesco (sr. M); Tara Shecter (sr. M); Amanda Anderson (jr. M); Noteworthy: All-American Tedesco leads strong offense.
RANSOM EVERGLADES: Coach: Bridgette Laskey; Last year: 10-4; Top players: Erin Bakes (so. C); Bridget Turner (sr. M); Lala Cohen (jr. A); Noteworthy: Bales (49 goals) is one of several returning starters.