Polytech lacrosse seniors focused on winning

Polytech’s Patrick O’Brien celebrates a goal against Tower Hill during the Boys Lacrosse State Tournament. Delaware State News file photos

WOODSIDE — After a week in Florida, Saturday morning’s raw, blustery weather was a cold slap in the face.

But Patrick O’Brien was out there with the rest of his Polytech High boys’ lacrosse teammates.

He and some of the other seniors made the practice about only six hours after getting back from the school’s annual senior trip.

“I’m still kind of groggy, to be honest,” O’Brien admitted. “But you definitely notice the cold.”

Senior trips are just one more reason for senior athletes to be distracted this time of year.

O’Brien, though, said this group of nine Polytech lacrosse seniors is pretty focused on making their last high school season a good one.

“Our group of seniors is really passionate about lacrosse,” said the attackman. “So there seems to be no slowing down for us.

“I think it’s because we’re a really close group of friends. We just have a lot of fun playing together.”

It’s been so far, so good for the Panthers. They take a 2-1 record into Monday’s 5:30 p.m. home game with Wilmington Friends.

It’s funny, though, says coach Bob Gilmore. He can clearly remember when this year’s veterans were just newcomers.

Polytech lacrosse coach Bob Gilmore

Polytech went only 3-12 in 2015 followed by a 5-10 campaign the following year. But the Panthers went 11-5 last fall and made the DIAA state tournament.

“They are a fun bunch,” said Gilmore. “Their freshman and sophomore years, we depended on them a lot. They were immature at that point — like young kids are — but they’ve really grown up a ton.

“We laugh now when we hear them saying things to our younger players that we said to them. It’s funny because they sound, at times, like coaches. You’re looking at them going, ‘What is happening right now?’ It’s neat.”

That’s not to say that it’s all been smooth sailing this season, however.

Polytech started the year with a humbling 17-2 loss at Archmere, The Panthers fell behind, 13-1, by halftime against the highly-respected Auks.

“It was a long busride home, I’m not going to lie,” said senior midfielder Cory Cook. “It wasn’t fun. There were a lot of sad faces, a lot of heads down.

“But coming back that Monday, we were ready to play and we were ready to get to work. It showed us we’re not the best team in the state. We’ve got to work hard to get what we want. It set the tone for the year.”

In its next game, against Middletown, Polytech fell behind again early, 5-1. This time, though, they regrouped to pull away to a 17-11 victory.

The Panthers followed up that game with a 15-7 win over Smyrna in their Henlopen North opener.

Now comes a big week for Polytech.

Polytech’s Patrick O’Brien

After facing Friends on Monday, the Panthers play at Caesar Rodney on Wednesday night before taking on Dover on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Dave Reynolds Lacrosse Festival at Wesley College.

Polytech’s players should learn a lot about themselves after facing three good programs in a six-day span.

“We’ve got three big games,” said senior goalie Christian Brooks. “All of our games are really big games, really. You only get 15 of them. Your senior year, these are the last games you’re going to play.

“When you’re a sophomore or junior, your games aren’t that limited. But when you get into your senior year, you’re like, ‘Hey, this is the last time I’m ever going to face these guys.”

The Panthers’ seniors won’t be satisfied unless their season finishes up in the state tournament.

Between 2010-14, Polytech made five straight appearances in the state tourney. The Panthers would like to help restore some of that tradition.
But they’re also going to try to enjoy their last season together.

“We’re all very close friends,” said Cook. “I love the bonds we’ve got. I’ve been playing on this team for three years. It’s been great fun. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to play with.”

“We really just don’t want to lose to any teams that we feel we didn’t have to lose to,” said O’Brien. “Just trying our best and working hard … as long as we make Coach Gilmore happy, we’re happy.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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