Coach Mark Burnam brings lacrosse knowledge to Charlotte Christian
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Tuesday, Apr. 22, 2014

Coach Mark Burnam brings lacrosse knowledge to Charlotte Christian

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/18/11/12/uyRlE.Em.138.jpeg|202
    - COURTESY OF DOMONIQUE BARNES
    Coach Mark Burnam came to start the Charlotte Christian boys’ lacrosse program in 2012. He previously served as Weddington’s head coach and played collegiately at Syracuse.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/18/11/12/Rh9x8.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF DOMONIQUE BARNES
    Coach Mark Burnam came to start the Charlotte Christian boys’ lacrosse program in 2012. He previously served as Weddington’s head coach and played collegiately at Syracuse.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/18/11/12/ZmV8S.Em.138.jpeg|391
    - COURTESY OF DOMONIQUE BARNES
    Charlotte Christian senior midfielder Joe Ruppert has eight goals and six assists for the Knights, who are in their second year as a varsity program after starting as a club team in 2012.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/04/18/11/12/rzSGM.Em.138.jpeg|377
    - COURTESY OF DOMONIQUE BARNES
    Charlotte Christian’s Matthew Weigel, right, has scored 30 goals this season. The Knights are in their second year as a varsity program after starting as a club team in 2012.

Mark Burnam has been around lacrosse for nearly four decades.

Over the past three seasons, he’s brought his vast knowledge of the game to Charlotte Christian.

Burnam, 53, emerged as a star player at Henninger High in Syracuse (N.Y.). He went onto play at Syracuse (1981-84), where he was part of the 1983 national championship team.

Burnam also played professional lacrosse with the Buffalo Bandits, New Jersey Saints, Rochester Knighthawks and Syracuse Smash.

Burnam, who is half Mohawk and half Italian, also starred for the Iroquois National team, serving as captain of five different World Games’ teams between 1990 and 2006.

Burnam started his coaching career at high schools in New York. He also spent time coaching in the Canadian Senior A and B summer professional leagues.

When the Burnam family moved to North Carolina, he coached the Weddington High boys’ lacrosse team from 2007-2011.

Burnam also is the defensive coordinator for the Iroquois National team that will compete in the World Games on July 10-19 in Denver, Colo.

Burnam decided to start the Charlotte Christian boys’ lacrosse program from scratch in 2012.

With his resume, some wondered why he would take on a new program; but Burnam said he was excited about the Knights from day one.

“I just loved the challenge of coming in and starting a program from scratch,” said Burnam, whose four children also play lacrosse. His youngest, Cheyenne, 17, is a senior at Weddington and has signed to play at Syracuse

“To really get to teach guys who don’t know a lot about the game has been great,” said Burnam. “They are like sponges, like little birds in the nest, waiting for you teach them, to feed them information. Then, when they get that (knowledge), they grow and learn, and it’s been very rewarding to watch that happen.”

His players were excited to get a coach with so much experience.

“This guy has won state championships, national championships, played in the World Games, coached professional teams,” said Charlotte Christian senior defender Jacob Kaplan. “And he has won everywhere he has coached.

“For him to want to come here and help us get started was great for all of us.”

After competing as club team with a limited schedule in 2012, the Knights debuted as a varsity team last season, struggling to a 4-14 record and dropping their last 10 games.

But Burnam and his players saw their potential to improve as they dropped a lot of close games.

“Last year was tough at times because we lost a lot of games,” said senior midfielder Joe Ruppert, who has played lacrosse since he was in second grade in New Jersey. “But we all kept sticks in our hands all summer, fall and winter. We were all motivated to come back stronger this season.”

Most of the Knights played club lacrosse in summer and fall, including 14 on Burnam’s Road Warrior club team.

The hard work paid off, as Charlotte Christian started this season 11-0, with wins against Davidson Day, Greensboro Day, Hammond School (S.C.), Whitfield Academy (Ga.) and Cannon School, all teams the Knights had lost to in 2013.

The Knights vaulted to No. 4 in the state, according to laxpower.com.

While Charlotte Christian dropped games – to Providence Day 10-9 in overtime and undefeated No. 1 Charlotte Latin, 14-7 – the team started to show signs it could hang with anyone.

Against Providence Day, the Knights led most of the game. Against Latin they trailed 7-1 before roaring back to make the score 8-7 with six minutes to go.

“Last year, no one really respected us, and a lot of teams smacked us around,” Ruppert said. “But this year we’ve improved a ton and we’re starting to show what we are capable of.

“We want to be one of the best teams in the area, but to do that and get where we want to go, we are going to have beat the best teams.”

Sophomore Jonathan Durham (32 goals, 35 assists), juniors Trey Linton (29 goals, 25 assists) and Matthew Wiegel (30 goals), and seniors Miller Barbour (33 goals), Ruppert (eight goals, six assists) and Calvin Keller play big roles offensively for the Knights.

Seniors Jacob Kaplan (20 ground balls), Ruppert and sophomore Ryan Gilmartin have shown the most promise defensively.

Charlotte Christian already is starting to produce college-level talent. Kaplan (Berry College) and Ruppert (Hampden-Sydney College) both signed to play college lacrosse April 16.

“I believe this team has the potential to be one of the best teams around,” Burnam said. “We have come a long way in two years and are very athletic and play very fast. But it’s one thing to talk about being good and it’s another to go and out prove it on the field. That’s what we have to do.”

His players also believe they can be successful.

“Our ultimate goal is for this program to win a state championship,” Kaplan said. “I think this team, especially the five seniors, believe now is as good as any time to do it. We feel like we are capable of beating anyone.”

Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at jedwardsjr23@gmail.com.

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