Pat Shelley’s lacrosse stick became one of his best friends and his offseason training was like a full-time job for the past three years.

But all that sweat and determination, all those hours he spent at lacrosse clinics and summer camps and in the weight room helped provide Hebron Academy’s boys’ lacrosse team with the 2013 MAISAD Championship — and Shelley was named one of two U.S. Lacrosse All-Americans from the league.

It was sort of a 2-for-1 deal for the MVP co-captain who graduated from Hebron Academy last week and earned All-MAISAD and All-Northern New England Lacrosse League (NNELL) goalkeeper accolades, as well.

Shelley came up with a strategy his sophomore year to step up his game. He put his heart and soul into his arduous training, and it all paid off in his final season at Hebron.

“I really don’t think I ever took that big break from lacrosse,” Shelley said. “Over the last three years, I think the longest I have taken off is only two weeks. I put a lot in the fall and a lot in the summer.

“In the fall, I woke up at six in the morning to work out and play. I think at Hebron I was able to go out there and use the gym and the field.”

Shelley did not live at Hebron. He has been making the 25-mile, roundtrip commute from Poland to Hebron since the seventh grade, but Shelley never gave those long drives a second thought.

“I just felt (Hebron Academy) was a better system for myself,” Shelley explained. “I felt like I was more of a person than a number. I got all the extra help I needed, which really helped me.”

Shelley learned that a goalie at Gould Academy earned All-American status. He spoke with an assistant coach about it and set his sights on the award, but toward the end of the season, he forgot about that small promise he made to himself.

But coaches in the NNELL didn’t forget about Shelley’s prowess in the Lumberjacks’ net.

“When my coach called me and told me I got it, I couldn’t believe it,” said Shelley, who also played football and hockey at Hebron. “I didn’t see it coming at all.

“It means everything to me. It is what I have been working for my entire high school career. It’s special for Hebron, because I owe everything to them. It’s the craziest thing to happen to me.”

But when you take a close look at what Shelley accomplished on the playing field his senior year, it appears he was a shoo-in for the prestigious accolade.

Shelley’s impressive statistics include averaging 5.87 goals against and making 149 stops on 237 shots in 15 games, which comes out to a total of a .630 save percentage. His best performance was against Holderness School, where he made 18 saves on 23 shots on net. The Lumberjacks went to defeat Gould Academy in a 12-9 road victory for the first time in three years to clinch the MAISAD Championship. For Hebron’s handy work, the academy received the NNELL’s Bill Pottle Sportsmanship Award.

“This recognition motivates me because it shows me that hard work really does pay off,” Shelley said.

All this was the result of Hebron’s seasoned players, a strong defense and a diligent goalie who kept his head in the game during a championship season.

Go back to Shelley’s junior year and Hebron boys’ lacrosse coach Kit Smith will honestly tell you he wasn’t sure if Shelley had what it took to be an All-American.

But Shelley’s offseason workouts and discipline allowed the goalie to shine his senior year.

“He is our quarterback when we are trying to get the ball into the offensive area of the field,” Smith said. “He really worked hard on his fitness in the offseason, and that part of his game was outstanding toward end of the year.

“I have known him for two years. He is one of the more coachable kids I have met. He really listens when you tell him something.”

Smith saw a difference in Shelley’s game and knew he had busted his hump in the offseason to become a better player.

“I know he listens what different coaches told him and just soaked it all up,” Smith recalled. “It really showed in his senior year.

I think most of the time, these accolades are sort of a reflection of how the team did during the season. I thought he had a shot at it. I nominated him.”

There is no question Shelley played a huge roll in the Lumberjacks’ championship season.

” I think one of our strong points all season long was our defense,” Smith said. “We played a special type of zone defense. It was very difficult for our opponents to figure out. It really played to Pat’s strengths.

“Goalies, when facing a 2- or 3-yard shot, it’s kind of like a layup for the opposing team, but when you make them shoot a littler further out, it really gave Shelley a chance to see the ball and react and bring his technique and athleticism into the game.”

So what is next for a bright young man and an All-American who can’t get enough lacrosse?

Shelley will be attending Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., in the fall. He is not sure what he will study, but he is definitely planning on trying out for the Gulls’ men’s lacrosse team.

“It is kind of like a bigger Hebron. I like the internship programs,” Shelley said.

Sounds like another perfect fit for a fine student and athlete who understands what hard work and discipline are all about.

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