Berg has lacrosse season to remember for Santa Fe Christian

SFC’s Bobby Berg will play lacrosse at Division III Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
(Dean Wakeham)

Bobby Berg’s first word wasn’t momma or dadda. It was ball.

And in his youth he flung spirals, smacked line drives and planted corner kicks. But the sport he ended up sticking with was lacrosse. He was introduced to the game by his uncle, Aaron Laaveg, who played club lacrosse at Iowa State.

Laaveg would visit and soon uncle and nephew were slinging passes in the back yard and at parks.

Said Berg, “He taught me everything.”

The kid with the alliterative name is now a senior at Santa Fe Christian and enjoying a memorable season for the 14-6 Eagles. An attack, Berg has scored 85 goals and compiled 20 assists. SFC began keeping statistics in 2016 and the goals and 105 points are school single-season records since then.

“He’s having an unbelievable season, to say the least,” said SFC head coach Tomas Rodriguez.

Likewise, the Eagles are setting some history, too. In addition to Berg, Santa Fe Christian features goalie Sam Cooper and faceoff specialist Colton Lehberg, both considered among the best, if not the best, at their positions in the section.

The Open Division playoffs begin today and fourth-seeded SFC hosts La Costa Canyon in a quarterfinal match, the first time the Eagles have hosted an Open playoff game since the division was created in 2013.

Berg has been a starter since the fourth game of his freshman year when he stood 5-feet-5 and weighed a whopping 105 pounds. He’s quite a bit bigger today — 5-11, 185.

Jono Zissi, coach of No. 1-ranked and three-time defending Open Division champion Torrey Pines, calls Berg the most improved offensive player in the section.

“I would say that with conviction,” said Zissi.

Zissi would know. He also coaches Berg’s club team, West Coast Starz.

“He’s honed his shooting and skills,” said the Torrey Pines coach. “He’s become more assertive and physical.”

Of his improvement, Berg said, “I’m not as nervous going into games because I’ve played with just about everyone I’m going against (in club lacrosse),” he said. “It’s not as nerve-racking knowing (compared to the past) somebody a year older was coming at me.”

He has been at his best against the best this season. He scored five goals against Torrey Pines, five against third-ranked Grossmont and four against San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret’s, the state’s No. 1-ranked team.

“What makes Bobby good is his stick handling (around the net),” said Lehberg. “If I see Bobby in the crease, if the ball’s on his stick, he’s going to catch and finish.”

Like a lot of lacrosse players, Berg said one draw to the sport is its physicality.

“I like that you can hit people,” he said.

As Santa Fe Christian’s go-to man on offense, Berg draws his share of pounding from long-stick defenders.

“Bobby, he’s a very tenacious player who is willing to put his body on the line at all times in order to make that play, whether it’s a goal or assist,” said Rodriguez.

Relayed Rodriguez’s assessment that he’s willing to sacrifice his body, Berg said, “A lot more than my mom or girlfriend would probably appreciate.”

About the pounding he sometimes absorbs, Berg said, “Honestly, I don’t really feel it that much anymore. I’ve kind of gone numb getting checked. If I get hit in the head, I don’t want to make (the defender) think he hurt me. You get up, walk it off.”

Berg, who has a 3.86 GPA at Santa Fe Christian, will play lacrosse next year at Division III Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pa. He plans to major in mechanical engineering.

Cooper, the star goalie, will play at Dartmouth. Lehberg, the faceoff standout, will play at Division III Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

As for the playoffs, Torrey Pines is the Open Division team to beat. But Grossmont upset the Falcons 13-5 recently. Torrey hadn’t lost to a San Diego Section team since 2017, snapping a streak of 43 straight wins against locals.

“It shows everyone that Torrey Pines is beatable,” said Berg.

Santa Fe Christian has a high school enrollment of 448. By comparison, Torrey Pines’ enrollment is more than 2,600. Yet this may be the year David knocks off Goliath.

Sitting in an athletics office just off the Eagles’ playing field, Berg thought about winning a section title then said, “I’m itching to get one.”

Norcross is a freelance writer.