The Smyrna lacrosse season was full of several firsts this year to go along with the team’s first varsity season.

The Smyrna lacrosse season was full of several firsts this year to go along with the team’s first varsity season.

Freshman Luke Russillo scored the team’s first varsity goal in their 14-2 loss to Polytech in the first game of the season. That game also marked the team’s first save by Colin Hoveln. The team’s first win came in their second game of the season, 17-2 over Dickinson.

With a record of 7-8, the Eagles almost made the state tournament in their inaugural varsity season.

Amid all of these “firsts,” there’s plenty for head coach Michael Judy and the Eagles to learn from as they build the program.

“With these firsts came many lessons that I will carry forever. The most poignant one would be to cherish this game — the season flies by and you never get a day, a practice, or a game back,” Judy said. “Use every rep of every drill during every practice to make yourself better. Nothing stays the same — you are either getting better or you are getting worse.”

Coming into the season, Judy said the focus for the team was on improving their lacrosse skills, developing a team of accountable young athletes and to be able to compete in the toughest conference in the state, the Henlopen Conference. Since it was the team’s first as a varsity program, they set realistic goals that didn’t measure growth by the number of wins. Therefore, Judy was surprised when the team almost made the playoffs this year.

The team’s success as a junior varsity program last year helped to build a solid foundation for this year and the players came into the season focused. Prior to the season, Judy believed if the team played to their potential that they would be able to compete with most teams on their schedule and the Eagles did just that.

“What was most surprising was to see how our strength of schedule had such a positive effect on our playoff index. To finish 18th — only two spots out from the playoffs — was a great experience for our kids and coaches,” Judy said.

The success of the team this year, Judy feels is rooted in the hard work of the players. A core group of players from the JV team never stopped playing when the season was over last year. Plus the players pushed for their friends to come out and play. It’s this “all in” attitude that lead to the team’s success this year.

One such player is junior Jacob Stoner. Earlier in the season he said being part of the first varsity team meant a lot to him.

“It’s nice to know that you’re starting a program that you’re the first ever to do it and that other people can follow in that path,” he said.

As for next year, Judy said this year has helped solidify the Eagles as a dangerous, up-and-coming team in the Henlopen Conference and the state. Playing against top lacrosse schools like CR and Cape Henlopen will help make the Eagles a better team.

“We have a long way to go in terms of consistently beating teams like this, many of which have established feeder programs at the youth level. That is the direction we need to go to compete with them,” Judy said.

Email Jennifer Dailey