Lacrosse: Roswell boys look past angst from past 2 seasons with redemption in mind

ajc.com

Hornets of 2020, 2021 had championship caliber teams upended by off-field variables

The Roswell Hornets are determined to see their fate play out on the field this year after off-the-field variables upended their past two seasons. In fact, the No. 2 Hornets (11-3, 3-0 in 6A-7A’s Area 2) are playing like a team driven to win the program its first title since back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015.

“We’ve had two offseasons in a row that were filled with a lot of angst, a lot of anger,” Hornets coach Bryan Wallace said. “This season is a redemption tour. We want to redeem ourselves and the year before, and prove that whatever happened has nothing to do with our goal, and it shouldn’t take away from what our goal is. Our goal is redemption, and there’s a lot of energy and excitement.”

The pandemic wiped out the 2020 lacrosse season — Wallace’s first at Roswell — for all GHSA teams. The Hornets were coming off a 2019 season in which they finished 15-2 and lost in the second round to a Centennial team then coached by Wallace.

Last season, the Hornets were forced to forfeit their second-round playoff match against Centennial after an internal investigation revealed unspecified rules violations, which were self-reported to the GHSA.

The Hornets got perhaps their first taste of redemption on April 1 — nearly three years after Wallace and Centennial eliminated them in the playoffs — with a 15-11 win over Centennial. Not only did the Hornets avenge their past two tournament eliminations, they took home the trophy that’s given for the matchup of crosstown rivals located seven miles apart.

“It was surely important,” Wallace said of the win. “It’s the battle of Roswell public schools, so it’s a big deal for both programs, but it was huge for us in terms of how it all worked out (last year). We dusted them (14-6) in the regular season, and then we didn’t get to play them (in the second round). Whatever happened politically (that led to the forfeit) is nonsense.

“We circle that game every year on our calendar, but this year we also made it our senior night because we wanted to make sure they knew we were ready for them.”

Including No. 8 Centennial, the Hornets are 3-3 against ranked opponents this season. They also beat Ponte Vedra, the No. 2 overall team in Florida, and No. 3 Walton. Their losses were to top-ranked Lambert, 10-7, on Feb. 22; 1A-5A’s top-ranked Lovett, 13-7, on Feb. 25; and North Carolina’s Cannon, 10-9 in overtime, on March 26. Cannon is the No. 4 overall team in North Carolina.

“We had two losses in one week (to Lambert and Lovett) and learned that maybe we weren’t as good as we thought,” Wallace said. “But we structured our schedule with the focus on getting better every day, so that we’re at our best by May...I think we’re starting to gel at the right time.”

This year’s Hornets are loaded with juniors and sophomores, and sprinkled with senior leadership. Junior Alex Lobel, a Michigan commit, leads the attack and has a team-high 65 goals with 16 assists. Lobel is a left-hander, and his literal right-hand man, junior Hill Plunkett, a righty committed to Army, has complimented him well, adding 45 goals and a team-high 34 assists. Senior Scott Stickles has 17 goals and 15 assists.

The midfield is led by senior Tyler Trygg (17 goals, six assists) and sophomore Ezra More (10 goals). Myles Quandt, a junior, has a face-off winning percentage of 78 in addition to his 15 goals and 18 assists.

Brian Michalec joined the staff ahead of the season as the Hornets’ new defensive coordinator, and Wallace said the unit, led mostly by seniors, has a different look and feel to it.

The Hornets’ regular season winds down with four more games, starting Tuesday on the road against Cambridge (5-8). On April 19 they play No. 10 Johns Creek, and their April 22 finale is another crosstown rivalry — this one of the public vs. private school variety — against Blessed Trinity, ranked No. 3 in 1A-5A.

Then, it’s on to the most anticipated postseason of Wallace’s tenure at Roswell, he said. From there, the redemption tour truly begins, and the Hornets are ready.

“I really like where we are as a team,” Wallace said. “We still haven’t played our best game yet, but I think we’re getting there. We’re built to peak in May, and we’re not happy just to get to the playoffs. We want to win every time, and our goal is to do just that.”