Erie’s boys lacrosse team is looking to improve upon last season’s heartbreaking ending. Sky’s the limit, the Tigers hope.
Head coach Nick Mandia said his team is ready to compete for the Class 4A state title after a 14-4 overall record in 2022 and a deep run that led the program all the way to the state semifinals.
“I truly believe we’re one of the top three teams in the state again this year,” Mandia said of his team’s goals. “Obviously, we have got a lot of games ahead of us actually to decide that, but we have lots of talent. We are in year five, so we have lots of returning players and a roster strong enough to go and compete.”
Snake-bitten by mental lapses that led to their elimination in the playoffs, the Tigers, with their four captains, hope those mistakes are in the past.
“Our biggest hindrance thus far about advancing to the state championship has been composure in the big moments,” Mandia said about the growth of his team. “We beat Cheyenne Mountain for the conference championship, but two weeks later, we didn’t maintain the same composure to beat them again. It takes four full quarters of elite lacrosse to be an elite lacrosse team.”
Aside from their final game of the season, the Tigers were an elite team, going 6-0 in the Northern League. Super sophomores back then, Charlie O’Brien and Liam Connors scored 53 and 48 goals, respectively. Connors also had a team-high 31 assists. In 2023, this time as a tandem of juniors, the O’Brien-Connors scoring duo will again be crucial to how far the Tigers can go this season.
In their season opener, O’Brien and Connors looked to be in mid-season form against Fairview. A University of Vermont commit, O’Brien scored four goals on four shots and had an assist. Connors added a goal on his only shot of the evening. Senior goaltender Colin Selters saved 8 of 11 shots on goal. Albeit one game, a shooting percentage above 80%, there is no telling how far this Erie squad can go. Still, as Mandia explained, without improving the mental focus, talent only takes you so far if the mental aspect does not improve.
As a more veteran team, the Tigers look to eliminate the issues that plagued them a year ago.
“Last year, our mental lapses and mistakes cost us a chance at the state title,” Mandia said. “The focus this year is making sure that we are consistent in practice the same way that we want to be consistent in the game. We have to be able to manage adversity, stress, and pressure to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.”
Senior defender Karson Evens joins O’Brien, Connors, and Selters as upperclassmen captains. He proved to be a close defender, a leader on the defensive side of the ball and recorded 21 takeaways last season. Mandia expects leadership and experience to spread throughout the team and lead them to a title.
“We have a lot of experience and leadership,” Mandia said. “We are really hopeful that type of energy will be contagious for the whole roster. We have two really strong goal-scorers, but we have strength all over the field.”