July 10, 2011

Maine Sunday Telegram All-state Lacrosse
Tapley proved a standout, with passing or shooting

Mitch Tapley, during his junior season at Falmouth, was the force behind a first state title.

By Paul Betit pbetit@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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.

click image to enlarge

Mitch Tapley of Falmouth has 70 goals and 61 assists for his three years at Falmouth, and was one of the eight All-Americans named to the All-State boys’ lacrosse team.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Nick Bachman, Falmouth, senior, midfielder: An All-American, Bachman, a four-year starter who will attend Middlebury, had 25 goals and five assists to help the Yachtsmen win their first Class B state championship.

Nate DelGiudice, Messalonskee, junior, attack: An All-American, DelGiudice had a school-record 56 goals and 39 assists to lead the Eagles to their sixth straight appearance in the Eastern Class A semifinals.

Cody Dussault, Lewiston, senior, defense: An All-American, Dussault, who will attend Bowdoin, led Lewiston defenders with 57 ground balls in the regular season.

Caleb Kenney, Portland, senior, midfielder: An All-American, Kenney, who will spend a year at Trinity Pauling in New York before starting college, had a team-high 35 goals, 27 assists and 100 ground balls.

Tim Lavallee, Cape Elizabeth, junior, midfielder: Lavallee had 25 goals, a team-high 32 assists and 89 ground balls.

Karl Rickett, Deering, junior, long-stick middie: An All-American, Rickett picked up 80ground balls, had 32 takeaways and won 77 faceoffs to help the Rams reach the Eastern Class A final for the first time.

Jack Roos, Cape Elizabeth, senior, goalie: An All-American, Roos, with a team-record 45 career wins, had a 68 saves percentage and 3.4 goals-against average to help the Capers advance to the Western Class B final.

Mike Ryan, Falmouth, junior, defense: An All-American, Ryan grabbed 102 ground balls, 21 in the postseason, to help the Yachtsmen claim the Class B championship.

Mitch Tapley, Falmouth, junior, attack: An All-American, Tapley had a team-high 42 goals and 33 assists, with eight goals and 10 assists in the postseason. 

John Wheeler, Scarborough, sophomore, attack: His team's leading scorer for the second straight season, Wheeler had 48 goals and 28 assists to help the Red Storm win a fourth Class A state title in six seasons.

Coach of the year

Mike Lebel, Falmouth: In his fifth year as head coach, Lebel guided the Yachtsmen to their first Class B title. "It really does boil down to the fundamentals," said Lebel, the coach for seven seasons at Cushing Academy in Massachusetts. "I approach every year like these kids have never played lacrosse before. We break down every skill to the core. I never take anything for granted. I never assume (the players) know everything." A Massachusetts native, Lebel served two years as defensive coordinator at his alma mater following his graduation from Alfred University in New York.

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:


Twitter: PaulBetitPPH


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