SARASOTA — Alex Stoffel is in a constant state of motion.
The Cardinal Mooney High junior defender maneuvers about the field keeping a close eye on his opponent.
There’s no turning back.
A moment’s hesitation on his part and Stoffel could ultimately cost his team a goal or, even worse, a win.
Stoffel attempts to read the offense. In a split second, the Cougars’ defensive captain throws his stick into the air and intercepts a pass.
Stoffel sprints up the field and quickly tosses the ball across the field to a teammate, who, in turn, fires off a shot.
The ball sails through the back of the net, putting the Cougars on the board.
It’s defensive efforts such as this one that helped power the Cardinal Mooney boys lacrosse team to its first district championship since 2011. The Cougars defeated rival The Out-of-Door Academy 16-5 to win the District 26 title April 18.
“It was really exciting,” Stoffel says. “We didn’t have any seniors on the team, so we all had to step up. Luckily, we came together as a team, which was good.”
Stoffel began playing lacrosse for Cardinal Mooney’s varsity squad as a freshman. Since then, Stoffel, who picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time six years ago, has transitioned from a former midfielder to one of the Cougars’ most talented defenders.
“I like the physicality of it and being bigger than your opponent,” Stoffel says of the sport. “The hardest part is just reacting to what they are going to do when they have the ball because you’re always a step behind.”
Stoffel learned the game from his grandfather, Ronald White, who played high school lacrosse before coaching lacrosse at a prep school in Maine.
“Whenever I would go up to visit him, we would play,” Stoffel says. “He actually persuaded me to try out.”
Stoffel joined his first lacrosse team in sixth grade and continues to play both travel and high school lacrosse. Stoffel scored his first goal for the Cougars as a freshman. He added two more goals his sophomore season before transitioning this season to his new role as defensive captain.
Stoffel may not have scored a goal this season, but he played an integral role in helping lead Cardinal Mooney to a 12-7 record and to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
“You kind of go into it knowing the kids who score get (the recognition), but defense wins championships,” Stoffel says. “If you have a strong defense, then your opponent can’t score, and if you can’t score, then you aren’t going to win.”
With this year’s high school season behind him, Stoffel will turn his attention to travel lacrosse in early June.
Stoffel will spend the summer playing for the Tampa Fire U19 team for which he will compete in tournaments across the Northeast, including Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Stoffel hopes to use this travel season as a way to garner more attention from college coaches. Stoffel has aspirations of playing college lacrosse and already has been in contact with several schools, including Lafayette College, Franklin & Marshall, Middlebury College and Washington and Lee University.
“It would mean a lot to know that everything I’ve been doing since freshman year, the training and the extra hours on the wall, has paid off,” Stoffel says.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.