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Lakewood Ranch boys lacrosse takes a leap forward

The Mustangs are off to their best start since 2019 and believe more wins are on the way.

Lakewood Ranch High boys lacrosse senior Lucas Anthony leads the Mustangs with 62 points.
Lakewood Ranch High boys lacrosse senior Lucas Anthony leads the Mustangs with 62 points.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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For Lakewood Ranch High boys lacrosse senior Lucas Anthony, the 2024 season has been a long time coming. 

Anthony, who is committed to play for Embry-Riddle University next year, is one of the premiere attackers in Florida. As of March 21, he's scored 163 goals in the last three seasons and assisted on 67 more. His junior season, when he contributed on 91 of his team's 128 goals, was his statistical peak. Anthony's total was the 14th-most in Florida's Class 2A, and his 5.7 points per game average was higher than six of the 13 players in front of him. 

Though Anthony's point totals proved him a talented attacker, they also underlined a problem for the Mustangs. Anthony was not getting enough help around him, instead having to do much of the team's scoring himself. It showed in the team's record as the Mustangs went just 17-15 the past two seasons, losing in the district tournament semifinals each season. 

In 2024, under first-year Head Coach Joe Nelson, Anthony has received help. Anthony still has a team-leading 62 points (41 goals, 21 assists), but sophomores Mickey Cohen, Liam Fernandez and Brady Johansen all have contributed 43 points or more, giving the team a more balanced approach. Anthony said the more even stat distribution is a combination of the sophomore trio's talent and Nelson putting players in better position to succeed than they had been in past seasons. 

The potent offense, combined with a better-positioned defense and strong play from senior goaltender Dylan Brown, have the Mustangs sitting with a 10-3 record as of March 22. It is in line to be the team's best season since 2019, when the Mustangs finished 11-5. The team has two regular-season games remaining, on the road against Manatee High (7-4) on April 1 and Lake Wales High (5-5) on April 3, before the playoffs begin. Lakewood Ranch is confident this is the year it advances into the postseason's regional round. 

Quite confident. 

"We're going to win districts this year," said senior defenseman Trevor Schmid, a team captain. "None of the other teams stand a chance." 

Schmid's reasoning? The players are finally capable of playing as a team. 

Anthony, who is also a captain alongside Schmid and Brown, said he could tell the 2024 season would be different before it began. Anthony said he and the other captains scheduled preseason practices for everyone to jell with each other and sharpen their skills. It was at those practices where the skills of the team's sophomores and freshmen became apparent. It gave Anthony hope that his high school career could end on an upswing.

In the Mustangs' second game of the season, against Riverview High on Feb. 16, Anthony's thoughts were further confirmed. The Mustangs beat the Rams 14-13 in overtime. It was Lakewood Ranch's second win over Riverview in program history and the first since 2020. Beating the Rams, who were the first lacrosse program established at a public school in the Sarasota-Bradenton area in 2016, was a big deal to Lakewood Ranch, Anthony said. 

"Winning in overtime, that was an insane feeling," Anthony said. "It was electric. Winning that one, we knew we had a chance at a good season. This is definitely the best team I have been on." 

First-year Head Coach Joe Nelson has encouraged the Lakewood Ranch High boys lacrosse team to always keep the ball moving.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

Anthony said Nelson has done a good job of building the program as if from scratch, especially helping players who have little lacrosse experience. Schmid said Nelson has preached selflessness on the field, encouraging the Mustangs to pass as much as possible to keep things moving and utilizing "elevator" passes, or passes stretching from the defensive zone to the offensive zone, to jumpstart things. It is a fun way to play the game, Schmid said. Everyone wants to be at every practice and every game to be at their best. 

Schmid is an example of what the sport of lacrosse can do for someone, and not just in terms of athletics. Before he joined the school's lacrosse program as a freshman, Schmid said, he was an introvert. Playing lacrosse meant he was forced to talk to people, on the field and in the locker room, as the fast pace of play makes communication crucial. 

"I forced myself to make friends," Schmid said. "And I found out it's easy to connect with someone if you talk to them." 

Schmid and the Lakewood Ranch defenders have put their chemistry to good use. The Mustangs have held opponents to 95 goals through 13 games, or 7.3 goals per game, while scoring 13.3 goals per game themselves. 

Brown, the senior goalkeeper, has been a big part of the team's goal suppression. Though Brown is a senior, it is his first year with the Mustangs. Brown attends Braden River High, but is allowed to play lacrosse for Lakewood Ranch since Braden River does not offer the sport. Brown has played club lacrosse with several Mustangs players, including Anthony, and this season decided to join them for the high school season. 

He's fit in as well as he hoped. And he, Anthony and Schmid believe the best is still to come.

"We have advanced well," Brown said. "But you can always get better, and I think we will." 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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