WEDDINGTON – James Shipley was a 9-year-old and already turning into a star on the football field when his little brother and a friend began playing lacrosse.
At first, Shipley said he didn’t think much of it, but as his brother continued to play, he started to take an interest in it.
The sport had everything he liked. It used speed, quickness, athleticism and vision and required a toughness that attracted Shipley.
His natural athleticism comes from his parents. James Sr. was a basketball standout at Catawba and later at N.C. State. His mom, Tammy, was known as Tammy Schoderbek in the late 1980s, when she helped N.C. State to two appearances in the women’s soccer Final Four including the 1988 championship game.
So lacrosse just had a natural fit that
Shipley gravitated toward.
He’s still a star on the Weddington football field, having been named the Offensive MVP in the Warriors’ 2016 state championship win and a key receiver/return man/defensive back since. But it’s on the lacrosse field where everything is natural and fluent.
Behind Shipley, and this year with his freshman brother Will, the Warriors are two-time defending state champions on the lacrosse field.
And Shipley is a big reason why.
This past season, he exceeded the 100-point plateau by scoring 55 goals and handing out a team-best 47 assists along with 55 ground balls.
First-year coach Britton Short said Shipley could have scored more had he wanted, but he is the consummate team player and as skilled as anyone he’s seen.
“He’s very team oriented in everything he does and he’s just very talented,” Short said. “He’s got a great shot, and he has this motor inside him that doesn’t stop running and this stamina that I’ve never seen before. When you put it all together, it makes it kind of unfair to be honest. He’s so good that it kind of makes it unfair.”
With that skill set, the accolades have quickly followed.
Shipley was the conference player of the year, a first-team all-state selection and also named a U.S. Lacrosse All-American in addition to becoming the 2018 Union County Weekly Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.
“He’s just a great player,” Short said. “His vision is probably his best quality on the field, but he’s so good because he always has his head up. He’s just as, if not more, athletic than anyone he’s going to see on the field. He’s just as fast. He’s just as shifty. He’s actually more shifty than any player I’ve ever seen — and he’s able to avoid defenders very, very easily.”
Shipley said he sees himself as a multi-dimensional player who can provide whatever the team needs in any situation.
But his best attribute is getting others involved.
“I think being able to create offense for other people is a big strength of mine,” he said. “We have guys on our team who can move around and get open. That makes my job easier and with the guys I have around me, it makes it so easy to do my job.”
With Shipley as the main facilitator, the Warriors dominated their opponents. They went 19-2 this season led by a stingy defense and Shipley’s playmaking that allowed seven players to reach double figures in goals this season.
“This year was incredible,” Shipley said. “Most of us have played together for a really long time, and we’ve all worked really hard together to achieve the goals we wanted to as a team. It’s awesome to be on this team because every day, we play against the best competition we’re going to face all year in practice. That helped us become so creative and dominant on offense.”
In the championship game, Weddington went up 12-2 early and dominated East Chapel Hill in a 19-6 win. Shipley had a goal and tied brother Will with a game-high four assists.
“It was our best game of the year,” Shipley said. “We came out strong in all facets of the game — offense, defense, goalie and face-offs. As a team, we’re really tough. We fought through adversities from our first fall practice all the way to the end of the season, and it was great to wrap it up.”
Shipley has already committed to Penn to play lacrosse, although he is getting recruited for football as well. He said he’s keeping his options open in either sport, but Penn is a good fit academically and athletically.
In addition to being a two-sport star and a three-time state champion on the field, Shipley is also fifth in his class academically. He is interested in business, which matches up well with Penn’s business school that ranks within the top five in the country.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “Once I stepped on campus, I knew it was the right place for me between the athletics, the academics and the social environment. It was everything that I wanted.”
But Shipley said he’s looking forward to next year, when he hopes to lead the Warriors to a couple of more state championships and a three-peat in lacrosse.
“It would mean the world to end with another,” he said. “It’s everything we worked for since we started playing lacrosse in the seventh grade together and it’s all of our goals.”
And there may be no better leader than Shipley to take them there.
“He’s at that level now where he knows how to handle himself,” Short said. “If he makes a mistake on the field, he knows exactly when it happened and why it happened. He has no problem coming off the field, saying he messed up and it won’t happen again.
“On the field, he’s great. Off the field, he’s a great leader, too. He’s the total package.”
Boys Lacrosse Super Team
Colby Barsz, Weddington
The sophomore was one third of a tremendous back line that led Weddington to its second straight title. Barsz corralled 65 ground balls, locked down opposing offenses and even scored twice.
Bryce Cheek, Weddington
Cheek was the county’s top goalkeeper this season and the last line of defense for the 19-2 state champion Warriors. The junior went 16-2 in goal and stopped 151 shots at a 59 percent save percentage clip.
Tanner Cox, Weddington
Cox was another of the shutdown defenders the champs used en route to winning their second straight title. The junior was the Warriors’ top fielder. Last season, he recorded 70 ground balls in addition to helping allow just six goals per game.
Zach Kenley, Marvin Ridge
The senior midfielder and face-off specialist was a big reason why the Mavs posted a 16-4 record. Kenley won a team-best 89 ground balls and scored 17 goals to go with four assists. He won 173 of 226 face offs, which amounted to a 77 percent success rate.
Aidan Lassiter, Marvin Ridge
The all-conference midfielder was terrific for the Mavs this season. The Lenoir-Rhyne recruit dominated the midfield by winning 51 ground balls. He could score when given a chance, as he tallied nine goals and four assists.
Justin Moore, Marvin Ridge
The junior defender was a key to the Mavs defensive unit which allowed just 5.75 goals per game. Moore also recorded 16 ground balls, but his main job was to lock down opponents. He did that well.
Jared Papke, Weddington
The junior defender earned all-American honors for his stellar play for the state champs. Papke dominated the Warriors back line that allowed an average of just six goals per game and picked up 45 ground balls. He even scored twice.
Cam Renner, Marvin Ridge
The Mavs lost four games, three of which to state champions, so their 16-4 record was no fluke. The Furman commit netted 35 goals and piled on 42 assists and 21 ground balls to lead the offense.
James Shipley, Weddington
The junior Penn commit was sensational this year, guiding the Warriors to their second straight crown. Shipley earned all-American honors and is the Union County Weekly Player of the Year after scoring 55 goals and adding a team-best 47 assists and 43 ground balls.
Will Shipley, Weddington
The freshman midfielder made a grand entrance into his varsity career and was a big reason for the champs second straight title. Shipley scored 29 times on the year. He racked up huge field numbers with 33 assists and 54 ground balls.
Anthony Todaro, Weddington
Todaro led the champs with a team-best 72 goals and was second on the team with 42 assists. In the title game, the sophomore scored eight times and dished out three assists to earn the MVP honors.
Jack Wilton, Sun Valley
The Spartans had a turnaround season with seven wins, the school’s best mark in a decade. Wilton was a huge reason why. He corralled 53 ground balls and added 23 goals and 15 assists for the Spartans.
James Bucher, Cuthbertson.
Michael Burns, Weddington.
Will Canata, Marvin Ridge.
Zachary Koch, Cuthbertson.
Jake Leath, Porter Ridge.
Whitner Litton, Weddington.
Ben Lyon, Marvin Ridge.
Ryan Mannarino, Sun Valley.
Eamon Murphy, Weddington.
Christian Sadler, Porter Ridge.
Nick Spiers, Marvin Ridge.
Kris Weber, Cuthbertson.