South Charlotte

Myers Park looking to make mark in lacrosse

Reid Foley started playing lacrosse in elementary school with his oldest brother, Brian.

Maybe "playing" isn't the right word.

"He'd just throw me in the goal and I'd be goalie and he'd shoot on me," said Foley.

Now, as a junior on the Myers Park boys' lacrosse team, Reid is the one scoring goals.

Foley, the third brother to come through the Mustang lacrosse program after Brian and his other brother, Sean, scored 32 goals and had 33 assists last year as a sophomore attack.

After losing only one game and winning the first sanctioned N.C. High School Athletic Association championship in 2010, a younger and less-experienced Mustang team struggled last year, starting the season 0-4 and losing in the second round of the playoffs to eventual state champion Northwest Guilford.

"It was difficult," said Foley, 17. "Making that adjustment from basically being undefeated to losing your first four games was really tough."

Foley, who recently committed to play lacrosse in college at Air Force, would like to make Myers Park one of the best teams in the state again this year. Foley scored two goals in Myers Park's first game of the season this year, a 14-5 loss to Lake Norman.

This year's Myers Park team is junior-heavy and has many players from last year's team, including eight returning starters. Head coach Mike Gambrill said that experience should help.

The returning players "were with us in practice and with us on a daily basis, so they know the expectations of the coaches and kind of know the system," he said.

Foley said last year was a learning experience for many players who moved up from junior varsity.

"I think it really took them a year to get accustomed (to varsity), especially a lot of kids on offense," said Foley. "I think it's starting to come together this year."

Last year's offense relied heavily on Foley and junior Drew Ortiz, who Gambrill called "arguably two of the top offensive threats in the city, if not in the state." This year Foley believes the midfield, with Brad Pellisero, Davis Kirby and Stuart Castillo, will be able to help out more on offense, freeing up he and Ortiz.

Myers Park also will rely on defensive returner Angus Musser and goalkeeper Duffy Suhr, a junior transfer from Charlotte Latin.

Gambrill said the key to the state championship team two years ago was that players knew their roles and filled them. He thinks if this year's group can play as a team in the same way, they could have similar success.

"The kids now are believing in the program and they believe in the system," said Gambrill, in his fifth year coaching at Myers Park. "I'm very optimistic about this junior group, and even sophomores that we have are going to have to contribute."

Foley's leadership will be important for this year's Mustangs. Gambrill said the junior's leadership skills are some of the best he's seen. Gambrill also called Foley a hard worker with excellent field vision.

"He goes for the entire 48 minutes of the game and it's nonstop. The other kids feed off that," said Gambrill. "They watch the way he goes after it and it's really just follow his lead."

Foley hopes his leadership abilities will serve him well at Air Force. With a father and grandfather that served in the military, Foley said he grew up wanting to go to the Naval Academy. When Foley visited the Air Force campus in Colorado Springs, he said, it just felt right.

Gambrill will also rely on Foley's field experience and game knowledge to lead Myers Park. Unlike past years, many of this year's Myers Park players have been playing lacrosse since elementary school, like Foley. Now the coach doesn't have to teach basics during early practices.

"The group of sophomores and juniors now have been playing since third or fourth grade," said Gambrill. "You get these kids that have had the stick in their hands for all those years that it improves the quality of the game all over the city."

For Foley, early playing experiences with his brothers helped shape the way he plays now. He's always liked physical sports, playing hockey for several years and still wrestling at Myers Park.

"My brothers were always really tough on me and that's what really toughened me up and prepared me for lacrosse."