From the outside looking in, it might seem like success is automatic for the Cardinal Gibbons boys lacrosse program.
Since 2014 – the year when Michael Curatolo, the program’s founder and leader for 17 seasons, passed on the coaching duties to Alex Buckley – the Crusaders are 68-7 and have won three consecutive N.C. High School Athletic Association state championships. In doing so, they’ve sent players to programs like Marist, Rutgers, Boston University and Siena among others.
Still, Buckley knows there isn’t a magic wand that can be waved to guarantee future success or state titles. In fact, he said this year’s Gibbons team was a “little complacent” at the start of the year.
A 10-goal loss at home to Lambert (Ga.) provided a bit of a reality check, though, and served as a reminder that the past is the past.
“I think we were accepting playing at a level below what we’re used to playing,” Buckley said. “I think Lambert showed us a lot of things that we need to do a lot better. But we had a good film session after that game, and we’re working on the things that need to be worked on right now and having good practices.”
The Crusaders are 8-1 and have outscored opponents 136-63 this season.
Perhaps nobody understands the level of expectations and the work it takes to win a state title better than Alex Stock.
A senior defender and a Mercer recruit, Stock is one of two seniors on this year’s Gibbons team to play on varsity as a freshman – the other is midfielder Charles Van Dyke. Stock has received a state championship medal at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary three years in a row. It’s all he’s known.
“We’ve done a lot of improving since the beginning of the season and I feel like we’re ready to make a nice run to the playoffs,” Stock said.
The pieces are certainly there. Back from last year’s 20-win season are key contributors including junior attackers Adam Barry and Zach Niemi, senior attacker Anthony Digirolamo and junior midfielder Chris Wozencroft, the 2016 N&O Player of the Year.
Stock hopes his final year in green and gold colors will end the same way his first year – and second, and third – at the high school level did. And he knows it won’t be automatic.