For six years, the Champlain Valley Union High School boys lacrosse team has ended the season the same way, lifting the state championship trophy.
They have done it a multitude of ways: Beating crosstown rivals on last second goals, winning nail biting, overtime matchups and, just last season, cruising to victory over an up-and-coming opponent.
“We at one point just learned how to win in big games,” said CVU coach Dave Trevithick. “We got over that hump against Essex in 2011 and after that, we kind of started to know that this is what winning feels like in the big games.”
Now, as the sun comes out and the fields slowly dry out, the Redhawks are getting ready to defend their six straight state titles, though coach Dave Trevithick would prefer if thoughts of a title game appearance were not on his players’ minds.
“They better not be (focused on the title),” Trevithick said. “They have a lot of work to do.”
After graduating 13 seniors from last year’s squad, CVU has some changes coming to the roster. But with key returning players coming back at attack, midfield and defense, the Redhawks have an experienced core to rely on.
“We’ve got some really good veteran returners,” Trevithick said. “How they play the game, they play with a lot of confidence and trust in each other.”
CVU is spending the first part of the season working in a group of younger players and improving the team’s lacrosse IQ.
“Making sure we are in the right spots, having understanding of ‘if this happens what do I do,’” Trevithick said. “We want guys to make sure they are accepting their roles, the whole way.”
While Trevithick works on improving this year’s squad, there are some lessons that he has imparted to each of his teams in his 14 years as the program’s head coach.
“It’s really a lot of mental toughness, the very first day we talk about mental toughness,” Trevithick said. “More than anything else.”
That mental toughness has emerged in five of the six CVU championship games. Four of the title games were decided by two goals or less and a fifth was decided by three goals. It was only last year – a 16-6 win over BFA-St. Albans – that the Redhawks had any separation in the final game.
While the clutch gene is a key part of the Redhawks DNA, so is the culture that Trevithick has built over his time with the program.
“I really try to keep them accountable,” the coach said. “That bar hasn’t shifted, it is still high.”
That accountability filters down through the entire boys lacrosse program, with the lessons and systems passing down from varsity to the junior varsity level.
“In JV, they get an understanding of what we are trying to do,” Trevithick said. “They are ready once they get to varsity.”
Those former JV players are stepping onto the field this season ready to go, joining that experienced group.
The large group of seniors – many of whom have been playing together since the fifth grade, according to their coach – will take the lead early in the season but as the team nears the end of the regular season and the playoffs, Trevithick expects the whole group to have found their groove.
But one thing the coach doesn’t want them focused on? The last six seasons.
“None of them have been here for all six (titles),” Trevithick said. “They have no business thinking about six, they should just be thinking about now.”
Champlain Valley opened the season on Saturday, April 6, at home against Rice.