Cardinal Gibbons boys’ lacrosse coach Alex Buckley told his players that anyone who wanted to be a team captain needed to write him a letter explaining why the player wanted to be a captain and why Buckley should allow him to be one.
The letters were a way to encourage the players to think about the cost of leadership.
Buckley eventually selected five captains and explained that he expected them to set the tone for practices. The coach emphasized their attitude in practices would be crucial.
In Buckley’s mind, victories are a by-product of great practices.
“If we don’t work hard in practice, we aren’t going to be very good,” Buckley said.
Gibbons was 22-0 in 2014 and won the N.C. High School Athletic Association combined 3A/2A/1A championship.
But Buckley isn’t thinking about an undefeated season, a state championship or even the season opener whenever that is.
He is thinking about Monday’s practice.
“You want to get better at practice today,” Buckley said. “Not so that we can be better at the end of the year than we are now, but because today you have a chance to get better. We need to get better today. Our season will be determined by how focused we are in practice and how intensely we work to get better.
“How far we go will be determined by how far our players take us.”
Winning takes care of itself if the players take care of practice, he believes.
Gibbons graduated its top two scorers, but the Crusaders have a strong starting nucleus led by the captains – attack Hunter Van Horn, midfielders Stephen Albright and Nick Forbes, defender Chis Lappin and goalie Kevin McKenzie.
Junior Mark Schachte leads the returning scorers with 45 goals in 12 assists in 2014. Van Horn had 35 goals and six assists and Forbes added 16 goals and 20 assists.
Gibbons led the area in scoring offense (14.6 goals per game) and in scoring defense (4.1 goals per game.)
The defense is headed by Boston University recruit Lappin, a U.S. Lacrosse All-America pick.
Other teams to watch
Apex (19-3): The Cougars return 15 players who played in the 2015 NCHSAA 4A championship game. Among the vets are attackmen Chandler Besser (34 goals, 44 assists), Jack Hayden (45 goals, 28 assists) and Brendan Farrell (41 goals, 10 assists). Midfielders Dayton McGough and Jake Harrison each added 20-plus goals.
Athens Drive (12-5): The Jaguars lost 12-11 to Broughton in the second round of the 4A playoffs. Conor Gronbach (38 goals, 19 assists) and Brock Martin (28 goals, 14 assists) lead the attack while junior Peyton Smith is one of the area’s best at face-offs.
Broughton (13-4): Caps return seven starters from a 13-4 club. Zach Burgess had 52 goals and 24 assists. Mitchell Snyder (21 goals) is committed to High Point. Midfielder Walker Rice (22 goals, 21 assists) is committed to Lynchburg. Defender Joey Moore also is back.
Chapel Hill (12-7): The Tigers won two rounds in the 3A/2A/1A playoffs, losing to eventual state champ Cardinal Gibbons. The Tigers bring back sophomore Sean Voelkel, who led the team in assists, junior goalie Kyle Hornic and leading scorer Colin Mraz.
Durham Academy (10-8): Cavaliers made a run to the NCISAA title game as a 7-seed.
East Chapel Hill (16-4): The Wildcats reached the state quarterfinals before being upset by Jordan. East returns attackmen Drew Monroe (46 goals, 25 assists) and Chris Cox (44 goals, 18 assists). Goalie Vance Perkins also returns.
Green Hope (13-8): The Falcons reached the playoff quarterfinals before dropping an 11-9 decision to eventual state runner-up Apex. Nolan Paussa (56 goals, 23 assists) leads the way. Harrison Wynne (42 goals, 36 assists), Tucker Burkinshaw (25 goals, assists) and goalie Conor Ryan are back.
Jordan (12-7): The Falcons made a late-season push, including a quarterfinal playoff win over conference regular-season champion East Chapel Hill. Mike Ricucci is the new coach.
Leesville Road (14-2): Cap Eight champs return face-off specialist Davis Sampere and goalie Graham Holmes.
Ravenscroft (12-3): Ravens were upset by Durham Academy in the second round of the NCISAA tournament. They return leading scorer McLean Voelkel (24 goals, 21 assists) and Drew Davis (21 goals, 10 assists).
Middle Creek (16-2): The Mustangs lost two games by one goal each in 2014. Jack Doetzer (37 goal, 14 assists), Dylan Bryan (14 goals, 13 assists) and Jared Medwar (26 goals, 11 assists) are among the veterans. N&O All-Metro pick Nick Arcuri is back in goal.
Other players to watch
Lees McRae recruit
22 goals for the 9-9 Golden Hawks.
Randolph Macon recruit
40 goals, 22 assists.
30 goals, 12 assists for 9-7 Wildcats.
25 goals for the Patriots.
43 goals, 21 assists; 3-time all-conference pick
Goalie, Mars Hill recruit
Two-time all-league defender
30 goals for the 7-8 Jaguars.
29 goals, 13 assists for 8-8 Chargers.
All-conference defender for 10-6 Wolverines.
Helped 9-11 Catamounts to quarterfinals.