By J Banzet ’20
Starting with an 0-4 record after two spring break contests, a trip to Blue Ridge, and the home-opener against Kiski Prep (PA), the Varsity Lacrosse team needed to find its footing. The offense sputtered at times, and the defense fell victim to fatigue. Too many turnovers and a lack of effort on ground balls cost the team many opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. The next three teams on the schedule varied widely in their talent levels, but the Tigers knew they could compete in every game.
Last Tuesday, the defending state champions of the VISAA Division II bracket visited Johnson Stadium as the North Cross Raiders made the three hour journey north from Roanoke. The Tigers seemed to drastically underestimate their opponent, winning only 28% at the face-off X and turning the ball over 15 times. However, Woodberry had a chance to send the game to overtime while on defense with under a minute left. With defensemen Walker Antonio ’19 and J Banzet ’20 doubling the ball out of a time-out, the rest of the defense needed to lock off the rest of the available offensive players. The Tigers were unable to do so successfully, giving up the go-ahead goal with less than a minute left to play. Woodberry never got another shot on goal, losing the game by a score of 9-8.
Colin Kovacs ’20 (2g, 1a) and Mack Daniels ’19 (3a) led all Woodberry players with three points each, while Dylan Walmsley ’19 scored his first varsity goal and Antonio recorded his first assist. Wyatt Martin ’19 saved only 38% of the shots on goal. The Tigers played their worst game of the season to that point and paid the price, losing in an upset to North Cross.
Three days later, Woodberry ventured to Alexandria to face the 23rd-ranked team in the country, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes. This was by far the best team that the varsity team has played this season, and the Saints seemed to overwhelm the Tigers from the opening face-off. Will Thomas ’19 and Jonah Marshall ’21 did the best they could at the face-off X, but they won a mere 8% of the draws against a commit headed for UNC next year. St. Stephen’s scored in the first four seconds of the game and never looked back, taking a 13-1 lead into halftime. Woodberry was able to match the Saints 4-4 in the second half before losing by a final score of 17-5.
Daniels again led the team in points with four (1g, 3a), and Hawkins Schnabel added two goals. Shooting just 22%, committing 21 turnovers, and only winning two of 24 face-offs spelled disaster for the Tigers throughout the day. The positive news after the SSSAS game was that Woodberry had just played the toughest team on its schedule, meaning that the players got a feel for what playing the best team in the state feels like.
Coaches Spotty Robins and Michael Leahy decided that they needed more from their players. They weren’t working hard enough in practice or simply competing with an attitude. The old cliché of “going through the motions” applied strongly to the varsity lacrosse team, so the day after the St. Stephen’s game, the team held a mandatory practice at 1 PM for everyone who was on campus. 10 players were not able to participate due to the art trip to New York City and injuries, so the 24 healthy players worked, and I mean worked hard, for two and a half hours. It was the hardest practice of the season by a wide margin, shown by one player throwing up four times throughout the practice. The heat of the turf, running aspects, and low participation numbers meant that each player got a workout. Coach Robins said before the practice that “We’re gonna get after it today,” and he couldn’t have been more right. The same style of practice was held on Monday after some “walking wounded” got healthy and the artists returned from The Big Apple, and the result on Tuesday afternoon showed that the work paid off.
Not only did the varsity lacrosse team win its first game of the season on Tuesday at Flint Hill, but it won in decisive fashion against a quality opponent. Especially considering the Tigers lost to the Huskies by a score of 12-7 last year at Johnson Stadium, Tuesday’s 10-3 victory showed how far Woodberry has come in just a short amount of time this season. Thomas and Marshall dominated the face-off game, winning 59% throughout the game and essentially playing “Make it, take it” in the first half. The Tigers ran out to a quick 4-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. As a team, Woodberry cleared the ball at a rate of 80%, marking a season high and one of the highest percentages in Coach Robins’ time there. Defensively, the trio of starters in Banzet, Antonio, and Jake Mascotte ’19 allowed two goals throughout three and a half quarters, utilizing both man-to-man and zone defenses to stifle the Huskies’ attack.
Daniels accounted for a season-high eight goals, totaling three goals and five assists. Schnabel added two goals and two assists, Dawson Chitwood ’21 scored a hat trick, and even John Meeks ’21 recorded an assist from his long stick-midfielder spot. Coach Leahy had his offense clicking on all cylinders, proven by the 36 total shots taken, 20 of which were on cage. Martin stood tall between the pipes as the Tigers’ goalie, saving 67% of the shots on goal and only allowing three past him. It’s safe to say that Woodberry will need to carry this momentum forward from its first W of 2019 into this weekend.
On Friday, the varsity lacrosse team takes the hike to Virginia Beach to play Cape Henry Collegiate, whom the Tigers lost to by a score of 7-6 last season and on a last-second goal. The Dolphins have a record of 4-5 heading into Friday afternoons contest, while Woodberry looks to take its 1-6 record to the beach and win a second game in a row. Face-off is set for 4:30 PM at Cape Henry Collegiate.
Then, on Saturday, after spending the night in the Norfolk area, the Tigers play their second game in as many days and take on Norfolk Academy. The Bulldogs are a perennial powerhouse in the commonwealth of Virginia, carrying with them a five game win streak in which they have outscored their opposition by a score of 77-14. Last year’s game took place during a snowstorm at Johnson Stadium, where Norfolk Academy won 14-3. The Bulldogs currently sit with a 6-3 record, pending their Friday afternoon matchup with Blue Ridge. Face-off is at 12:00 PM at Norfolk Academy.