When the 11 seniors who were part of the inaugural 2012 Porter-Gaud boy’s lacrosse team graduated this time last year, coach David Scully officially pegged the 2016 season a rebuilding one.
When five more rising seniors quit the team before the season began this year, the Cyclones wondered how they would move forward having to replace those 16 players and not having a senior on their roster.
The fact that the Cyclones went on to play in the SCISA state championship game was a thought that never really crossed their minds on the first day of practice. Nevertheless, they were there Saturday, on their home turf, matching up with Hammond School for a shot at their second straight title.
Even though Hammond came away the 12-8 victory for its first win over Porter-Gaud in six tries, for Scully and the members of the Porter-Gaud team, the scoreboard didn’t necessarily tell the whole story.
“For it to turn out the way it did with the guys kind of creating this team for themselves is pretty awesome,” Scully said. “We’ve got three juniors and 15 sophomores, so we’re ready to keep battling. It’s tough to fill the vacuum with so many guys leaving and no seniors, so I’m proud of the effort they put in.”
Scully indicated he was shocked in a sense when his underdog group went undefeated during the regular season, and up until the third quarter of Saturday’s game, it looked like they might tack on one more win in a rematch of last year’s final.
But when Hammond went on a third-quarter barrage, scoring five goals to nearly double its first-half production, the Cyclones struggled to keep up. Hammond outscored Porter-Gaud 5-2 in the third quarter.
“I think honestly we had some trouble with the faceoffs,” said junior defender Jack Schaible. “I’m certainly part of that. But it’s hard ... that’s what happened the past two times we played them, the only difference was we were up the past two times. They kind of tended to go on runs in the third quarter and that’s what happened this time.”
Andrew Jones, a junior who transferred from Bishop England, kept the Cyclones in it with a team-high four goals. Reid Marion, Kevin Marshall, Stockton Fair and Graham Kaplan also each tacked on one goal apiece.
Hammond’s Cle Pennington led all scorers with a game-high five goals.
With an expected 100 percent return rate for next year’s team, the Cyclones are confident they’ll make it back to the state final again, a far cry from the uncertain first practice they had at the beginning of this year.
“I wouldn’t say I was entirely motivated to come in here without so many seniors,” said Jones of his first impressions of his new team. “And then after I saw the team I saw just how we practiced, the first day of practice just how everybody knows each other, saw each other in the hallways. All of that comes together and it’s just this insane chemistry on the field.
“When we started SCISA play, I sort of gained the confidence. I just knew that this team was something special.”