Senior Oakland Mills attackman Iggy Levelev views this lacrosse season as a greater-than-normal personal challenge.
The Scorpions, state Class 1A-2A semifinalists last season, graduated their top two scorers, Dan Hart and Chris Cossentino, who scored 74 goals between them. And Levelev must improve upon his already impressive career offensive numbers to fill the void created by their absence.
Levelev scored 29 goals and had 22 assists last season, and led the team with 34 goals as a sophomore. Levelev already has 11 goals and four assists in two games -- both Oakland Mills victories.
"A good year for Iggy this season will be 50 goals and 50 assists," coach Ken Hovet said. "He's approaching this year as a challenge, and wants to raise his level against the good teams."
Hovet has confidence that Levelev can achieve the sort of season that would put Oakland Mills back into the state playoffs and give it a shot at another county championship. Oakland Mills shared the county title with Glenelg and Centennial last season. The Scorpions were the only team other than Annapolis to defeat Centennial.
"Iggy is one of the most skilled players I've ever seen," Hovet said. "He can shoot or pass with either hand and has a hard shot. And he's not afraid to mix it up with bigger kids."
If he elevates his game, then the rest of the puzzle is in place for Oakland Mills, which went 25-5 during Levelev's first two seasons.
The Scorpions graduated only three starters and have a defense that gave up an average of 5.7 goals last season.
"It helps Iggy that he has our defense to practice against," Hovet said. "John Campbell is a left-handed defenseman and Lang Wethington is a right-handed defenseman and they are both excellent."
Wethington made the all-star team at the Top 205 Camp at Loyola College last summer. Campbell, Levelev, Steve Smith and Denny Cole also attended that camp, which is regarded as the best in the country.
Hovet thinks that Levelev's participation in ice hockey has improved his lacrosse game.
"Hockey helps him understand the flow of lacrosse," he said.
Levelev plays goalkeeper for a recreation league hockey team.
Hockey is a sport better known in his native country. His parents immigrated from Russia when he was 2 months old. And they lived in Italy and then Baltimore before moving to Howard County just before Levelev started first grade.
"My mother is the one who signed me up for lacrosse when I was in the sixth grade, because she thought I should be playing something," Levelev said. "I played two years in the HCLP program and then a year of COBRA. After my first year I thought I'd just be an average player. But I've worked at it a lot."
In addition to the Top 205 camp, he played in the Hero's league last summer and in a Loch Raven summer league.
"I play pretty much seven days a week," he said.
He thinks his strengths are his one-on-one ability, quick feet and a hard shot.
His fondest lacrosse memory was last season's 8-6 victory over Centennial, a game in which the team rallied from a 5-1 halftime deficit and in which he scored three goals.
Beating Glenelg last season in the regional championship game, after having lost to them twice, was also a good memory.
The seven goals he scored against North Carroll this season was his career high.
Levelev would like to play for Towson State next year.
One question that he's answered more than any other is how he got his name, Iggy.
His real name is Igor, a popular Russian name. In elementary school a friend started calling him Iggy.
"And I much prefer Iggy," Levelev said.