It wasn’t an easy road however, with the Raiders (15-6) facing nine top-10 teams in the LaxPower ratings. Walton battled to a 4-5 record against those nine opponents and, as a result, finished third the Area 2AAAAAA standings with a 7-2 mark.
Walton coach Griffin Spotz believes having a tough schedule helped prepare his team for postseason success.
“That’s a personal goal of mine, to make a challenging schedule,” said Spotz, the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year. “We have the toughest region in the state, and we don’t have a gimme to make the playoffs every year. Our out-of-region games are tests to expose our weaknesses and identify what we need to improve on. We want to peak in our region games and peak at the end of the season.
“Ultimately, our goal is to challenge ourselves with the hardest schedule possible. I believe firmly in that, to get our boys exposed early so we can peak for the playoffs. Our players come to expect a hard schedule and they never complain because we push them so hard, and they’re use to it all.”
Depth and balance were also key reasons for Walton’s success.
“With our depth, we had a lot of guys rotated through this year,” Spotz said. “We’re graduating 17 seniors this year. The nice thing is, in our state semifinal game, we played seven sophomores and four juniors during that game at times, so guys got quality minutes.
“We were a really balanced team, too. We didn’t have a single player dominate with all the goals. We had a couple of kids get a lot of assists, but our scoring was really spread out. Our midfields were really athletic, and our attackmen had really good stick skills.”
The Raiders’ defense came through as well.
“I think the thing that really kept us in games, at times, was our defense,” Spotz said. “We lost almost every face off this season and we started almost every possession on defense, so finishing in the final four of the state is only possible if you have a solid defense with a great goalie and great defenders.”
Despite the losses to graduation, Spotz is confident Walton will continue to be a postseason threat in the future.
Losing 12-8 to eventual state champion Roswell only added to Walton’s aspirations.
“We had a really good run,” he said. “This was huge for our boys this year. I think, as a coach, you want to teach your boys the solid life lessons. I would have been heartbroken for our boys, and especially our seniors, had we put in so much work all year and they don’t have anything to show for it. With how well we did this year, it was a blessing to our players because they were able to see that with hard work comes success.
“I was proud of our boys. Going to the end of the season, I feel like, even losing to the state championship team in Roswell, who we just didn’t match up well against, I feel as though we were in that game. It was a one-goal game late in the fourth quarter, but we just ran out of time. I think that we wouldn’t have gotten that high on the mountain had we not challenged ourselves all year.”