By Andrew Stark
On a team featuring 11 freshmen, nine sophomores and a first-year coach, Butler boys lacrosse player Tanner Hutchko wasn’t sure what to expect on game days this past spring. Hutchko and the Bulldogs had mustered a 13-27 combined record over his first three seasons, and the youthful roster wasn’t going to make things any easier.
Early on, however, coach Tony DeMario said he noticed Hutchko was ready for the kind of breakout individual season that could vault the Bulldogs’ program back to respectability.
Hutchko certainly delivered on his immense promise. He began the season by scoring three goals in a 16-0 win over Sun Valley. After that, he recorded at least one point in every game this season. Hutchko’s skill was most evident in a 15-12 win over Mooresville on March 23, when he netted six goals and added four assists.
As a senior, Hutchko tallied 33 goals, 20 assists and 47 groundballs while leading the Bulldogs to their second-best record in school history at 8-8.
For his strong senior campaign, Hutchko is Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2013 Matthews-Mint Hill Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.
“I did a lot better this year than I had (in previous seasons) as far as scoring and assists, (and) that means a lot because it shows that all of my hard work paid off.”
DeMario said his senior attacker’s work ethic rubbed off on the inexperienced Bulldogs.
“He’s a quiet and respectful kid, but if he sees something that’s wrong he’s not afraid to speak his mind,” DeMario said. “He leads by example, but he’ll also take the time to show someone how to do something if he thinks they need it.”
It didn’t hurt, said DeMario, that Hutchko was willing to take over games when needed.
“The kids all called him ‘The Wizard’ because of all he can do on the field,” DeMario said. “He so effortlessly does things on the field that it almost seems like magic sometimes.”
Even before his breakout senior season, Hutchko said he knew this season would be a memorable one. After all, it was the first time in his high school career he was able to play with his freshman brother, Zach.
“The highlight of my career was definitely getting to play with my brother,” Hutchko said. “(And) this year was great (because) we had a better team than we’ve had (in the past) and we had some people ready to play.”
Along with Zach’s 28 goals, 26 assists and 56 groundballs – Hutchko’s consistent play sparked the Bulldogs to a 4-2 record down the stretch.
Hutchko, not wanting his impact to stop there, will return next season as an assistant coach.
“We’re going to miss him (as a player),” DeMario said. “He’s up there on the career scoring list at Butler and he’s been an important part for each of his four years here.
“I’m excited to get him back next year. He’s going to be a huge asset for all of us.”