FALMOUTH – After earning All-American status as a junior, Falmouth attackman Mitch Tapley knew he couldn’t rest on his laurels.
“I earned a reputation last year and I definitely wanted to keep that, so I knew I was going to have to come out and play my best lacrosse during the entire season.”
Tapley, the Maine Sunday Telegram boys’ lacrosse player of the year for the second year in a row, knew he had to get better.
Last summer, Tapley hit the road. He went to high-end lacrosse camps in Rhode Island, New York and Maryland in his effort to improve.
“The competition was much better than just staying around here and playing pickup,” he said. “It showed me you have to work hard and get better if you want to compete with the top players.”
Tapley’s drive to improve continued into the fall.
“Last fall I started working out for like the first time in my life,” he said. “I went to the gym every day that I could.”
The hard work paid off.
Tapley had a team-high 53 goals along with 29 assists to lead the Yachtsmen to their second consecutive Class B state championship.
“Last year, Mitch was pretty one-dimensional in that he would push the left side of the cage from behind,” Falmouth Coach Mike LeBel said. “This year he pushed a little from the right side, too, so he wasn’t as predictable.”
“Having the defenseman sitting on his tail not knowing which way you’re going to go is a definite advantage,” Tapley said. “You push one way and you can always come back the other way. I’ve been working on that a lot.”
Tapley also added a consistent outside shot.
“This year he really expanded his shot, which made him more lethal,” said LeBel, coach of the Yachtsmen for six seasons. “Players had to play him farther out away from the cage, which allowed him to gain more space and get a little closer to the goal.”
What really set Tapley apart is his willingness to do whatever it takes to win.
“He’s just fearless is what it comes down to,” LeBel said. “He doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. He’s says, ‘I’m going to do this, nobody is going to stop me, and I’m going to get the job done.’ “
Twice during the season, Tapley scored in short-handed situations, a rarity in lacrosse.
“Sometimes in short-handed situations, teams can create offense for you,” he said. “Teams get overaggressive, and the defensemen get shut off. Sometimes you run around them.”
Tapley, who will attend Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., also possesses what LeBel calls a short memory.
“You want them to deal with adversity, put it behind him, and say ‘OK, what’s next?” he said. “That’s what Mitch has that separates him from other people.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: