FALMOUTH – Mitch Tapley might be the only All-American high school lacrosse player who has never had a lacrosse goal at home to practice shooting.
But that hasn’t kept the Falmouth attackman from developing into one of the most well-rounded high school lacrosse players in the state.
“He has no goal to practice on,” said Joe Tapley, Mitch’s father. “We live on a circle and he practices on an old street hockey net that is much smaller. If he misses, he has to chase down loose balls in the neighbor’s yard. Perhaps this has forced to him to be more accurate with his shot. Who knows?”
What is known is Tapley possesses a devastating shot with either hand, and also has the uncanny knack of being able to find the open man in the heavy traffic in front of the crease so his teammates can score.
“He can go to the cage with the intent to score, but in that split second of someone flashing open, he can switch gears to dump it to that man instead of taking the shot,” Falmouth Coach Mike Lebel said. “A lot of players will go the cage with complete tunnel vision. They will never pass the ball. It’s not an easy skill but he’s got it.”
This season, Tapley, a junior, scored a team-high 42 goals and had 33 assists to lead the Yachtsmen to their first Class B state championship and become the Maine Sunday Telegram’s most valuable player for boys’ lacrosse.
“He’s got a good shot and he places the ball real well into the corners, but his strength is seeing the field,” Falmouth goalie Cam Bell said. “He’ll make passes that some kids won’t even make or won’t even think about. He’s just so creative, and that makes him so much better as a player.”
“He’s one the most composed players I’ve ever seen when he’s around the crease,” Falmouth middie Nick Bachman said.
“Handling the ball, you have 100 percent trust in Mitch that he’s not going to miss a pass or he’s not going to miss a catch. Playing with someone like that who you can have complete confidence in changes the entire team dynamic.”
Tapley began playing lacrosse after his family moved from Colorado to Maine when he was in the fifth grade.
“I started playing lacrosse in sixth grade because all my friends were playing,” he said. “I liked it way more than baseball, and I was better at it, too.”
What’s the appeal?
“Lacrosse is a like a combination of sports,” Tapley said. “With all the different positions, it’s like basketball, and it’s an awful lot like hockey because it’s a physical game. Just how the game is played, I like it.”
Tapley plays left wing in hockey. In the past he’s played football and soccer.
But Tapley seems to have a natural affinity for lacrosse, which he now plays year-round.
“I just know where the (defensive) slides are coming from,” he said. “I know where to look. It not always just to score, sometimes it’s to draw the slide and pass the ball to someone else and hopefully he can finish.”
The Falmouth players and coaches are mindful of Tapley’s abilities.
“He’s had a lot of experience and he plays a lot in the summer, so his lacrosse IQ is probably higher than anyone,” Lebel said. “The stuff he does, the moves, the plays he makes, he knows exactly what the defensemen are trying to accomplish and so it gives him the ability to counter most effectively.”
In his first three varsity seasons, Tapley has scored 70 goals and assisted on 61 others.
“What it comes down to is he’ll get the ball in the net and he has a hundred different ways to do it,” Bachman said. “When he finds the shot, he’ll take it and make it more times than he misses it.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: