Do or do not, there is no try.
Lambert’s Trey Arnold probably cycled the famed words of Yoda through his mind every night during the spring.
The curse of being a senior on a program with expectations is that there are no moral victories—even when your team enters the state title game with a perfect 20-0 record. After losing in the championship as a freshman and sophomore, Arnold and the Longhorns were wiped out of the playoffs in the first round last season.
He and Lambert’s senior-laden crew had no choice but to win a state championship in 2016. Even without a single loss as they walked onto the field at Lassiter to face the Trojans on May 14, Arnold had nerves.
As a faceoff specialist, Arnold admits he spent a lot of time standing and watching during the Longhorns’ eventual 6-3 triumph over Lassiter to claim their third state championship (2009, 2011).
“We only had nine faceoffs off goals, plus quarters, so 13 for the game. There wasn’t a lot for me to do,” Arnold said. “But standing on the field, it was kind of surreal seeing everyone play at such a high level around me. Our defense was outstanding in that game—unreal, honestly. As the clock ticked down I could kind of relax and enjoy the moment. It was perfect.”
Arnold was one of nine seniors to celebrate the feeling of finally accomplishing a goal they set out for four years ago, but his role as the team’s faceoff specialist put him in a world of his own.
It’s a specialized position—essentially the “tipoff” in a game of basketball, as Arnold described it. He also thinks it’s likely similar to what quarterbacks do in a triple-option offense on the football field. At the beginning of each live play, Arnold kneels down to the ground, grabs the ball from an opponent and immediately has to find the open man to his left, or right, to sling it over to—starting the attack.
This season he won 76-percent of his faceoffs. It was good enough to earn All-State and All-American accolades. He’ll head to Robert Morris, a private school in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, to continue his craft as a faceoff specialist in the fall.
“My teammates up there have already given me a hard time for being an All-American. It’s all fun and games. It’s because I’m from the south,” Arnold said.
It is random, Arnold thinks, that he’s an elite lacrosse player. Arnold’s father played baseball, while his grandfather was a football standout at West Virginia.
“I’m the farthest thing from lacrosse,” Arnold said. “I played football growing up. Lacrosse was just something available to me and I fell in love with it.”
FCN: How does someone go from being a lacrosse player to a faceoff specialist?
Arnold: Well, in the seventh grade I got moved from defense to middie, and at that point coaches just wanted someone to go do it. I’d say alright and take my shots at it, but I wasn’t very good at it. In my eighth grade year I watched some videos, searched some things on the internet and tried to get better. Then, finally, between my freshman and sophomore year I joined Faceoff Academy and got professional training. That’s when I really put it all together and it’s been consistent ever since.
FCN: Lambert has so many state championship banners and has only been around for seven years? How? What is it you guys keep doing?
Arnold: I think it’s the commitment at the youth level. I think it’s how our varsity athletes help out. I mean there’s a football camp going on right next to us right now and we’ve got seniors out there helping out. We’re building a top-down foundation in just about every sport.
FCN: What is your involvement with the youth programs and lacrosse outside of your playing time?
Arnold: A ton, really. I help with Rage, our local youth lacrosse program, and train individuals. I think it’s great that people will reach out to me for training. I don’t want to be on the platform that I am and take it for granted. There’s responsibility that comes with people reaching out to you for instruction and I take a lot of pride in that. I’m not going to just turn someone away. I want to see this sport grow in the state of Georgia and be as big of a part of it as I can.
FCN: You’re heading to Robert Morris. What went into that decision?
Arnold: I took a lot of campus tours. Loyola wanted me, then their faceoff coach who recruited me moved to North Carolina. I didn’t want to sit for four years, so I wanted to pick a place where I could make an impact. Robert Morris will give me that opportunity, it’s kind of smaller and really, as a suburb school near a big city, kind of feels like home. I love Pittsburgh, toured all of the sports venues out there and just felt like it was the right place for me.