The Ponte Vedra Sharks are the 2019 FHSAA boys lacrosse state champions after defeating St. Thomas Aquinas 19-7 on Saturday in Boca Raton.
Winning its first state championship in program history, Ponte Vedra scored in the first 15 seconds of the game and never looked back. Up 7-3 at half, the Sharks blew the lead open in the third quarter with nine goals.
“That third quarter is one of the best third quarters I’ve ever seen in high school lacrosse,” Ponte Vedra head coach Tom West said. “We could have beat a college team.”
Due to the Sharks’ dominance, the game clock was set to a running clock, which West said has never happened before in the state championship game.
Junior midfielder Dylan Hess, who is committed to Georgetown, led the Sharks with five goals and four assists. Senior attack Patrick Dotsikas, a Merchant Marine Academy commit, scored three goals. Committed to play at Notre Dame, junior midfielder Carter Parlette finished with three goals and two assists. Senior attack Jack Dowd, a Furman commit, and sophomore midfielder Freddie DiMarzo each had two goals. Junior long-stick midfielder Tommy Zitiello led the team with seven groundballs and also had a goal.
Ponte Vedra defeated Jupiter 10-8 on Friday in Boca Raton to advance to the state championship. After jumping out to a 4-0 first-quarter lead and a 7-3 halftime lead, Jupiter mounted a comeback, coming within one goal of the Sharks twice in the second half. In that game, Carter Parlette led the Sharks with three goals and two assists, while Dowd, Hess and sophomore midfielder Joe Taraboletti each scored two goals.
West said the Sharks didn’t get to play some of their offensive players in the game versus Jupiter, which resulted in them being fresh against St. Thomas Aquinas. West believes that depth was a crucial factor in Ponte Vedra ultimately winning the championship. The Sharks’ head coach also said the team had a good game plan for the final and that everyone believed in each other.
Ponte Vedra has reached the state championship final four seven times in the program’s 10-year history. Just once did the Sharks reach the championship in 2016, when they matched up with St. Thomas Aquinas for a first time. Ponte Vedra lost that year 13-11. The win on Saturday, therefore, was redemption for the Sharks.
West said losing in the final four in 2018 with a young team also proved to be the difference in 2019.
“Everyone just was committed to being the best that we could and to really play Ponte Vedra lacrosse the way we wanted to play it,” West said.
The Ponte Vedra coach also noted that the team hosted a Navy SEAL for a day during the preseason, and his message also proved to make a significant difference.
“We just talked about how you fight for each other and when things don’t go your way, you have to be successful and fight through it,” West said. “That happened six or seven times this season, where we came back to that training. In the past, maybe we would have folded or not played our best. This year, whenever we came to a situation whether there’s a roadblock, a rainstorm, or things aren’t going our way or the refs aren’t making calls, we just said ‘good’ and put a smile on our face and kept on playing. That was the difference this year.”
Ponte Vedra (24-1) finishes the season atop the state rankings and is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, according to MaxPreps. Nine players on the team are committed to play lacrosse in the collegiate ranks, including junior attack Cameron Welch (Mercer); junior attack Freddie Amato (Lehigh); senior attack Patrick Dotsikas (Merchant Marine Academy); senior attack Jack Dowd (Furman); junior midfielder Dylan Hess (Georgetown); junior midfielder Carter Parlette (Notre Dame); senior FOGO (Face Off Get Off) Jimmy Burns (University of Massachusetts Lowell); senior midfielder Matayo Trumble (Merchant Marine Academy); and senior defender Max Schalit (Notre Dame). According to West, a group of three additional juniors and sophomores are planning to make their respective commitments in the coming weeks.
With only six players graduating from the team, expectations for the Sharks will be high in 2020.
“We want to get our own for that class,” West said. “We want to get another one. We want to play our best and play Ponte Vedra lacrosse. Every game. Which is very fun to watch.”