After winning a state title for the first time since 1979, the Howard boys' lacrosse team is fully focused on adding more hardware to its trophy case.
This season, though, the Lions will be playing with a bull's-eye on their backs, as teams will be gunning for them.
"I don't think it changed their mentality," Lions head coach Jimmy Creighton said. "If anything, it just gave our guys more confidence and more of a drive to improve on their skills, strength and speed to keep up with the high level of play at the top of Maryland public school lacrosse. It showed them what you can achieve when working for a common goal as one unit. We know as last year's 4A/3A state champion that teams want to beat us, but that comes with the territory. If teams are gunning for you, that means, in most cases, that your team is having success on the field."
The Lions have won three straight regional titles and back-to-back Howard County championships. Howard averaged about 18 goals per game last season. That put added pressure on their opponents to keep pace with them. This season, the team might lean more heavily on the defense.
"We had a very explosive offense last year," Creighton said. "We graduated some very talented players who scored a ton of goals for us over a two-, three-year period. It would be tough for anyone to repeat that performance, so I am not even going to try to compare the two groups. I am looking for our guys to come together right now as one group and to pick up our offense more efficiently."
For more from Creighton and Howard's outlook for 2016, read the full article here.
Creighton is relying heavily on senior defenseman Josh Vetter, who is a returning starter and committed to Roanoke College, and senior goalie Collin McClelland, who is a returning starter and committed to Lynn University. Both are also captains for the 2016 team and have played in a bunch of big games during their careers.
Defensively, Howard looks physical and athletic and has three returning starters with Vetter, McClelland and Vanden Vale. The Lions need their younger guys at midfield to get a grasp of how Creighton wants them to play defense.
"Right now, we are simply trying to get better on a daily basis -- we are trying to gel as one unit on both ends of the field," Creighton said. "Ultimately, competing for county, regional and state championships is our goal. This is the standard that has been set over the past few years at Howard by our current/former players. Our goals are set like that yearly, and we hope our guys are up for the challenge."