FORT MILL – With three of the four teams supporting new coaches as part of their lacrosse programs at Nation Ford and Fort Mill, there are a lot of changes in store for this upcoming season.
On the boys’ side, Fort Mill returns as defending 5A state champions with head coach Michael Desmond taking over for Parker Thomas, who resigned after winning last year’s state championship to start the program at Legion Collegiate Academy. Desmond brings a wealth of knowledge to the Jackets program as he has coached multiple Charlotte high school teams and founded the Carolina Lacrosse Association nearly 20 years ago.
Still repeating as state champions isn’t an easy thing to do, especially facing teams like Wando standing in the way. Desmond said he knows his team is a pretty tough bunch. Fort Mill has a ton of talent in players like Ben Elia, Zach Terry, Mac Reilly and Camden Marks to lead the way for them.
“I think the 10 guys we put on the field can play with anybody,” Desmond said. “We are not as deep as I would like to be, but we are pretty talented. If we stay healthy, we are pretty good.”
Nation Ford’s head coach John Tauzin is the elder statesmen of the four coaches being the only coach that isn’t in their first year at the varsity level between the two schools. Tauzin has the Falcons coming off a 12-6 record last year and making it to the quarterfinals in the playoffs.
“I feel optimistic,” Tauzin said. “I feel better than I did in the off season. It is not like we have a cake walk, but I expect us to do well.”
The Falcons have several players back from last year’s squad that Tauzin looks to lead them such as Zach Skidmore. Other offensive leads Tauzin is looking towards is Ty Keaton, Tyler Demarco, Ryan Walczak, Nicolas Lynch and Trevor Tom. On the defensive side of things, goalie Chris Cost along with George Coffey and Matthew Young are being looked upon to lead Nation Ford.
Fort Mill and Nation Ford clashed early on in the season in just the second game. Both Nation Ford and Fort Mill came into the match-up with dominating winning performances in their season openers, as the Falcons beat Chapin 19-3 and Fort Mill beat Clover 16-6.
The Jackets edged Nation Ford 12-10 in their first clash of the season as Terry scored nine goals in the win for Fort Mill. Keaton scored four goals in the loss for the Falcons.
Girls teams working towards their goals
On the girls’ side of things, Fort Mill returns as state runners-up in consecutive season and is looking to finally get over that hump that has plagued them in recent years.
Fort Mill returns several players including Sydney Ziemer and Sawyer Wilcox, that have been beneficial to their success in recent years. While the goal of a state championship remains, Fort Mill will be led by new head coach Kirsten Terry, a former player for the Jackets, who was apart of the 2012 state championship team for Fort Mill. She has served as an assistant coach the past couple seasons.
Terry said the loss the past two years in the state finals has left a bad taste in her team’s mouths.
“It has been tough on this senior class,” she said. “The team dynamic is new this year and everyone is on board with the team aspect.”
One thing that Terry feels will help get Fort Mill to win that state title is putting in the extra work.
“We are really trying to emphasis work outside of practice,” she said. “My approach is the best 12 (players) will start. I expect hard work out of all of them.”
For Nation Ford, the expectations of hard work are there as well, but the inexperience is there too. The Falcons lost 10 players last year to graduation and several more to the opening of Catawba Ridge. The one benefit the team does have is new head coach Kristine Schmidt, who has served as JV coach in recent years and is comfortable with the varsity team having coached them at the JV level.
“It is a rebuilding year for us,” Schmidt said. “My goal is to get them to learn to play together as a team. They have all played together before and I do think it will help having had this group before.”
Schmidt said she is looking to players like Ella Miller, Ruth Weber and Maddie Barhorst to lead this year’s team.
Because of their youth, Schmidt said she would love for her team to be able to have a winning record at the end of the season and make the playoffs. Last season, Nation Ford made it to the state quarterfinals and finished with a 12-5 record.
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @MacBanksFM