St. Thomas Academy senior Sean Hickey, in white, has 37 goals and 23 assists in 11 games this season. Hickey missed most of last season with a broken collarbone. Photo by Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune
Legacy is a common term thrown around in the St. Thomas Academy lacrosse program these days, embraced by a core of seniors who have "been through the good, the bad and the ugly," according to coach John Barnes.
The Cadets straddled the .500 mark the previous two seasons under Barnes. The pieces are falling into place this year, Barnes' third at the helm, and the effort is being led by seniors who endured those more challenging times.
Six of the seven core seniors have been around the program for three years or longer.
This year, they've taken matters into their own hands. The players used winter practices and games, pasta dinners and other team-bonding activities to help build a more cohesive unit. It has translated to success on the field, as St. Thomas Academy held the 10th spot in the state rankings through last week.
The 2010 squad had trouble jelling as a team, and 2011 couldn't have gotten off to a much worse start. Only three minutes into the Cadets' first game, one of their best players, Sean Hickey, broke his collarbone. The injury kept him off the field for the rest of the season.
"It made me more motivated to work hard this offseason," Hickey said. "And I've tried to motivate others that way as well."
He's back, he's healthy and he's producing. The senior attacker amassed 37 goals and 23 assists through 11 games, including a 10-point game to help secure a victory over section foe Holy Angels on May 11.
Hickey has developed strong chemistry with Niko Koumontzis and Josh Albrecht, who have been feeding Hickey and creating space for plentiful scoring opportunities. But make no mistake, he has more than 60 points for a reason.
"To quote 'Glengarry Glen Ross,' he drinks coffee," Barnes said of his leading scorer. "Coffee is for closers, and he tends to close it a little bit."
On the opposite end of the field, the Cadets have held opponents to single digits in all but two games.
St. Thomas Academy wasn't sure who would be the goalie entering this season, but junior Chase Bockstruck has been a pleasant surprise. He has come up big in key games, including 20-save performances to secure victories over Blake and Hill-Murray.
Senior Dillon Ptacek is the backbone with 76 ground balls. Barnes called him the "Energizer Bunny." He leads a strong, fast and communicated defensive core.
"If I see a ground ball, I go in knowing that it's mine," Ptacek said.
The Cadets are looking for a benchmark victory to give their program something more tangible to rally around.
They'll have the perfect opportunity in the section playoffs. They have a stacked bracket that includes powerhouses Benilde-St. Margaret's and Blake, along with Breck, Edina, Bloomington Jefferson and Holy Angels.
To the Cadets seniors, it's not just another playoff game. It's the chance to preserve their gift to the program.
"We've been here for four years. We've seen seniors in the past try and leave their legacy," Ptacek said. "They haven't had the opportunity to leave the legacy that we have the opportunity to leave this year. We really want to accomplish that."