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Salit points Saints toward elite

June 05, 2007|by MARK KELLER

SAINT JAMES - Paul Salit is not a man who speaks in clichs often.

But when he tries to explain the success of his St. James boys lacrosse team well, he can't quite help it.

"We just had a good, solid player at every position, great character and great leadership," Salit said. "It's sort of clich, but really all of those things go into making a special team and that's what happened this year."

Clich or not, the 2007 Saints did have a special season. They finished 17-2 and shared the Mid Atlantic Conference title, the first lacrosse title in school history.

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As a result, Salit earned The Herald-Mail Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year honor.

Salit saw the potential for this year's team in the fall of 2006. As he projected the Saints' lineup, he said he saw no glaring weaknesses at any position.

"I think the real missing piece of the puzzle was when Nick Beardsley, our goalie, showed up," Salit said. "He came from Gilman, was the JV goalie there as a freshman. And once I saw him in the fall, I knew we were going to be pretty good."

But how good?

"I told our coaches I thought we could win double-digit games," Salit said. "But to go 17-2, I was not expecting that."

Salit probably wasn't expecting to go to Potomac School, the perennial conference champion, and win 10-9 in overtime after trailing 8-3 at halftime either.

"That was a huge win for us in our league and for our team's confidence," Salit said. "I think in terms of confidence, we felt we were good. We weren't wondering if we could win, we knew we could win if we played well."

The addition of Beardsley and the presence of four 25-plus goal scorers - P.J. Mara (57), Cyrus Morgan (26), Troy Gogoll and Jordan Barr (25 each) - helped the Saints exceed expectations.

"Having other players that can take the pressure off, having players that you can trust, you don't have to think twice," Morgan said. "You look over your shoulder, they're there, you make the pass. Having players like that is really an undeniable advantage. I think that's why we beat a lot of teams this year."

Salit said he has always - and will always - stress mastery of the fundamentals to his teams. In his mind, that's what it means to play well.

"All of our teams, even our varsity players, the first 15 minutes of practice every day are playing against the wall, just them their stick and ball. That's as fundamental as you can get," Salit said. "I think coaching high school athletics is teaching fundamental skills over and over and over and over. And the teams that do that the best are the teams that will win."

Salit isn't nave enough to think that one big season will necessarily lead to another, particularly at a school with only 120 boys. He knows there will be highs and lows. The high in 2007 just happened to be an all-time high.

"I think our expectations are now higher. Our whole defense is coming back and our goalie is coming back," Salit said. "At the same time, we've lost some very good players and I've always felt, at a small school like ours, that you have your buildup period to some really strong teams, then you have to build up a little bit more. We just don't have the enrollment that we'll be able to just reload each year. We have to develop our own players and build up."

Salit and the 2007 Saints put together a pretty good foundation on which to build.

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