Although the Lakers fell in the FHSAA Regional Quarterfinals, Windermere Prep lacrosse will return its entire roster next year.
The Windermere Prep varsity boys lacrosse team made school history April 14 when it was crowned district champion for the first time after defeating All Saints Academy 8-6 at Lakeland Christian Preparatory School.
“It feels great,” junior, mid-field and attacker Jackson Bennett said about the win. “I’ve actually been on the team since my seventh grade, and this is the furthest we’ve gotten. So, to see how much we’ve progressed and come along during the year is something to feel great about and something special to be a part of.”
“It’s amazing,” freshman and defense Alex Juhnke said. “Having all these great teammates … I wouldn’t say it’s about the win; it’s about having fun. I mean the win is good, it brings energy to the team, that’s what we want, but at the end of the day, it’s always about building that team that everyone wants to be on so we can keep winning.”
After nine seasons leading the school’s lacrosse department, head coach JoJo Marasco feels enthusiastic about the program he has built so far. When he started coaching at Windermere Prep, there was no middle school program. But now, kids are able to start learning the team’s plays and offense earlier, so they know them when they join the team as freshmen and sophomores.
“Our players are now starting to really learn the game of lacrosse,” he said. “The past couple of years before this, we had one or two guys who really knew the game, and the rest were just here playing for fun. Now, we have guys who play all year-round who became lacrosse players. …They are not just here (recreationally). They are here to play.”
For the Lakers, team unity plays a huge part on and off the field.
“A lot of it comes from all of us being friends off of the field too, so we are not afraid to be honest to each other, and we know how to talk to each other,” Bennett said. “We all know that we have to be accountable for each other, and I think that accountability is what allows us to grow off the field and helps us to be better on the field.”
The team offers a great atmosphere for the players to develop leadership skills, especially because this year, there are no seniors.
“We’ve really grown … we’ve had a great season,” Marasco said. “We are going to return the whole team and hopefully get one or two other players (who) could even help us more next year.”
Because the team has had the same players, they all have matured together,
“We’ve mostly grow together from a mentality point of view,” Bennett said. “Because, I think the more the years have gone by the more serious we’ve taken it, and the more we’ve gotten on each other and we’ve expected more of each other, and I think that’s pushed us to get to the next level and become a better team overall.”
Respect and fun are two keys Marasco has implemented into the program through his years at the school.
“I want to give the kids, (who) are in high school and (these are) growing years for them, the opportunity to learn another sport,” he said. “To have an opportunity to learn new things and whatever I can teach them that I learned. I guess that’s my plan every time I go out there. … I want to raise these young guys into men, that’s my plan, and it’s really shown off.”
The team only had four losses through its regular season — all against teams ranked top 20 in the state, including Lake Highland Prep, Oxbridge Academy, Montverde Academy and Bishop Moore Catholic School.
“We’ve come a really long way from that aspect of our team,” Marasco said. “We’ve never gotten this far.”
The team’s season ended April 20 after falling to St. Edward’s School 20-1 during the FHSAA Regional Quarterfinals.
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