Playing tall: Jake Melville leads Carrboro boys lacrosse

Jake Melville is leading the Carrboro boy’s lacrosse team to its best season in history. He said the whole team has a chip on its shoulder when it plays bigger teams, and that he creates personal rivalries with bigger defenders. (Staff photo by Ben Coley)
Jake Melville is leading the Carrboro boy’s lacrosse team to its best season in history. He said the whole team has a chip on its shoulder when it plays bigger teams, and that he creates personal rivalries with bigger defenders. (Staff photo by Ben Coley)

Checking in at 5 feet 5 inches tall and 125 pounds, Carrboro High School boy’s lacrosse player Jake Melville is used to being one of the smallest players on the field.

But the junior attacker is also used to slashing through lacrosse sticks and swerving through open space. He’s used to tricking defenders and tormenting goalies. In the 2016 season, Melville has scored 26 goals and dished out 16 assists, making Carrboro’s smallest player one of the team’s biggest offensive threats.

“I think a lot of teams underestimate us at first when they see our attack line because our tallest guy is around 5 feet 7 inches,” Melville said. “They underestimate our whole line because they think they can take advantage of our size, but we have good stick skills and speed and we’re able to play around it.”

Melville — a resident of Chapel Hill — said he began playing lacrosse in seventh grade. He’s played all three years at Carrboro, and none have been better than his junior season.

The Jaguars are 9-0, which is the best start in school history. Despite his diminutive frame, Melville leads the team in goals and points, and he is second on the team in assists and shots on goal.

“A big disadvantage (of my size) is having bigger defenders pushing me out of the paint a lot,” Melville said. “But one advantage is that it’s easier to dodge sometimes. And you get a lot of easy penalties when they hit you on the head on accident.”

Melville’s father, Gregg Melville, said that he might be the reason for his son’s height.

“He’s about the same height as me, but he didn’t inherit my family’s side,” Gregg chuckled. “They’re all 6-foot or higher.”

But Gregg said Jake’s height does not hold him back on the field.

“He’s got that passion and fire in his belly,” Gregg said. “It doesn’t matter how tall or big these other guys are. He always thinks he can still beat them.”

Carrboro coach Ron Mitchell said Jake’s biggest strengths are his tenacity, speed and field awareness.

Mitchell added that he isn’t surprised Jake is succeeding with his small size.

“He’s one of these kids that plays with a lot of adrenaline,” Mitchell said. “If he gets into a situation where he’s getting knocked around a little bit, he’s not going to take any crap from anybody.”

Senior defender Luke Knowles said he often goes up against Jake in practice to improve his defensive skills.

Knowles said Jake is difficult to guard because he is agile with both his feet and his stick.

“Once he gets the ball in his stick, it can be out too quickly to get a (stick check) on him,” Knowles said. “He’s always moving around. If a guy just stands there, it’s easy to stand between him and the ball. But he’s always moving and getting the attackmen to move.”

Jake, who scored 17 goals last season, said he had to step into a larger role in 2016. The team is without William Cordes, who led Carrboro with 37 goals in 2015. Cordes transferred to Trinity-Pawling School, a small boarding school in Pawling, New York.

This season, the junior attacker was voted as one of the captains. Jake said his responsibilities include running the attack line, making sure everyone knows the plays and maintaining players’ focus during practices and games.

“(Jake) is not that vocal in that he’s not out there giving big speeches,” Mitchell said. “I really prefer that the captains lead through example, and he does that. Jake is one of those guys on the field who wants the ball, so he gets it a lot.”

Jake said the team owes its success to last season’s 8-7 loss to Chapel Hill High School in the second round of the 2015 state playoffs.

“When we lost our last game last season, players that were returning started practicing a week after,” he said. “So we’ve been preparing for the season for a long time. We put a lot of work in the offseason and played some seven-on-seven tournaments.”

The Jaguars avenged their playoff loss by defeating Chapel Hill 9-6 on March 24. It was Carrboro’s first ever victory over Chapel Hill in boy’s lacrosse. Jake had three goals in the win.

Jake said that a coach has never told him he is too short, but some have said that he should eat more and bulk up.

Whenever he hears that, the junior attacker said that he is reminded of what his middle school basketball coach once told him.

Don’t worry about things you can’t control — like getting taller.

Now, Jake said he only focuses on continuing to work on his craft.

“It is nice to be tall and all, but height doesn’t really matter in most sports,” Jake said. “It also matters on your skill level.

“If you’re short and you have a really good skill level, then most people will take you over a person who’s tall and doesn’t have good skills.”

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Author of the article

Ben is a UNC-CH senior journalism and sports administration major from Pikeville, serving as sports editor of the Carrboro Commons.