Mahoney’s Shutdown Defense and Leadership Guides Grizzlies
James Mahoney anchored the defense for the Guilford boys’ lacrosse team during the 2022 season. A two-year starter, James turned in a dominant performance as a junior to help the Grizzlies have a successful campaign this spring.
James’s ability to be a force on defense makes him a key contributor and a solid leader for the Grizzlies. With his attitude, work ethic, and leadership, James guided Guilford through a season that featured 10 wins, including a victory in the of the Class L State Tournament.
James takes pride in the presence that he brings to the lacrosse field. As a central defender, James plays an integral role as the go-to commander for help, call-outs, and overall support for his fellow defenders and Guilford’s goalie. James approaches his job seriously and loves having the responsibility of leading his teammates.
“On defense, my job specifically is to maintain order. I’m the loudest person on the field. I think my little words or things I blurt out to people helps them. It keeps them in check,” says James. “I absolutely thrive under the pressure. I wouldn’t be working nearly as hard as I am now if I wasn’t under this pressure.”
James developed his no-nonsense attitude as he was working his way up the ranks in Guilford. Due to his birthday being in August, James had an opportunity to play up one year throughout his youth, competing alongside members of this year’s senior class. James had seen what the athletes who came before him had accomplished and wanted to help the Grizzlies continue that tradition of success.
“They went to the state finals, and I wanted to do that. That looked like a lot of fun,” James says. “We had an underdog-type thing I think, because nobody would even mention us. I just think we had to prove to ourselves that we could compete.”
James didn’t watch a lot of sports while growing up, but found his passion in athletics when he started playing lacrosse. James marveled at the art of catching and throwing a ball with a stick, in addition to the physical nature of the game. After starting with lacrosse in 3rd grade and then joining the Guilford wrestling team, James brought a hard-nosed mentality to the Guilford boys’ lacrosse squad that has made a pivotal difference for the program.
“I believe in the mentality of how people get up early to work out because nobody else is. I’m doing the extra work, because I know my rival or opponent won’t be doing this,” says James. “I’m trying to work as hard, if not harder, than the other people around me.”
Bolstered by a strong defensive effort from James, Guilford posted a record of 10-9 for the 2022 season, marking a huge improvement from the club’s 3-win season last year. James played some of his best lacrosse during some of the team’s toughest matchups, including a come-from-behind 13-11 victory versus Amity. James calls that win one of the biggest highlights of the Grizzlies’ campaign.
Shortly after the Amity game, Guilford had a battle against Fairfield Prep. James and the Grizzlies took a 19-3 loss in the contest, although the game meant more to James than the final score revealed. James was dealing with a shoulder injury, but displayed his character by toughing it out for the entire game.
“We had a really long break before our Prep game, and that was going to be a big game, because we’ve never beaten Prep before, I don’t believe,” James says. “It’s always a big opportunity every time we get to play them. I tried to prepare myself the best.”
Head Coach Brian White describes James as a one-of-a-kind defender. White feels that James’s stout play on defense is complemented nicely by his leadership. James was named one of Guilford’s captains for the 2023 season, and Coach White is eager to see how James will perform in that role.
“This year, James was one of those kids that was our rock and our foundation on that end of the field,” says White. “We used to call him ‘Heavy Hands James,’ because he throws checks that you feel when you’re watching. He’s physical and aggressive.”
James took major strides toward becoming an all-around role model for his teammates this season. He felt proud when Guilford earned an 18-5 victory over Lyman Hall in the qualifying round of the Class L State Tournament. As a captain next year, James will be looking to lead the Grizzlies to an even better season on the strength of more consistency.
“I just think we need to take losses better. After a loss, we need to not just forget and move on. We need to reflect and grow from it,” James says. “We need to actually realize what we did wrong and why it happened and how we’d fix it. I want people to care.”
James is prioritizing overall growth from everyone on the Guilford boys’ lacrosse team heading into next season. James is going continue dedicating himself to helping the Grizzlies succeed when he’s a senior. James wants to be a great leader who brings his teammates together when his team hits the field in 2023.
“I think we just need to get together more outside of lacrosse. Pasta parties were the best part of the season, because I got to know the underclassmen better,” says James. “I just think that connection makes us stronger on the field and that we should become friends, and not just teammates.”