Franklin High's own Hunter Nowicki is the tip of the spear for Washington College. A captain and senior midfielder, Nowicki is tied atop the Shoremen's leaderboard with Calvert Hall alum Jim Cusick.
Last year, Nowicki garnered All-America honorable mention and All-Centennial Conference second-team honors, finishing second on the team in points (33) and third in both goals (20) and assists (13) while scooping up 28 ground balls. As the seventh-ranked Shoremen (3-0) got ready to welcome Frostburg March 8, Nowicki spoke with PressBox about his team's mindset, its 2013 defeat of Salisbury and its potential this season.
Lacrosse Report: How has the team built off the success of last season?
Hunter Nowicki: I think you have to look at the fact that everyone bought in to what we were trying to accomplish. We raise the bar each and every year on and off the field. The Stevenson game last year left a bitter, yet satisfying taste in our mouth. When you look at that game, obviously many were disappointed with our fourth-quarter performance. However, we gained valuable experience against the eventual national champion and developed a strong sense of confidence heading into this season.
That game proved that we were right there and ultimately motivated us to work harder than we ever have in the offseason. Fall workouts became more rigorous. Testing requirements were held at a different standard than years past. I believe that our preparation has finally put us over the hump in order to take that next step.
LR: Do you see a more confident group than in years past?
HN: This is the most confident group of guys I've been around in the four years that I have been here. The work ethic displayed in the offseason allows us to believe we will be the strongest and best conditioned team on the field every game. Additionally, I think our coaches do a great job of conveying the message that we aren't going to play mistake-free lacrosse.
However, if kids are playing confident and flying around, you are able to minimize some of those mistakes. Each and every player on this team knows that when we are physically and mentally invested, not many teams in the country can beat us.
LR: What did ending the Salisbury slump mean?
HN: War on the Shore was a huge game for us last year. Anytime you beat a perennial winner like Salisbury, you have lots of emotions. My freshman and sophomore year, we got beat pretty bad, so it was nice to finally compete. With this team, we aren't afraid to go down in games.
Although playing from behind is not ideal, we have the talent and the mindset to come back and wins games. I think that tells a lot about the character of this team. However, our main focus this year is to take it game by game. We were on cloud nine after the Salisbury win, only to be brought back down by Gettysburg the next game.
LR: Why is the offense clicking so well?
HN: I'd say we are definitely off to a good start. Most of us have been playing together for a couple of years, developing a strong rapport along the way. The best thing about our offense is each player brings a different component to the game. We are all different, and that is very hard to defend. Coach [Chris] Miller does a phenomenal job of creating plays that match our strengths, facilitating things for us as a whole.
I think the most important part of our offense is that we are not confined to a system. Although we run certain sets, Coach lets us be athletes and make plays. Another component of our initial success is due to a strong sense of communication. All of our players bring a cerebral component to the field as well. However, there are many things we need to refine in order to become great. Hopefully, we can get those things fixed sooner rather than later.
LR: Can Washington College break through as Stevenson did in 2013?
HN: I believe we have all of the major components to make a run at this thing. Again, we are taking it one game at a time. There is not one easy game on our schedule. If you are not ready to play come game day, any team can beat you. This approach helps us stay grounded and will hopefully lead us to success in the near future.