Sharks continue to improve at right time with district title over Panthers


The Ponte Vedra Sharks ended the season in a familiar spot as district champions and with momentum heading into the state playoffs following a 13-3 victory over the rival Nease Panthers in the district title game on April 17.

The Sharks were able to grab control of the contest from the onset and led 8-1 at halftime thanks to a beautiful pass from senior Lad Harper to sophomore Matthias Schulz and three goals in less than a minute from senior Ryan Ward.

“We’ve definitely found our groove for the season,” Ward said. “We’ve got a great group here and we’re all really playing at a high level, and we’re excited to see how far it takes us.”

As the Sharks extended their lead, they controlled the possession battle and outshot the Panthers 20-6 in the first half, while senior goalie Jack Pelot stopped five of six shots he faced.

“One of our big things at the beginning of the season was turnovers, but as a team and in practice we’ve minimized that,” Ward said.

The tone set in the first half remained throughout the match, as another senior Cannon Hauseman struck a couple of times in the second half, using hard hops off the ground to get the ball passed the opposing goalie.

With the win, the Sharks improved to 13-6 on the season and although the squad had an up and down season at times during the regular season, that adversity experienced is starting to pay off.

“Sometimes you look for progress in wins and losses, and maybe it hasn’t felt like we’ve been progressing at times, but we’ve been making huge strives throughout the season and it’s kind of all catching fire at the same time right now,” Ponte Vedra head coach Chris Polanski said. “It’s nice for the boys to put it together on the scoreboard and for the boys to get some affirmation that there is real progress.”

The Sharks were able to get several bench players in the game in the fourth quarter due to the big lead, and those minutes are something that could pay dividends in the playoffs.

“It’s extremely important for two-fold, which is one, just to get them ready because depth is very important, but also because we have a culture of being all in, and to be able to let them go and play is huge.”

There has been a lot of success associated with the Sharks’ program over the years, but winning titles is not something that ever gets old for the group.

“If your only goal is to win a state championship, well only one team out of 170 or something will win it, so being able to celebrate the accomplishments along the way is very important,” Polanski said. “My message to the boys and the coaches was to enjoy this one because it may look easy at times but it’s not and there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it.”

The Sharks enter the state tournament as the No. 2 seed in region 1 of class 2A and will face Creekside at 7 p.m. on April 26. The Panthers earned a spot as the No. 4 seed in the region and will host Fletcher at 7 p.m. on April 27.

Ponte Vedra Sharks, Nease Panthers, boys lacrosse, district title