St. Dominic’s days of being the CHSAA dark horse are over.

The Bayhawks won the Class A lacrosse title two years ago against Stepinac and reached the Class AA finals last season, their first in the division. The team on the rise could be in for another crown this year behind a talented offense brings back all of its starters and a defense with only one new face.

“Definitely a championship year, the team is all ready,” said Grant Galligan, one of three Bayhawks seniors.

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“We know we’re ready and what we’re going up against. I’m a senior and I don’t want to go to college without [another] championship win,” he said. “ My freshman year we were an upcoming program ... my junior year we made it to the finals. Nobody expected us to get that close.”

The times have changed.

Galligan, a St. John’s commit, and Patrick Kiernan, a defenseman bound for Drexel, have helped establish the program on the field and around town, said St. Dominic coach Matt O’Brien.

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He said they played major roles in St. Dom’s defining moment, the triple-overtime championship win over Stepinac. Success and exposure since then have helped recruiting efforts for high school and college, said O’Brien, who has seven Division I commits on his team this year.

“[Galligan] and Kiernan were program changers,” O’Brien said. “They both started as freshman, which is hard to do. They’re two coaches on the field. Grant is the ultimate captain and Kiernan is a returning AA defenseman of the year. The catholic league is loaded with talent and I think both of them are up there.”

St. Dominic will also get a boost from Liam McAuliffe, a Fairfield commit returning from two ACL surgeries. McAuliffe scored 54 points two years ago as a freshman and, O’Brien said, is expected to make an immediate impact in the midfield.

“We’ve never seen that before in any athlete — and he’s back,” O’Brien said. “He’s so good in between the lines, he’s 100 miles per hour for 60 minutes.”

Added Kiernan on McAuliffe: “It just brings a whole new look. Last year, we were a little short on middies and now that he’s back, it brings a ton of talent. I think our offense will be our biggest strength. They should carry most of the team.”

Kiernan also believes St. Dominic has a championship-worthy combination with Galligan leading the attack and himself anchoring the defense.

But ability is only half the battle.

“We’re talented, but with anything else, it comes with a lot of hard work,” O’Brien said.” The returning talent, where we were last year, taking it to the next level was our goal. You’re not satisfied until you’ve won the state championship.”