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Times All-North Frontier League MVP Rick leads Watertown to new heights

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Even though the conclusion of Watertown’s season was bittersweet with a playoff loss to rival Carthage in a sectional semifinal, Mitchell Rick prefers to accenuate the positives.

The senior and his teammates’ crowning achievement this season was earning a Frontier League championship in boys lacrosse.

The Cyclones forged a season they’ll remember and were part of school history by capturing — with Rick’s all-around presence and leadership — the league title, only the third won by the program.

“I think coming in, our main goal was to win the Frontier League,” said Rick, who led the league in scoring this year as an attackman. “That was our focus all season. Coach kept telling us every day that this was our year and we just all bought into that philosophy. We worked hard in practice, knew what we had to get done and got it done — it was a great year for Watertown lacrosse.”

Watertown not only earned its first Frontier League championship since 2004, it secured its first outright league crown since 1990 — since the Cyclones shared the championship with Carthage seven seasons ago.

“This was a pretty big deal for our program,” said Watertown coach Brian Navarra, “and obviously Mitchell was a big part of our success.”

For his efforts, Rick, who will attend Division I Binghamton in the fall, has been selected as the 2012 Times All-North Frontier League MVP.

Called upon for both leadership and an offensive punch, Rick virtually doubled his production from his junior season, leading the Frontier League in goals (67) and points (103) and finished in a tie for first in assists (36).

“We graduated basically all of our offensive players the previous year, so we were coming in as a pretty young team,” Navarra said. “We lost our top-five leading scorers, so we were counting on Mitchell to basically put the offense on his back and lead us. So there was a lot of pressure on him coming into the season, and he took that challenge head on and he really dominated when he was on the field this year.”

Rick accepted the responsibility from the start and thrived under the pressure, leading Watertown to an 11-1 record in league play and a 15-2 mark overall.

“With those two guys (David Kunz and Mike Madill) graduating, I definitely knew I had to play more of a role and step up and be the main threat,” Rick said. “And I think not only me, but other kids on the team knew that, too. We had a couple young guys, sophomores (Eric Soderquist and Brad McKinney), they were our second- and third-eading scorers, they stepped up their game as well.”

The Cyclones avenged an early season defeat at Carthage and defeated the Comets 9-8 on May 7 en route to securing the league’s “A” Division title.

Rick totaled seven points, including five goals, as Watertown edged city rival Immaculate Heart Central, 14-13 in its regular season finale on May 16 to secure the championship.

“He was a leader, he was a quarterback,” Navarra said of Rick, who averaged 6.1 points per game this season, including nearly four goals (3.9), “everything that we ran kind of went through Mitchell in one way or another.”

His most productive game statistically was an 11-point effort, including seven goals, in a 15-8 non-league victory over Central Square on April 21.

Rick was also unselfish in passing the ball as he finished tied for the league lead in assists with Carthage midfielder Dan Conlin.

“I think everyone on our team this year had that mentality — put the team first,” Rick said. “It’s nice to score and all that, but if there’s an open guy, you give him the ball, it’s as simple as that.”

The heart of Rick’s success at the scholastic level was hard work and dedication, whether in practice during the season, or working out with weights, speed and quickness drills, as well as competing with the Central New York Road Hawks during the summer.

“He was even a leader in the summer getting everybody involved on our turf field with shooting and doing stick drills,” Navarra said. “His natural strengths besides his leadership were his physicality — he used his big body to get an advantage on a defender and he did job of finishing and scoring — and putting the ball where the goalie wasn’t.”

Rick also starred in soccer for Watertown, starting as a central defender last fall, as the Cyclones repeated as league champion.

“It’s actually kind of a cool balance, playing defense in soccer and being the main scorer in lacrosse; it’s fun” he said.

He chose Binghamton over the University of Hartford, Hamilton College and Drexel, as well as Le Moyne College.

“I’ve always thought about playing Division I, its been a dream of mine,” Rick said. “And now that it’s a reality, I’m definitely looking forward to playing at the next level and the challenge of playing at that high level.”

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