With the end of the spring sports season comes one of the most notable athletic events of the year: the Inter-Ac lacrosse tournament. Expectations are now higher than ever after an especially successful season. This past weekend, the team reached a new high with a dramatic 16-15 victory over St. Anthony’s High School, the highest-ranked high school team in the country.
Within the Inter-Ac, they are undefeated, the most significant result being their 11-10 overtime win against Malvern Prep, completing the sweep of their rival and helping to win the Inter-Ac regular season.
“[Sweeping Malvern] was definitely great for the team and the program, the first time we’ve swept them in quite a while. It was just great to see all the hard work come together,” Sixth Former Wells Flinn said.
When Sixth Former Wills Burt scored the game-winning goal in overtime, it became apparent that this year’s group had something special. Flinn, who scored a decisive goal to secure the win against St. Anthony’s, has been a key part of the Sixth Form group leading the roster.
“As seniors, I feel like we’ve set the example, and have taken what past seniors and past leaders have done, and just employed that in the team now,” Flinn said. “Everyone top to bottom works hard and plays well together.”
Head Coach Brendan Dawson has been especially pleased with the leadership thus far.
“They’ve had their eye on the prize the entire season,” Coach Dawson said. “They’ve been really focused and since the beginning of the year they’ve been working to that point they’ve been all trying to get to, that end-of-year hurdle, which has been a hurdle for us for a couple of years here.”
Sixth Former Ryan DiRocco has stressed the importance of focusing on improving every day, a message that he feels the team has already believed.
“Just taking every practice one day at a time, every game one game at a time, that’s the mindset,” DiRocco said. “I think our team is already thinking that way, so there’s not much I need to do to convince them to stay focused on the day.”
That daily focus will be especially important in the coming weeks, as the team gears up for the Inter-Ac tournament, a topic that is already filling the halls of the upper school.
“That’s all outside noise that you’ve got to block out. Because if you listen to it, it starts to become dangerous,” Coach Dawson said. “The seniors have been great about that focus, so I expect that they’ll continue to help us with that here down the stretch.”
Students in Wilson Hall have already started making plans for the Inter-Ac championship, many assuming a rematch with Malvern is inevitable.
“One of the things we’ve been talking about is that you’ve got to earn the right to do that. May lacrosse is not guaranteed. It’s something that you’ve got to put yourself in a position to win,” Coach Dawson said. “The only thing we can do is focus on what’s here, and if we have an opportunity to play a team again— whether it’s the second, third, fourth, or eighth time—it’s just about trying to go out and be our best on that day. If we can focus on that, I think that helps with the buzz, and the people talking about games and all that sort of stuff.”
Coach Dawson’s message has clearly been received.
“We’re not there yet,” Flinn said of the Inter-Ac tournament. “We’ve just got to focus on what’s on hand, and not get too ahead of ourselves.”
Along with avoiding distractions, the players—especially the Sixth Formers—must also deal with the pressure of expectations and the finality of the season. Coach Dawson’s emphasis on staying in the moment will also be helpful in dealing with this pressure.
“I’m a big believer that if you focus on what’s right in front of you, the anxiety about what’s to come is really not that big of a deal; it’s really just another day when you get there,” Coach Dawson said.
Coach Dawson is hoping that the players will also be able to appreciate their opportunity and embrace the joy of their upcoming challenges.
“The other thing we’ve really been talking about this year is just being grateful for the opportunity,” Coach Dawson said. “It doesn’t totally relieve the butterflies and the nervousness, but it can take a little bit of that anxiety away. It’s just another opportunity to go out and compete and have fun with your friends, and play the game that you love.”
That gratitude will never be more valuable than it is now, with the seniors suiting up for their final few games in the Haverford uniform.
“It’s just been awesome playing for the last four years with my friends,” DiRocco said. “We’re grateful for all the success we’ve had so far this season, and we’re just excited. I think we’re more excited than we’re feeling pressure.”