The 2014 Howard County boys lacrosse season nearly brought home a state championship, and had some other strong contenders. Reporter Matt Owings gives a recap of the top teams and players. (Jon Sham/Baltimore Sun video)

John Travisano's rise to high school lacrosse stardom was different from many of his future Division I counterparts.

Described by coaches and teammates as modest, yet bearing a quiet confidence that transcended his age, the future member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish was the unquestioned backbone of a Howard team that earned the most wins in program history this spring.

Yet, thinking back to his freshman season, the midfielder said he never saw himself playing at such a high level.

He especially didn't anticipate being named the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times Player of the Year.

"I couldn't be happier. I definitely think that the fans have shown great support, and I really couldn't have done anything without them," Travisano said. "Coming into high school, I didn't expect much out of lacrosse. But, as I kept playing, I thought I had some sort of talent. I wanted to keep working at it, and I wanted to make an impact — if not on the county, at least on Howard."

Lions coach Jimmy Creighton has seen Travisano grow over the last four years, both on the field, as well as off of it. While his skill set has greatly improved, he's not one to advertise it.

"John is a humble guy," said Creighton. "He never looked at himself like that, and probably doesn't give himself enough credit."

With Travisano having a tough time lauding his own accomplishments, Creighton has no problem doing the talking for him.

Careful not to undervalue some of the most celebrated competitors in the program's past, the coach referred to the midfielder as the best high school lacrosse player he had seen in terms of being a complete package.

"He's the epitome of what a student-athlete should be," the coach said. "He's a great teammate and great in the classroom. Anything extra I needed from him, he was right there."

Winner of the C. Markland Kelly Award for 4A/3A, Travisano notched 37 goals, 14 assists and caused 28 turnovers this season. He also set a county-record with 256 ground balls, which broke Howard defenseman Joe Wilson's all-time mark of 228 that was set in 1990.

Still, it was Travisano's knack for creating extra possessions that took the Lions to the next level.

A talented defense — anchored by all-county selections in Adam Friedman, Peter Emery and goalie Bryan Mauser — held things down, allowing Travisano to take risks and dictate the tempo of the offensive attack with his 83 percent effectiveness from the X.

His efforts were showcased in this year's 4A/3A postseason. In the sectional final against defending state champion Westminster, Travisano won a faceoff and netted the game-tying goal with 18.4 seconds to go in regulation. Then, in the Lions' state championship loss to South River, he won 15 of 17 faceoffs, and scored as well.

"From an offensive standpoint, John did a little bit of everything for us. You don't always find that in a player," Creighton said. "Pretty much every game, we're starting it off thinking that we're going to get the ball. That had to have been the biggest impact."

Growing up, lacrosse had always just been a way to have fun for Travisano. But as the offseason work became more serious, and the collegiate interest began to pick up, things changed.

"Preparation-wise, I was watching film, going over scouts...every last detail," said Travisano, who added that the team's chemistry was also a precursor to this season's success. "The start of summer, we had weights and conditioning three times a week. It was pretty intense, and got a lot of the guys out there from both lacrosse and football."

Soon, he began playing year-round club lacrosse, taking his talents to one of the county's top programs in Rough Riders.

The pinnacle of Travisano's development as a legitimate power came when he was selected to the Under Armour All-America Underclass Tournament, where he received serious attention from noteworthy programs, including Notre Dame.

After visiting the school, and "falling in love with the campus," the choice to join the 2014 national championship finalist Fighting Irish became too enticing to pass up.

"I definitely wanted to go to a good college for the education," he said. "Lacrosse is a great ticket for me."

As a captain, the void Travisano leaves after graduating will be vast. The gaudy statistics and postseason accolades aside, Creighton said that type of career won't be easy to replicate.

"I think everyone knows we're going to miss him a ton. You don't get those guys very often," the coach said. "He's one of those guys that rises to the competition. He's going to get to Notre Dame and be pushed in ways he's never been pushed.

"He loves the process, and that's what you need at that level. I have a ton of confidence in him."

Named to the all-county first team are:

Attack

Scott Bruner, Howard. As a junior on a club that boasted four other first-team selections, Bruner shined in 2014. His 45 goals led the county overall, and his 61 points were a team-best.

"Scott continued his offensive production from a year ago with added attention from opposing defenses," Howard coach Jimmy Creighton said. "He is great at finishing around the goal and dodges hard to score, making it difficult on most defenders. He is a leader of our offense."

Bruner was key to the Lions' offensive strategy in the postseason. In five playoff games, the repeat first-team player racked up 14 goals and seven assists.

Cody Ford, Howard. The other half of Howard's dominant offensive front, Ford's 40 goals on the season tied for third-best in the county this year. Known for his intimidating size and quickness around the crease, Ford developed a reputation as one of the purest offensive talents in league play.

"Cody shoots harder than anyone on our team and probably harder than most in the county," coach Jimmy Creighton said. "He improved on his dodging this season and it showed in some of the bigger games in 2014. He is strong, agile and athletic, making him a tough cover for most."

Like Bruner, Ford stepped up during postseason play. The junior notched 11 goals in those five games, including a pair of scores that cut into South River's expanding lead in the state title game.

Andrew Gavlin, Centennial. Chosen by the coaches as one of this year's two All-American selections, the senior proved to be the most valuable offensive weapon for the Eagles, especially late in the year.

Armed with an uncanny knack for dishing out the assist with ease, Gavlin found success in creating most of Centennial's offense. In the team's playoff win against Winters Mill, he recorded six assists, which added to his league-leading total of 34 on the year.

"Andrew had the most important quality in a star player: unselfishness," coach Nick Kellinger said. "Whether he was scoring or creating goals, Andrew always put team success first."

Gavlin's size, along with his valuable combination of speed and quickness, gave most defenses trouble. It was that style of play that forced opponents into early slides, which got teammates open, according to Kellinger.

Gavlin will enroll at Washington and Lee to play lacrosse next year.

Austin Mitchell, Reservoir. Referred to by his coach as the undisputed team MVP, Mitchell's steady rise as one of the county's premiere players hit its peak this season.

His 52 points on 32 goals and 20 assists — all team bests — helped the Gators to an above .500 record.

"He worked extremely hard in the offseason, and throughout the year," Reservoir coach Bryan Cole said. "He's a great young man and athlete."

Mitchell's athletic proficiency pairs well with his academic standing. The senior was accepted to the Rouse Scholars Program at Howard Community College, where he will also play lacrosse.

Midfield

Luke Cheswick, Glenelg. A Player of the Year candidate that had an impressive end-of-season run, Cheswick was known for his ability to work his way through some of the county's best defenses and score.

His 27 goals and 10 assists were third on his team in both categories, but it was when those goals came that mattered most.

"He was the best downhill dodger in the league," coach Josh Hatmaker said. "During the playoffs, he put us on his shoulders to lead us to a regional championship."

Cheswick will enroll at the University of Maryland in the fall.

Tyler Wasson, Glenelg. One of the bigger midfielders in the county, Wasson had the ability to take over nearly any game with a pair of much-needed goals for the Gladiators.

After his team lost its season-opener to Centennial, Wasson responded the next game against Reservoir with two goals and two assists — starting a trend of working the offense through the senior for the rest of the year.

"Tyler is able to shoot from anywhere on the run, or with time and room," coach Josh Hatmaker said.

He notched 22 goals and 13 assists on the season. He'll attend the United States Naval Academy Preparatory School next year and play lacrosse.

Quinn Western, Centennial. Often one of the fastest players on the field, as well as one the best dodgers, the three-sport senior was "our engine in the midfield," according to coach Nick Kellinger.

"Always an exceptional athlete, Quinn worked hard on his shooting and stick skills in the offseason to become a complete, two-way midfielder," the coach added.

On defense, Western turned many of his 82 ground balls into scoring opportunities, either personally clearing the ball, or finding an outlet pass to begin the transition offensive attack. His 27 goals and 24 assists forced defenders to give his game just as much attention.

Western will enroll at Frostburg next year and continue his lacrosse career.

Brad Zulick, Howard. Along with Travisano, Zulick made his presence known with shutdown play on both sides of the ball.

At 40 goals on the year, he finished as the highest-scoring midfielder in the county.

Lions coach Jimmy Creighton credits the junior's use of "his athleticism, quickness and skill to be successful all over the field."

That speed, the coach added, allowed him to get his hands free and shoot immediately out of his dodge.

Zulick's importance to the team was put on display in Howard's Section I final victory against defending state champion Westminster, when he netted the winning goal in double-overtime.

Defense

Matt Baxter, Glenelg. One of the best takeaway players to put on a Glenelg jersey, coach Josh Hatmaker commended the grit, determination and work ethic Baxter exuded on a daily basis. "He's a tough-nosed kid that makes everyone around him better," the coach said.

Baxter finished this season with 64 ground balls, and on defense, he forced 47 turnovers, including a few crucial moments in the Gladiators' 2014 playoff campaign.

Chase Conley, Centennial. Long and athletic, using his size to his advantage, the senior three-sport athlete was more than just a defender. His ability to scoop up a ground ball or create a turnover, and then start the Centennial transition offense, made him one of the most dangerous players in the county.

"Turn your back on him for a second, and Chase would double-team the ball, causing turnovers," Kellinger said. "Chase was a ground ball machine, often turning defense into offense."

Whether he was at long stick midfielder, or close defense, Conley was always a threat. His 94 ground balls led his team, and had him in the top 10 in the county.

Conley will trade in his red, white and blue for maroon and gold as a member of the Salisbury Sea Gulls next year.

Connor Dubois, Mt. Hebron. A Player of the Year candidate, Dubois led his team in ground balls (83), all the while working with his brother (Casey, goalie) to patrol one of the county's better defenses.

Vikings coach Mike McCarthy commended Dubois' play over the last three years, calling him the anchor of the defense.

"He is an extremely bright young man who has a great lacrosse IQ," McCarthy said.

Dubois was a finalist for the 3A/2A C. Markland Kelly Award, and will play lacrosse at the Florida Institute of Technology next year.

Adam Friedman, Howard. Always given the task of taking on the opponents' No. 1 attackman, Friedman was the glue to a Howard defense that allowed fewer than three goals per regular season contest.

"He was able to either shut down or limit most opposing attackmen throughout the year in and out of county," Howard coach Jimmy Creighton said. "His size, strength, footwork and stick checks gave opposing offensive players fits all season."

A junior who wracked up 75 ground balls, Friedman burst onto the scene as one of the county's fiercest defenders in his third year as a starter.

Goalie

Landry Marshall, Glenelg. Over the last four years, it's hard to find a player in Howard County who demanded as much respect as Marshall. A preseason Player of the Year candidate in the eyes of multiple county coaches, Marshall's biggest impact on the field came with his ability to dictate the Gladiator defense.

"He's an unbelievable leader who was able to put our kids in the right positions, as well as having very quick hands allowing him to make saves that he shouldn't be able to make," Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker said.

Playing with a substantial knee injury for the majority of the season, Marshall never used pain as an excuse when it came to goals allowed or losses. He finished with a 57.1 save percentage, and will play at York College next year.

Chris McTague, Marriotts Ridge. The Mustangs were second-best in points allowed this season in county play, and McTague's play between the pipes was a big reason why.

Coach Tony Incontrera called the senior 3A/2A C. Markland Kelly Award finalist the "backbone" of a defense that only gave up more than 10 goals once this season.

McTague's resolute play in the cage was especially important in the team's 3-0 playoff win against Mt. Hebron, where he had five one-on-one saves alone.

McTague finished with a 66 save percentage and will play at Virginia Wesleyan College next year.

Coach of the Year

Jimmy Creighton, Howard

Assistant Coach of the Year

Wendell Thomas, Atholton

All-American

John Travisano, Howard

Andrew Gavlin, Centennial

Academic All-American

Thomas Stone, Mt. Hebron

Bob Scott Award

Robert Thyberg, River Hill

Man of the Year

Paul Marshall – Coach of three different teams during the spring season and working an additional 20-25 hours a week outside his full-time job as a youth minister, Marshall is known for making a difference in his players’ lives.

“He is a true teacher of character and morals,” Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker said. “That will better all of the county's lacrosse program.”

According to Hatmaker, nearly every high school program in Howard County has fielded players Marshall has coached.

All-County Coaches Honorable Mention

Zach Beard, River Hill, attack

Jake Friedman, River Hill, attack

Jack Grote, Marriotts Ridge, attack

Jimmy McEneaney, River Hill, attack

Mike Moore, Centennial, attack

Wyatt Neely, Oakland Mills, attack

Leo Sementilli, Howard, attack

Sam Smith, Atholton, attack

Ryan Tiffey, Wilde Lake, attack

Ryung Lee, Mt. Hebron, faceoff

Sean McHugh, Atholton, faceoff

John Kolp, Centennial, midfield

Matt Marsh, Reservoir, midfield

Aaron Scott, River Hill, midfield

Tyler Shams, Atholton, midfield

Shane Strott, Hammond, midfield

Craig Burris, Glenelg, defense

Donald Colegrove, Marriotts Ridge, defense

Alex Dagen, Atholton, defense

Brady Kinner, River Hill, defense

Matt Leone, Mt. Hebron, defense

Marshall McGlone, Howard, defense

Kelly Remson, River Hill, defense

Eric Skogmo, Marriotts Ridge, defense

Robert Thyberg, River Hill, defense

Ben Ballard, Hammond, goalie

Joe Boccher, Wilde Lake, goalie

Darius Khademi, River Hill, goalie

Anthony Valenza, Long Reach, goalie