The 2012 season started somewhat sluggishly for the Myers Park boys lacrosse team – by Mustang standards anyway.
Myers Park opened the season with a 14-5 defeat to Lake Norman High School on Feb. 29. The Mustangs then won two games in a row before succumbing to Conference 11 rival Providence, 11-6, on March 12.
The modest 2-2 record was a difficult beginning to swallow for the Mustangs, who won the state championship two years ago and lost just one conference game all last season, en route to taking the league title.
“The loss to Providence was a big one because it was a conference game,” Mustangs coach Mike Gambrill said. “It was tough. We just didn’t play well at all.”
Since then, though, the Mustangs have rectified things, romping to three consecutive victories in a span of four days.
On March 15, Myers Park routed Independence, 15-2, aided by a masterful performance by senior midfielder Stuart Castillo, who tallied three goals on as many shot attempts. Two days later, junior attack Reid Foley netted three goals, three assists and two ground balls in a 9-8 win over Greensboro Grimsley, with Castillo and Brad Pellisero adding two goals apiece. And on March 19, the Mustangs cruised past South Mecklenburg, 16-9, as Jack Detwiler scored a pair of goals, and Foley (five assists) and Will Hendrix (four assists) played key supporting roles.
“We’re starting to look pretty good,” Gambrill said. “We started a little slow, but we’re starting to turn it around. We lost a lot of players (to graduation) last year, but we had a lot of good players coming back at key positions, too, and those guys have stepped up for us.”
Many of those players have been on Myers Park’s defense, which is headlined by senior Angus Musser, who was an all-conference choice last year and is Hampden-Sydney (Va.) recruit. Matt Blanton and transfers Matt Gill (Blue Ridge School of Cashiers, N.C.) and Thomas Coker (Virginia’s Episcopal School) also have made a difference defensively.
The Mustangs have been led offensively by Foley, an Air Force Academy recruit, who has 12 goals and 14 assists. Another junior attackman, Drew Ortiz, has been an effective scorer, totaling 13 goals and nine assists. And Castillo has added 10 goals on the season, which might’ve caught some opposing teams off guard.
“With Drew and Reed, we knew we were going to rely on them the put up points for us,” Gambrill said. “But with Stuart, he’s scored a lot more than we thought he would. He’s been really strong for us as a midfielder and in his leadership role as a captain.”
Castillo is joined as a captain this season by Musser, Foley, Pellisero and Davis Kirby.
“Each one of those guys has done a great job for us,” Gambrill said.
But things don’t get any easier for the Mustangs. Next week, they have back-to-back games against independent powerhouses Providence Day (Friday, March 30) and Charlotte Country Day (Saturday, March 31).
Gambrill said his players are particularly excited about the contests because they don’t often get to square off against their private-school counterparts.
“A lot of the kids (at Providence Day and Country Day) live in the same neighborhoods as the kids who play for our school,” Gambrill said, “so they know each other well, and the games are important to all of them. It will be fun to see them play each other again.”
Myers Park last played Country Day, which has won the past four private-school state titles, and Providence Day in 2009. The Mustangs lost both times, but Gambrill doesn’t expect that to have any bearing on next week’s meetings.
“I’m pleased with the way things are coming together,” Gambrill said. “We’re competing at every position, which is good. And we’ve been in every game, except the Lake Norman game.
“We want to win our conference – that’s our goal every year. After that, we’ll see where we get seeded in the state tournament and just take things from there.”