July 8, 2012

Boys' lacrosse: A repeat selection after a repeat state title

Mitch Tapley of Falmouth did everything that was needed to become an outstanding player.

By Paul Betit pbetit@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FALMOUTH - After earning All-American status as a junior, Falmouth attackman Mitch Tapley knew he couldn't rest on his laurels.

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click image to enlarge

Mitch Tapley of Falmouth decided after his junior year that although he was an All-American, he wanted to improve. He did, was named again, and helped his team to a title.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

TELEGRAM ALL-STATE BOYS' LACROSSE

Chris Burke, Waynflete, senior: An All-American and Maine's first recipient of the Bob Scott Award, Burke scored 118 goals, had 63 assists and scooped up 237 ground balls during his three varsity seasons.

Troy Haefele, St. Dominic, senior: A two-time All-American, Haefele, who will go to Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., scored 54 goals and had a state-high 68 assists as the Saints advanced to the Eastern Class B semifinals.

Ryan Jurgelevich, Portland, senior: An All-American who will go to the University of Southern Maine, Jurgelevich stopped 75 percent of the shots he faced.

Tim Lavallee, Cape Elizabeth, senior: Lavallee, an All-American who will go to Providence College, had 43 goals and a team-high 46 assists to lead the Capers to the Western Class B final for the 14th consecutive year.

Alexander Paulus, Morse, junior: Paulus, the KVAC Class B player of the year, had 53 goals and 35 assists to lead the Shipbuilders in scoring for the third consecutive season.

Karl Rickett, Deering, senior: A two-time All-American who will go to Bates College in the fall, Rickett won 75 percent of his draws and picked up 70 ground balls as the Rams advanced to the Eastern Class A final for the second straight year.

Mike Ryan, Falmouth, senior: Ryan, one of the state's top one-on-one defenders, picked up a team-high 67 ground balls as he earned All-America honors for the second time and helped the Yachtsmen capture their second consecutive Class B state championship.

Willy Sipperly, Falmouth, junior: An extremely versatile middie, Sipperly had 17 goals and 16 assists, and picked up 38 ground balls to become one of nine Maine players to earn All-America honors.

Mitch Tapley, Falmouth, senior: A two-time All-American, Tapley scored a team-high 53 goals and had 29 assists to lead the Yachtsmen to their second straight Class B state championship.

John Wheeler, Scarborough, senior: An All-American, Wheeler had 51 goals and 33 assists to lead the Red Storm in scoring for the third consecutive year and help them claim their third consecutive Class A state championship.

Coach of the Year

Joe Hezlep, Scarborough

The Red Storm claimed their second consecutive Class A state championship and fifth in seven years. "We work really hard in trying to get the best out of every kid," said Hezlep, who just completed his fifth season as head coach. "We work on their weaknesses, but we also try to get them to play to their strengths. We play 22 to 24 kids in a game now. The number of kids who can play lacrosse at the varsity level was really our strength this year."

"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:

pbetit@pressherald.com

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH

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