Lacrosse teams start season strong, hope to win state

The boys and girls lacrosse teams have a history of success.  In the 10 years since lacrosse was recognized by GHSA as a full-fledged championship sport, the girls lacrosse team has made the state playoffs eight out of those ten years and won state titles in four of their last six state appearances. Equally as impressive, the boys lacrosse team has made the state playoffs for the past three years and has won two of their three state championship games, including one last year.  The key to their success can be attributed to two things: hard work and a close-knit team.

The girl LaxCats hope that their hard work during the off-season and the beginning of the season will pay off so that they can make it back to the GHSA state finals, where they lost to Kell High School last season.

“To prepare for the season, I play as much lacrosse as I can even if it’s just going outside and throwing on a wall,” said senior varsity lacrosse captain Katie McGahan. “I try to play at least once every weekend and just staying physically fit is a big part of being ready to play.”

But what truly makes the girls team great is their dedication and all the hard work they put in during the season. The lady LaxCats practice for two hours every day along with lifting twice a week.

“Regular practice includes drills and then game-like situations such as man-up,” said junior varsity lacrosse player Isabelle Dadd. “Practice usually ends with condition sprints, which are absolutely horrible after a hard practice, but it helps us in the end.”

Head girls coach Jay Watts has been working the team hard to prepare them for their first game against Darlington School on Feb. 17.

“Our biggest challenge will be committing ourselves to be as good as we can be every day,” said Watts.

Team bonding is also critical to the LaxCats’ ability to play cohesively on the field.

“When the competition in games gets tough, we build each other up,” said junior varsity lacrosse player Julia Grady.

For many students, lacrosse provides a platform to compete with their friends and also make new ones throughout the season.

“Our team is going to be very close-knit by the time the playoffs roll around,” said senior boys lacrosse captain Raines Shamburger. “I would say that we have the most fun of any team on campus. We are playing along side our best friends, which helps with team morale.”

Both teams possess a combination of seasoned upperclassmen and talented underclassmen. The girls team is lead by four captains:   Cabell Zakas, Margaret Maxwell, McGahan, and Sydney McGrew. This year, there are 11 seniors on the team and all of them are leaders on and off the field.

“Last year, we probably had our best team ever as far as getting along and working together as a group,” said Watts. “We hope to replicate that by relying on our 11 seniors, drawing from their experience, and being as inclusive as possible with our new additions to the team.”

The boys team is equally endowed with a talented lineup. They have four seniors: Chase Williams, Logan Devereaux, John Farley, and Shamburger.

In preparation for the season, many of the varsity boys and girls LaxCats play during the offseason in lacrosse travel leagues such as Thunderbird, LB3, and Eagle Stix to get ready for the season.

“These guys have been playing together for years [in their club teams],” said boys lacrosse head coach Tony Souza. “They love playing together and being together. They push each other and they take the competition in practice seriously. Practice is a lot of fun.”

The boys team has also been practicing hard in preparation for the start of their season on Feb. 22 against Whitefield Academy. Looking to defend their championship title from last year, Souza has emphasized the importance of physical preparation to the team.

“The reason they’re able to stay competitive regardless of who is on the field is because of one constant: conditioning,” said Souza.

All this dedication and careful preparation from the boys and girls is targeted towards the LaxCats’ main goal: to win state.

“It won’t come easy, said McGahan. “We are going to have to improve on a lot of the little things like throwing and catching, ground balls, and slides on defense so that by the end of the season we can be the best team in the state.  We will have to push ourselves during practice, not only physically but mentally as well.”

Watts agrees that discipline practice is fundamental to a winning season.

“We have to be meticulous in our attention to detail and be willing to push one another in practice,” said Watts. “Championships are won in practice well before they are won on the field in a real contest.”

  For the boys team, the biggest hurdle in preparation for state is incorporating new players who are replacing last year’s seniors to match the efficiency from last season.

“We lost 16 seniors from last season,” said Shamburger. “That is nearly two thirds of the team. This means that some younger guys are going to have to step up. Losing Charlie Trense and Cole Haverty, who play at Notre Dame and North Carolina, will certainly hurt us but we have some sophomores and juniors that will fill-in for them.”

  While the season has just started, both teams are off to a solid start. The girls team has played in one scrimmage so far. It was against Lovett and the team won 17-7.

   The boys team also has only played in one scrimmage this year against North Gwinnett High School. They won the scrimmage 15-11.

Both teams have found inspiration in these early wins and have left the coaches impressed with their players’ talent and excited for how the rest of the season will go. But like every year, the expectation for both teams will be no different: to win state.

“Scrimmages are meant to show you what you’re doing well and what you need work on before you start region play,” said Grady, “so we now know what to focus on before our first real game.”