The unfair pressures were plentiful for the Chaminade boys lacrosse team in 2013.
Disregarding the fact that they're just high school kids, many believed the Flyers were simply supposed to win because of a roster dotted with so much talent that underclassmen committed to Division I colleges couldn't even crack the starting lineup.
Then there was what Duke-bound goalie Dan Fowler described as "the monkey on our backs." Chaminade lost to St. Anthony's in the CHSAA AAA final four years in a row. Despair was especially sensed during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, when the Flyers won both regular-season meetings only to see St. Anthony's win the finale to capture the crown.
The Flyers, going about their business by the team's mantra, "effort is talent," overcame all of that.
This time, the Flyers made it a clean sweep over St. Anthony's with a 7-5 victory at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium on May 23. Because there are only two AAA teams in New York, they also are credited with a state title.
"I was so happy for our kids because they learned that you get one chance in the final game and there's a lot more pressure on kids now than there was five years ago," coach Jack Moran said. "They finished a long journey against a great team."
Virginia-bound attack Ryan Lukacovic, who was widely considered one of the country's top senior attacks, had one goal and four assists in the final. He led Chaminade with 37 goals and 34 assists. The large amount of assists was a testament to the Flyers' depth and selfless play.
"It was like playing with an unselfish all-star team all year," Lukacovic said.
The team distributed the ball so well that there was only one other player with more than 25 goals: senior midfielder Tom Zenker (Duke). Yet senior midfielders J.J. McDaid (Furman) and Brian Pratt (Yale) and explosive juniors Sean Cerrone (Villanova) and Sam Bonafede (Princeton) seemed to step up when it mattered most. Pratt had a hat trick in the final.
Faceoff specialist Kris Clarke (Hofstra) enabled the team to play at a high tempo because he won more than 70 percent of his faceoffs. Moran said that Clarke gave the Flyers at least seven extra possessions per game.
Yet, arguably the most impressive aspect of the team was "The Great Wall of Chaminade," a defense that allowed less than five goals a game.
Chaminade started a defensive trio of Division I commits: Tim Muller (Maryland), Brian Dunne (Duke) and Jack Carrigan (Loyola). Not to mention Fowler, who had more than 120 saves and is headed to Duke.
"It was just an awesome year," Fowler said. "I was very blessed as a goalie to have a bunch of great one-on-one defenders."
Described by Moran as one of the most tireless workers to ever play for him, Fowler was voted MVP of the final with 10 saves in the game.
"There was no better way to end my career," Fowler said. "It was a great way to cap my career and all of our seniors who worked so hard to finally win that championship."