The Lambert Longhorns are the consensus pick as the state's top team, carrying a No. 1 ranking in the AJC's 6A-7A polls and LaxPower.com's RPI rankings. They're off to a 13-1 start and are the assumed favorites to win a second consecutive title — their fourth overall dating back to 2011. The Longhorns have dominated in their victories, outscoring opponents by a 17.6-8.8 average. They're undefeated against Peach State teams, including wins over ranked opponents Centennial (No. 3), Milton (No. 7), West Forsyth (No. 9), Walton (No. 10), Westminster (No. 1 in A-5A) and Blessed Trinity (No. 5, A-5A).
AJC lacrosse beat writer Adam Krohn recently spoke with Longhorns coach Josh Sagel about the season.
Krohn: What's the biggest difference in this year's team and last year's championship team?
Sagel: We graduated 15 seniors, including our whole defense, from last year's team. Last year, we were still bitter about losing in the first round, so we were really honed in and focused on winning a title. This year's team has the same focus, but we're doing it with younger guys filling in. We only have eight seniors. A lot of our younger guys are stepping in and doing some big things. Some of our best players happen to be juniors, and a big reason why we're doing good is the seniors are unselfish and realize what it takes to win. It would be different if the seniors were selfish, but the 40th guy on our team has the same desire as our No. 1.
K: Your final four regular season matches come against opponents that have a combined 44-11 record, and three of those teams (West Forsyth, Cambridge and Lovett) are ranked. Talk about the closing stretch and if it helps give you momentum heading into the postseason.
S: Our schedule always starts and finishes strong. There's a rhythm to our regular season. We want to play playoff teams down the stretch, because when you get to the postseason, those teams are there for a reason. So you want to play the toughest teams you can find in the regular season. These last few games are going to be good tests. We need to play hard and hopefully we'll win and be going in on a streak. We have to be playing our best and, with our schedule, we're trying to get on an upward trajectory.
K: The way you're team has dominated its opponents throughout the season, and the fact that you're coming off a state title, are you worried your team could get complacent, thinking they've already won state?
S: Without any question, that's a concern. But two years ago, we lost in the first round of the playoffs, and that loss has put us on the course we're on now. Everyone remembers what that felt like, especially our juniors and seniors. But of course you could have a drop off. But we practice very hard to make sure that we don't.
K: Your only loss came on March 11 to Calvert Hall by a score of 12-6. Calvert Hall is the nation's No. 22-ranked team according to USLacrosse Magazine. What did you take away from that loss?
S: I believe there is such a thing as a good loss. We were undefeated last year (21-0), so of course we would have liked to keep that streak going, but we learned a lot about what we're not doing right and we were able to look at what wasn't working with our defensive concepts. And Calvert Hall is a heck of a team, and that's reflected with their annual national ranking. They're the real deal. But we learned to work on our team concepts and to communicate more.
K: Who are your players that will compete at the next level?
S: Eric Overbay (senior; Villanova); Jaryd Jean-Felix (senior defenseman; Rutgers); Taylor Brinkerhoff (senior; Charleston Southern*); Pat Phelan (senior; Arizona State); Peyton Miller (junior; Rollins).