Vin Intini has been affiliated with coaching boys’ and girls’ lacrosse at Fayetteville Academy for more than a decade, but when it comes to pinpointing his best team during that span he doesn’t hesitate.
The current crop of girls, who have forged a 15-1 record, occupy the No. 1 spot in his book as they enter the NCISAA Division II state playoffs today with a home match at 4:30 p.m. against Greensboro Day.
Greensboro Day is 3-11 and seeded seventh while the Eagles are the No. 2 seed.
Although the Eagles enter the game with a young roster featuring mostly sophomores, Intini said the key to this team’s success is its chemistry.
The girls on the current squad have played together, largely with Intini as coach, since they started the sport in local recreation leagues as far as eight years ago.
“The chemistry piece starts with how much time they’ve spent together,” Intini said. “The consistent practice, the travel, the club teams they’ve played with.”
On the field, that translates to what Intini and his players refer to as lacrosse IQ.
“You have one girl feeding another or assisting another girl for a goal,” he said. “She understands how that girl is going to cut to the cage (goal). She understands where the ball is going to be thrown to her.”
Intini said he looks for players who are solid athletes and are tall, in the 5-9, 5-10 range, with good wingspans.
A trio anchors the Eagle offense, including Intini’s daughter Vanni along with Mary Reese Barkman and Polly Miller.
Vanni Intini leads the offense with 127 goals, followed by Miller with 77 and Barkman with 44.
Coach Intini describes the trio as cerebral, all with good leadership skills.
Barkman feels the team really came together this season and is focused on the end goal of a state championship and realizes how possible it is.
“Everyone is super excited to get there together,” Barkman said. “I think it’s been more of a sisterhood.”
Vanni Intini said the Eagles didn’t win 15 games so far without working well together.
“Our communication is definitely implemented within practice,” she said. “The only thing we need to do is keep bringing the intensity. If we keep raising the intensity, I have full confidence in our team.”
Miller said the communication starts with winning 50-50 balls, working with the defense, and having good leaders in their captains and coaches.
She sees the key at the next level being sticking together as a team, not putting too much pressure on one person or group.
“We need to all work together to meet our goal,” she said.
While offense has been a hallmark of the team’s success, Coach Intini said the team’s defense has been making progress and is becoming a cornerstone of the team’s play.
The anchor of the defense is goalkeeper Campbell Burt, along with defender Mia Ruiz.
Burt said she spends most of her time in the cage, working with the members of the defense to make sure they are all together.
Her focus is to make sure the Eagles are playing their game and not the other team’s game.
“The leadership we have on our team is very close-knit, and our coaches are super experienced,” she said.
She likes the team dynamic and how the players all work to reach their end goal.
Today’s opponent, Greensboro Day, is no stranger to the Eagles. Fayetteville Academy beat them at home 22-9 in late March then had a rematch in Greensboro halted by rain.
Coach Intini thinks the key to success in the playoffs will be maintaining possession of the ball so that the Eagles don’t have to manufacture possessions.
“We are a very talented team,” he said. “I think we can make a nice, deep run for sure.”