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Published: May 08, 2009 10:53 pm   

HS LACROSSE: Fischer fighting hard for Grand Island

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — When Joe Fischer faces a challenge, he attacks it head on.

Take for instance last week when the Grand Island junior attackman was being marked by arguably the area’s top long pole defender, West Seneca East’s Ethan Murphy.

Fischer didn’t crack when the UMBC signee shadowed him — instead he went right at Murphy to the tune of three goals and two assists in a key Class B win.

“He welcomed that challenge with open arms because that’s just the type of kid he is,” veteran Vikings coach Steve Steck said of Fischer. “Joe wants to test himself against the best and I think he passed that test with flying colors.”

“It was a compliment that they even put him on me, but at the same time I knew I had to be an impact player and not just stand around,” Fischer added. “I wanted to prove myself.”

Speaking of impact, that’s exactly what Fischer and a select group of classmates have made on the Vikings’ program. Fischer, Kolby Banker, Courtney Cox, Rob Schiffhauer, Andy LaLonde and Shawn Irving were brought up to the varsity as sophomores to help GI re-build following the loss of a strong senior class. While the group struggled at times last spring, it didn’t deter them from working on their skills in the offseason.

“Coach always says you don’t get better from March to May, but from May to March,” Fischer said. “We all became dedicated to the sport this past offseason. If we wanted to be better, we knew we had to do something about it.”

So, Fischer spent day after day cradling and shooting on nets he had assembled in his backyard and whenever he could, he’d hook up with his teammates or family members and work on his passing. It didn’t hurt that his cousins, Ryan and Justin Samland, were also standouts for the Vikings. The duo were also responsible for getting Fischer interested in the sport.

Steck said from the minute practices began back in March he saw rapid development from last season in numerous players, most notably Fischer.

“I’d put him in a category with (past Grand Island lacrosse greats) Jim Wagner, Mike Blocho and Phil Wendt in terms of offseason commitment and work ethic,” he said. “He works an awful lot on his own and that’s why you’ve seen his stick skills improve so much the past couple years.”

And despite only being listed at 5-foot-8, 140 pounds, Fischer has also shown the toughness necessary to barrel through defenders on his way to the net this season. The southpaw also has good vision, according to Steck, making him an excellent passer as well.

“He’s really the whole package,” the coach said.

Still, Fischer is not satisfied with where he’s at. He knows he must continue to develop if he is to attain his ultimate goal of playing for one of the nation’s top club teams, the University of Michigan.

But if that doesn’t happen, Steck is pretty sure Fischer will have plenty of other options.

“As long as he keeps developing, he could probably pick his Division III school and who knows maybe something else could come up,” he said.

For now, though, Fischer is focused on helping return GI to the top of the Class B standings.

“We want to get this program back to where it was a few years ago and we’re willing to work to get there,” Fischer said.