In conjunction with the release of the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Boys Lacrosse Teams, USA TODAY High School Sports has selected a Boys Lacrosse Team of the Year from teams eligible for the Super 25 rankings. The Team of the Year is Culver Military Academy (Culver, Ind.). The selection was made by Casey Vock of 3dRising.com.
Player of the Year: Justin Shockey, Landon School (Bethesda, Md.)
Coach of the Year: Bryan Kelly, Calvert Hall (Baltimore, Md.)
School: Culver Academy (Culver, Ind.)
Super 25 Expert Ranking: No. 1
In November, Culver Academy lacrosse alumni packed their bags and traveled from various parts of the country to Gettysburg, Pa.
Now considered among some of the best in game – including the likes of college stars Zach Currier, Joel Tinney and Matt Neufeldt – they made their way not to a lacrosse game, but to a funeral.
There, they stood by their former lacrosse coach Jon Posner as he bid farewell to his own best friend and mentor – his father.
“Doc,” as the late Michael Posner was affectionately called by the players on the Culver roster, had become a fixture at Culver practices and games in the past decade, always there to support his son as he built one of the nation’s most respected lacrosse programs.
For years a lacrosse team doctor at West Point, where his son would learn the game, Doc knew that the 2017 edition of the Culver Academy national squad was destined to be different from the past few seasons.
“He knew this was a special group,” Jon Posner said. “He said that even before he passed in the fall. He said he thought this was the year for them. And a lot of the players knew he felt that way.”
The younger Posner had a similar outlook – he believed the team had as much if not more talent than the Eagles team that went 23-0 in 2014.
Well aware of how skilled his players were on the field, he would come to understand the true character of the group long before the first face-off of the 2017 season.
When news came of his father’s passing, Posner’s players wasted no time in rallying around him.
“Over the last 13 years, my dad had become close with a lot of the guys,” Posner said. “And he’d had a big impact on some of them, including some of our best players and a lot of these current kids. So the fall was a pretty challenging time.”
Leaning on one another and eventually turning their sights toward the season, the Eagles players – particularly the seniors – found a new purpose to the year.
“They told me that they were playing for something bigger, something greater than anything else,” Posner said.
Decals featuring “DOC” were made and affixed to each Culver player’s helmet for the season. Members of the team, Posner said, seemed to be using his father’s legacy as a positive motivation and even used it to challenge each other, pushing one another to remember the cause.
“They demanded a lot of their teammates, especially our senior captains,” Posner said. “They pushed it every day in practice, they didn’t allow each other to be complacent, they demanded excellent from their teammates. That was kind of our attitude. You could see it in practice. Sometimes our practices were more intense than games.”
Jetting out of the gate with several one-sided wins, the Eagles fell to earth quickly as they lost to the Haverford School 8-7 in a double-overtime battle on March 26.
The response? Seventeen consecutive wins as Culver marched through some of the toughest teams in the land, along the way earning some hard-fought close games, including a 4-2 win against last year’s Super 25 champion, the Hill Academy (Ontario).
The win streak culminated in fitting fashion, as Culver battled its way to a rematch with Haverford and defeated the Fords 9-5 in the Inter-Ac Invitational Lacrosse Championship – one of the most difficult titles to capture in scholastic lacrosse.
Culver finished the year with five Super 25 wins, plus a high profile win over Everest, while four players were named to the American Family ALL-USA Teams.
Earning victories over the McDonogh School (Md.), the Hill Academy, St. Paul’s (Md.), Everest Academy (Ont.), two decisions against Michigan powerhouse Brother Rice and then the revenge win against a talented Haverford team after a run through the Inter-Ac, the Eagles showed themselves to be a team on a mission and one that improved over the course of the season.
“It’s such a demanding schedule, but our core of players and our senior leadership was just phenomenal,” Posner said.
“It’s like they told me, they were playing for something bigger than just winning. We broke it out of the huddle before every game with ‘Doc’. I really think they had a confidence in themselves knowing they were playing for him. … It was an emotional year for sure.”