PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – "Good. Bring it on."
Those four words said to the Ponte Vedra boys lacrosse team from an early season visitor have turned into a rallying cry for the Sharks in 2019.
Tom West has been the head coach at Ponte Vedra for the past 11 years and has always brought in various people to speak to the team year after year. He had no idea that one particular speaker this year would have such an impact.
"This year we brought in a Navy SEAL and he talked to us about what they go through in training and deployments," said West.
"One of the things he told us about the training is that they have to swim out to this rock in the middle of San Francisco Bay and it's surrounded by great white sharks. He said that the guys that make it aren't the guys that are pumped up and 'we got this.' The guys that are cracking jokes and relaxed saying, 'Good. Bring it on' are the guys that make it. It goes the same for us, the calls aren't going our way, we are down two goals, Good. Bring it on. It is that mindset that he taught us, and it has stuck."
Senior midfielder Tony Rossi agrees.
"Anything that is going on, say it's raining out or we have a big game, embrace it. Embrace the rain, good. Bring it on," Rossi said. "The team we are playing is really good, good. Bring it on. We can handle anything."
So far this season, the Sharks have been able to handle anything. At 12-1, they are ranked No. 1 in the state by MaxPreps and are coming off of big wins against district rival and then-No. 3 ranked Creekside, and Bishop Moore, which beat them in the state championship last year. Junior attacker Aidan Dunigan says this team and his teammates make it easy to stay hungry and humble.
"It is because we don't worry about what others think of us," said Dunigan. "We are just here getting better every day and focusing on the goal."
That goal is nothing less than a state championship. Junior attacker Freddie Amato says to get there peaking at the right time is the key.
"Staying focused and having fun when we play, going 100 percent in practice and staying together as a team. That is the key to success for us, playing together and for each other like a band of brothers," said Amato.
As excited as the players may be for a chance to get back to the state championship game, West is quick to remind his team that there are steps that they have to take together to achieve that goal in due time.
"A couple of years ago we got nipped by someone we shouldn't have that just wanted it more than us. That was a year we thought we had a really good chance," said West. "My job is to kind of settle them down and say we can have this long-term goal but let's get through all the short-term one's first. We have to win our district, which we haven't done. We haven't done anything yet. So once the playoffs start, it is 0-0 just like everyone else."