JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tom West knows that there’s a big task ahead for his Bolles boys lacrosse team.
The Bulldogs are playing in the state semifinals for just the third time in program history this week. The task is clear — bring home a championship. But West has stressed one big thing to the Bulldogs in their quest.
Senior defender Tanner Hogan said it’s a business trip, but also one that coaches have said carries another meaning.
Stop. Enjoy the moment. Appreciate it.
“Smell the roses. It’s our last lacrosse trip. Ever for me. And also, just play our game,” he said. “Don’t grab your sticks too tight, don’t do anything special. Just play our game. We’re going to win.”
The Bulldogs (21-2) haven’t lost to a team in the state this year. They’ll attempt to keep that perfection mark intact when they face Tampa Jesuit (17-3) on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Class 1A state semifinals at the Paradise Coast Sports Complex in Naples.
A win there would send them to their first title game on Saturday against the winner of Lake Highland Prep and Boca Raton St. Andrew’s.
West knows what the Bulldogs will be facing once they get to Naples. He’s the only local boys coach to win a state championship, accomplishing that at Ponte Vedra in 2019 when lacrosse was a single classification format. The Sharks were ranked as high as No. 1 in the country that year.
“I just told them, ‘Hey, enjoy the process. Enjoy what you’re going through.’ Most high school athletes don’t experience this, ever,” West said. “And I said, ‘Hey, we’re not coming home Thursday night, so you better win. You better be prepared and you better be dialed in, and you better be ready to battle. Because we’re going to compete for the state championship.”
Bolles put together a brutal schedule, losing games to only Dublin Jerome (Ohio) and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (Pennsylvania). Both of those teams remain unbeaten this year. Its closest game against a Florida team was a 13-12 win over Winter Park, a team in the Class 2A final four.
“It’s exciting. It’s a different group of guys a different group of coaches and the boys have worked so hard since last year when we lost to Benjamin,” West said. “And they’re all committed to going down to Naples and making a statement. Again, al; the AM practices all the holding each other accountable and I think it’s going to pay off.”
Gavin Boree (79 goals), Daylin John-Hill (74 goals) and Parker Kane (69 goals) lead Bolles in scoring. All three are juniors. The defense, a major part of this year’s team, is allowing just 7.1 goals per game