For Hackley’s James Sheldon, all the motivation he needed to win the school’s first-ever NYSAISAA boys lacrosse title came from last year’s title game.
The Hornets enjoyed a stellar regular season, but were upset by Poly Prep in the final at Manhattanville College. That gut wrenching defeat stuck in Sheldon’s head for 12 months.
“That was what we talked about basically every time we played a game,” the senior attack said. “Losing last year was so bitter. We really came out knowing what we had to do today after losing last year so terribly.”
Hackley made sure of it, running through the Ivy League season undefeated and on Wednesday the top-seeded Hornets finished the deal emphatically, beating No. 2 Fieldston, 15-5, at Manhattanville.
“We set two goals – we wanted to repeat as league champions and win the NYSAISAA championship and we did it,” Hackley coach Chris Arnold said. “We did it in style.”
Sheldon said his team never forgot that loss to Poly Prep, in which they gave up seven second-quarter goals en route to an 11-9 defeat. It was as shocking as it was upsetting because Hackley won both regular-season games.
It was talked about often in the preseason and in case there was a lapse in memory, a Poly Prep-produced video of last year’s championship served as added incentive.
“That got us pretty riled up,” Sheldon said.
Hackley again beat Poly twice during the regular season and Monday’s 16-3 victory over the Blue Devils in the semifinals was therapeutic. But Sheldon and his teammates knew the task wasn’t complete.
“After we beat Poly on Monday, we knew we just had to focus on Fieldston,” he said.
That drive, according to Arnold, came from the veterans. One senior scrawled “0-2” on his helmet, referring to back-to-back losses in the NYSAISAA final. Another gave an impassioned pre-game speech.
“As a coach I can tell them look we have to get better every practice, I can hoot and holler all I want,” Arnold said. “The kids have to make a commitment to do that and they absolutely did.”
Hackley (18-1) raced out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter and had an 8-1 advantage at halftime. There was no letting off the gas in the second half, either. Led by Tanner Morris, who had three goals and an assist and Jake Schneider, Fieldston (15-4), ranked No. 1 in New York City by MSG Varsity, got as close as 11-3, but the Hornets refused to let another championship slip from their fingers.
Sam Alabaster led the way with four goals and an assist, Sheldon had two goals and Jibran Ahmad had two goals and three assists. Michael D’Alessio, who carried a 2.10 goals against average into the game, was also solid in net.
Although the final result never appeared in doubt, it didn’t make it any less satisfying for Sheldon and the other seniors who made history in their final lacrosse game.
“It feels incredible,” Sheldon said. “It’s definitely bittersweet.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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