Olympia boys lacrosse's confidence leading to historic season

With a few games left in the 2024 regular season, Olympia High boys lacrosse is breaking records on their way to the playoffs.

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Coming off a 5-10 season in 2023, the Olympia High boys lacrosse team may not have seemed to be much of a threat coming into 2024. 

Or, at least to those outside the Titans’ locker room. On the inside, they knew this year would be special. 

“I’d say there isn’t anyone from inside our locker room who has been surprised at how well we’re playing right now,” senior goalie Lucas Teixeira said. “We knew we were going to shock a lot of teams.”

With all but two graduating seniors returning and an entire offseason to develop skills and refine chemistry, the Titans did more than just get better. They gained confidence, and that has made all the difference.

“Lacrosse is such a skill-based sport, where you have to be able to do the basics before you can really do anything else,” Olympia coach Caleb Naegele said. “If you can’t pass and catch, if you can’t get a ground ball or cradle the ball when you’re running, you can’t then move on to focusing on what defense we’re running or what offense we’re running. So, I think, really what they improved on from last season is those guys just became so much more confident in their ability to do that fundamental stuff.”

That confidence has led to a historic start to the 2024 season. 

Olympia has won 11 of its 12 games — as of March 27 — and has broken the program record for most wins, according to MaxPreps. And with four more regular-season games and a playoff run to go, the Titans have the chance to further establish themselves in the history books. 

Beyond the win-loss columns, Olympia has been dominant against its competition. 

The Titans have a goal differential of +128 (172 goals scored and 44 goals allowed) and are winning games by an average margin of 10.7 goals. Olympia’s only loss came in a one-goal road game against area rival Windermere High (8-4) early in the season. 

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Chemistry + Confidence = Wins

Although Naegele points to the increased confidence of his group of players, he also recognizes how important the maturity, continuity and commitment of the 2024 Titans have been to the success this season. 

“We had a lot of returners; almost our entire defense is back,” Naegele said. “Beyond that continuity, we have a lot of guys that have bought in and are very committed to working hard on their games and getting better. … Add in a few freshmen who came in and filled positions we needed, and here we are. Overall, we just have guys (who) wanted to put in the work in the offseason, and it’s been a great year so far because of that. Just to see how they’ve improved from last year and how much effort they put in to be great this year has been awesome.”

Olympia’s leading scorer, senior Emmett Bradford, is one of the players who made the commitment this offseason and saw the Titans’ growth firsthand. 

“A huge part of the success we’re having this year comes from all the guys (who) decided to commit to playing during the offseason,” Bradford said. “Before last season, I think we had maybe three players playing in the summer and in the fall. Whereas before this season, we had a lot of players play for (Lacrosse Club Orlando) over the summer. … We also had the opportunity to do a tournament in the winter and practice together, which allowed us to get some reps in before the season even started.”

The commitment Bradford showed to developing this offseason is the perfect example of a player who has seen a tangible growth in his output. Last season, he scored 37 goals and recorded 17 assists in 15 games for the Titans. So far in eight games this season, Bradford has scored 31 goals and dished out 17 assists. 

He attributes the growth in efficiency to the trust he’s been able to build with his teammates through their off-season work.

“I came back into the season much more confident than last year,” Bradford said. “That’s been a theme over all my years playing — just being less scared to make mistakes. Coming into this year … my biggest growth has been being able to include all my teammates and contribute more to team success, which is where the individual accolades come from.

“The biggest reason for that is the chemistry we’ve been able to build, it’s increased my trust in my teammates,” he said. “I’ve played lacrosse for a long time and for a lot of different teams, which made it hard for me to put the ball in the hands of teammates I didn’t know. But, this is a good group of guys that I feel confident can do things to contribute to us winning games.”

Olympia hasn’t only been a goal-scoring machine; it also has leaned on the experience of its defense. The Titans have held their opponents to three or fewer goals seven times and have held the opposition scoreless twice. 

“A lot of times, when you’re playing defense in lacrosse, it’s less about playing against your guy and more about playing with your defense against the offense,” senior defender Jacob Whiddon said. “We do try to defend based on the specific match-up. … But, at the end of the day, playing defense is really all about … knowing the guy to your left is going to have your back and that the guy on your right is going to have your back. That’s not just in practice or in the game either, but it’s also off the field. Just hanging out creates a bond and helps develop trust. That’s been the case with this group.”

Leaving a legacy

The wins record isn’t the only historic feat the Titans want to achieve this season. The chance to win the program’s first district championship since 2013 is another prize that will further cement this team’s legacy. 

“We wanted to really try and make a run this season — not just because (we) are a senior-heavy team but because we saw an opportunity that this would be the season to go the whole way,” Whiddon said. “We’ve already played almost all the teams in our district; we have a good feeling that we can win districts and go to regionals. We knew that if we put in the work during the offseason, this would be the year that we have a good chance to do something special.”

Still, despite seeing the opportunity at hand, this team isn’t allowing itself to look too far forward.

“It’s definitely a huge honor for us to be in this position,” Teixeira said. “We aren’t taking this moment lightly, and we know that we have the chance to have a great season but we know we have to take it one game at a time to get there. We have to keep our eyes set on what’s in front of us … rather than trying to look at the big picture. I think that has helped us a lot to stay present.”

Sam Albuquerque is the Sports Editor for the Orange Observer. Please contact him with story ideas, results and statistics.

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Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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