A fourth straight district championship was on the line last week for St. Edward’s varsity boys lacrosse team, and the simple act of being able to play was not lost on the participants following the sudden termination of the season last spring. Being on the field for a full 2021 schedule was especially gratifying for a senior class of student-athletes nearing the end of all sports activities – and adventures – in high school.
After unleashing a barrage of goals before the home fans to stun Benjamin, 17-10, the Pirates wear the district crown once again. It might have been five straight but for the asterisk attached to the lost season a year ago. One of those seniors on the field this year was Ian Horvit.
“We played our best game of the year,” Horvit said. “We came out with confidence and ambition. We hadn’t beat Benjamin in several years.”
It’s always nice to remove a thorn. Horvit was encouraged to attend St. Ed’s as a freshman by lacrosse head coach Doug Bailey, who coached Horvit on a club team in middle school. Lacrosse was obviously his favorite sport; however, the first coach he would play for at St. Ed’s was Bill Motta on the varsity football team.
“I came primarily for lacrosse and then I met Coach Motta,” Horvit recalled. “I played football for most of my life and loved it. I was actually a starter for all four years. I was a running back, defensive back, and I also played on special teams.
“Coach Motta implemented a sense of camaraderie very well. He made sure we were all connected and had good relationships. That lasted throughout my high school career because many of those guys from football were on other teams with me. We developed strong bonds on and off the field.
“Trusting your friends on and off the field is a great feeling. That was a very key takeaway from my athletic career here.”
St. Ed’s was a cumulative 12-20 in Horvit’s first three years with Motta. Then just about complete tumult broke out senior year, although the team-bonding Horvit cited remained intact as Mark Gowin took over as head coach.
“It was very difficult coming into this new school year,” Horvit said. “We didn’t have any summer conditioning and the season was postponed for several weeks. Other teams were already playing their games and our school was really behind.
“But everybody came together and we followed all the rules to make sure nobody got COVID. We figured out what our strategy was going to be and were undefeated (4-0) before losing in the first round of the playoffs. I felt that during the pandemic times we really came together as a team.”
Horvit picked up soccer as a junior when the varsity program was on a roll. The Pirates captured a district title in 2020 with head coach Pape Seye, and surged to the 2021 state semifinals in a dream season coached by Esteban Rosano.
“During this soccer season it was really touch and go for a while to see if the games would be played,” Horvit told us. “Our new coach was really great. He was really confident and had a great plan for us. We made it all the way to states.
“He made sure that we followed all the rules, that we didn’t go out on weekends, and that we had our masks on. He was always watching out for us.”
The first-year coaches earned respect for plowing through the extraordinary circumstances and, by every measure, the football and soccer teams responded like champs. Horvit referred to another factor that aided the cause.
“Most of the kids from football played soccer too,” he said. “We were really connected with each other. That really helped with the transition to new coaches.”
There was no such continuity concern with Doug Bailey in his sixth season. Goals come in bunches at times, but that is not the mission for Horvit. He is noted for using his athletic skills on defense to frustrate faster opponents looking to attack.
“Coach Bailey is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Horvit said. “We definitely want to go far because this is the last year of high school sports for the seniors. We’ve been practicing hard this whole year and now it’s time to sharpen our tools and use everything we’ve got.”
Horvit will attend the University of North Florida to study business and economics. He might explore club soccer or lacrosse, or he might “retire from my athletic career” in favor of surfing and fishing. He summed up in one word what athletics meant to him at St. Ed’s, and wanted it to be known.
The Pirates host a regional semifinal this Friday.