Varsity men’s lacrosse team pushes hard toward goal of state championships

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Photos by Darrell Suggs

Natalie Van Genderen, Assistant Editor

With a new head coach and a determined team, the Athens Drive men’s varsity lacrosse team is aiming to reach the 2014 state championship game.  After finishing the 2013 spring season with an 8-8 record, the team is striving to improve both its conference standings and overall record.

The lacrosse team started its 2014 season with a home game against Holly Springs Feb. 26, winning 14-9. This win also began a five-game winning streak for the beginning of the season. In a game against Middle Creek March 21, this streak ended with a 16-11 loss to the Mustangs.

With the regular season, including conference and non-conference games, lasting through May 2, the team is looking to take advantage of each game as preparation for the state playoffs. Athens reached the semi-finals of the state playoffs against the Cardinal Gibbons Crusaders in 2012, but was not able to make it to playoffs last year.

This year, the team is also adjusting to a change in the coaching staff. Jeff Salvado is in his first year as the head coach of the varsity team. Salvado is the fifth coach the team has had in the last five years, and he hopes to establish a good foundation for the current team and for years to come.

In past years, the team has held the motto “Smart, Tough, Proud”, or STP, as a way to inspire the players to uphold the highest level of character both on and off the field. Senior captains Scott Baird, Andy Kuoch, Justin Moody and Giancarlo Vasselli are responsible for representing the team during games and living up to the STP motto.

“There are a lot of really talented players on our team this year,” said Joey Liptak, junior and first-year varsity player. “It definitely shows in our games and I think we’ll be able to have an impact on the conference this year.  We’re all working hard to make the playoffs and hopefully the state championship.”

The Southwest Wake Athletic Conference (SWAC) has been home to successful men’s lacrosse teams in past years, including Apex who was the 2013 North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) lacrosse state champion. Holly Springs and Middle Creek are also expected to be competitive teams with strong returning players this year.

Tough competition in the conference only pushes the team even more to get better and keep playing well. Salvado and the players feel they are capable of being strong competitors in the conference this spring and will continue to work towards their goal of becoming state champions.