Although Landon's lacrosse team has 12 new players this spring, the Bears have once again dominated the Interstate Athletic Conference.
Landon, which finished 13-1 last year, has won the IAC championship the past five years. The Bears, who graduated all-league attack men Derek Kober and Rob Lampkin (both of whom attend Stanford) and all-league midfielder Matt Holleran (currently starting for Dartmouth), are trying to make it six consecutive years atop the IAC.
Leading the Bears is senior goalkeeper Julian Gillespie, who also was all-league last year. Gillespie averaged 10 saves a game last season.
"Julian stops 65 to 70 percent of the shots on goal," said Coach Rob Bordley. Bordley attributes a lot of Gillespie's success to assistant coach Tiger Joyce, who played for Princeton and has worked extensively with Gillespie.
"Julian has good technique and excellent positioning," said Bordley. "Overall, a goalkeeper has to be courageous, and Julian is."
"The goalie is a different type of position than the others," said Gillespie. "He has to go through a different type of mental preparation than the rest of the team. A goalie has to go into a game confident, but not overaggressive. Otherwise, he'll be caught out of position out of the cage.
"It's really important for the goalkeeper to be on top of the situation because his actions dictate the game. If he saves a few at the beginning, it will fire the team up. But if he misses a few, the team can get down."
Sophomore midfielder Steve Muir, sophomore attack man John Micklitsch and senior midfielder Bill Johnston are other team leaders Bordley relies on. Johnston, who also plays football for Landon, plays both midfield and attack.
"I love the movement of lacrosse," said Johnston. "You can't just do something and then sit idly by and watch. You've got to make the pass and then cut to the crease. You've got to be an intelligent unit out on the field.
"Last year we had Holleran and he was a real cannon out there for us. Now we don't have that superstar player, but we're stronger as a team unit. We all work well together."
In five years, the Bears have lost only one conference game, and that was to St. Albans two years ago. St. Albans, which finished second last year, recently lost to Landon, 11-2. Gillespie had a career-high 23 saves.
Senior attack man Doug Tardio was one of the Bears' leading scorers last season with 20 goals and six assists. Tardio, who also plays other sports, said lacrosse is his favorite.
"It's got the finesse of basketball and the speed and intensity of hockey. I like that combination. It's for contact and hard-nosed ballplayers, yet it is extremely graceful."
Landon prides itself on its transition game. Bordley has designed his unit to break fast and take advantage of the "unsettled" situation.
"We're best when it's three-on-two or six-on-five," said Bordley. "We like to play an upbeat game."
Bordley realized that he would have gaps to fill with the graduation of many top players. But he feels that the tradition of success will "breed more success."
Senior Ed Hall put it simply: "We have probably the best stick-handling in the league. No one can compare with us in terms of game experience and coaching. If we go out, concentrate and do what we do best -- play sound lacrosse -- we'll win the championship."
Said Gillespie: "We're Landon. We expect to win it every year. Why should this year be different?"