Sharks leave mark on and off field at final four

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What makes a special team?

In the case of the Ponte Vedra boys lacrosse squad, it was the group’s togetherness that was already strong to start the season but continued to grow with every game and helped propel the Sharks to their state runner-up finish in Class 2A.

Despite the Sharks falling to St. Thomas Aquinas 13-12 May 7 in Naples, the one-point loss does not sum up the resilient of the team.

“It was just a trust that they each had for each other, and the belief that their teammates were going to be up to the challenge and make the necessary plays,” head coach Chris Polanski said.

Polanski believes the team will be defined by their mental fortitude and ability to bounce back no matter what adversity was thrown their direction.

The first of that adversity started last year when the Sharks lost to Creekside in the district tournament and missed out on the state playoffs.

That was then compiled with Polanski being promoted to head coach prior to the start of the season.

“The coaching change could have created chaos, but they stayed together until the very end,” Polanski said. “It is a true testament to our seniors. Their legacy does not leave when they graduate, because they’ve put in the work and have made the program what it is. Our alumni and our culture are what drives the machine.”

However, that was not the end of the challenging times for the Sharks, who were the only one of the final four teams on the boys side that did not sleep in their own beds the night before due to the six and a half-hour drive to Naples.

The Sharks also experienced a pair of weather delays that pushed the start of the game back a couple of hours. As a result, the championship did not begin until 11:15 p.m. and ended in the early morning hours.

Once the game got underway, the Sharks found themselves quickly trailing 4-0, but once again refocused and fought back.

Fortunately, one of the most experienced players on the team was senior goalie Nolan Parlette, who stood tall in net throughout the season and made his presence known during the Sharks’ postseason run.

“Since stepping in this role as a freshman, Nolan has been a confident leader,” Polanski said. “He’s one of the hardest workers and when he’s calm and cool out there, everyone just follows suit, and it makes my job so much easier.”

Brendan Nace was another senior who was not intimidated by the bright lights of playing for a state title and had a hat trick in the championship contest.

Polanski reflected how proud he is of his team in a message he posted on his Twitter page.

“The accolades which I hold the highest and am most proud of are the ones who came the furthest from the lacrosse world,” Polanski said. “Our server at the restaurant, hotel manager or FHSAA staff who would go out of their way to tell me how ‘not only did your boys clean up after themselves in the lobby, but they cleaned up after other guests too.’”

According to Polanski those are the little things that make the most difference and in the long run mean even more than a state title.

“It’s all about developing better kids and better humans,” Polanski said. “All those state titles rings are great, but there’s a whole lot more to life than that.”

The Sharks defeated Winter Park 13-11 in the state semifinals May 5. It was the Sharks’ first return trip to the state title game since winning it all in 2019.

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