Justin Shockey considered giving up lacrosse at one point. But with the support of teammates and mentors, he stayed with it to become the premier face-off man in the nation and earns LaxRecords.com’s first-ever Player of the Year.
The future Maryland face-off man put together one of the more impressive seasons in Landon (Bethesda, Md.) history. Shockey won 79.3 percent of his face-offs this season and chipped in 197 ground balls, leading the team in both categories. Even with face offs being his primary duty, Shockey chipped in 24 points on 14 goals and 10 assists. He was a key cog in Landon’s 21-0 season in which they won both the regular and postseason IAC championships and secured the Consensus No. 1 ranking in the nation.
“He was a beast,” Landon head coach Rob Bordley said. “Justin was as dominant a face-off guy as we’ve ever had. Not only was he giving us that many more possessions each game, but other teams could not go on a run. I don’t think there was a game where we lost two face-offs in succession.”
Landon scored 275 goals this season, led by the duo of Joey Epstein and Nate Buller who accounted for 126 of those. Shockey’s ability to command the dot helped Landon’s ability to dominate a game. Controlling the ball helped the defense give up just 6.90 goals per game this season.
Against The Best
Of the Bears’ 21 games, only two teams had losing records. They played five games against nationally ranked opponents and handed New England West I champion Brunswick School (Conn.) its only loss of the year. Only Landon stood in the way of Bullis (Md.) winning back-to-back conference titles. Two of Bullis’ three losses were to Landon, including the championship game.
Landon handed St. Ignatius Prep (San Francisco, Calif.) its only loss during their East Coast trip. The Wildcats won their final two games against Garden City (N.Y.) and Chaminade (Mineola, N.Y.). Chaminade won the CHSAA AAA title and Garden City reached the Long Island Class B championship game this season.
“Shockey is one of the best guys I’ve ever seen,” St. Ignatius Prep head coach Chris Packard said. “We ran into a buzz saw when we faced Landon and Justin Shockey.”
How He Got So Good
Before he learned to face off, Shockey played attack in middle school. He was good, but as he got older and the competition increased. Shockey fell down the depth cart and considered giving up lacrosse.
“I’m pretty into white water kayaking and towards the end of my middle school career, that’s where my passion was,” Shockey said. “I almost gave up lacrosse to pursue that.”
Obviously, he kept with it, but why?
“Some good upperclassmen and mentors kept me in the sport. Jarett Witzal [face-off man at Bucknell] really kept me in it. He trained with me and we worked out together almost every weekend my freshman year,” Shockey said. “I met Chris Mattes and he really took me under his wing and taught me everything I know. Some of our great coaches at Landon, Coach Bordley, and Conor Cassidy really pushed me. All the credit goes to them.”
Bordley believes the kayaking experience might have an impact on the face-off prowess Shockey has shown in his career.
Shockey is probably one of the best guys I’ve ever seen,” St. Ignatius Prep (San Francisco, Calif.) head coach Chris Packard said.
“There’s similar push-pull and punch motions that are similar to face-offs and Face-offs, for me, are a real mental game,” Shockey said. “Running Class 5 rapids you must have mental composure and When you get into a close game in the fourth quarter that similar mental composure is required to stay calm and do what you know.”
For context, Class 5 rapids are expert level with continuous rapids, large rocks, and hazards. These type of rapids are characterized by “must make” moves. Failure to execute a specific maneuver at a specific point may result in serious injury or death.
Shockey racked up the honors this season. He earned Washington Post All-Met Player of the Year, USA Today American Family Insurance Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year, Under Armour and US Lacrosse All-America honors and earned Landon Co-MVP with Epstein. He earned LaxRecords.com’s Player of the Week for the week of May 15 after winning 31 of 45 face-offs that week.
In true team-first attitude, Shockey credits his teammates with those personal honors and the team’s success this season.
“It’s a tribute to not only my hard work, but our whole team’s hard work and I could not have had the season I had without coaches like Mattes, Cassidy, and Bordley. I couldn’t have done it without the guys on my wing: [William] Powell, [John] Geppert, Zach Johnson, Andrew Fowler. It’s a team effort and it showed in the end.”