After going 7-7 on the regular season, the boys varsity lacrosse team rallied in the playoffs, winning the Conference 29 championship and beating Hanover to advance to the second round of the regional tournament.
According to head coach Alex Whitten, both the deceptive regular season record and postseason winning streak are results of a purposefully tough schedule. “While we would have loved to chalk up more wins, we intentionally schedule as many matches with hard, out-of-conference teams as we can,” he said. “We played Midlothian, EC Glass, Patrick Henry Roanoke, Douglas Freeman and Covenant, all of which are very strong programs. We wanted to test our mettle and prepare for the post season.”
Looking ahead at the regional tournament bracket—the team is slated to play EC Glass on May 30—Whitten was feeling confident. Now that the stakes are win-or-go-home, he said, the team continues to up its game.
After crushing Hanover in the tourney’s opening round 17-3, he appears to be right. “This year we really did a great job developing over the course of the season and now it’s showing,” Whitten explained. “Last year we graduated a huge senior class, so we moved lots of players up from the JV ranks into key positions where they’ve had to play a lot more. We saw some growing pains earlier in the season, but we’re blessed with a group of talented, hard-working kids, and the maturation process took place right before our eyes, and they’ve kept getting better and better.” Whitten said the team focused on execution and playing fast-paced lacrosse, emphasizing a style of play that effects quick transitions, places high pressure on opponents, and nets a lot of goals.
Leading the team on offense were two senior captains, midfielder AJ Donovan and attacker James Beutow. “Coming off last year’s season-ending ACL injury, AJ has worked extremely hard to come back and be a major leader for this team, and a huge offensive threat from midfield,” said Whitten. “And James has just scored a ton of goals—he’s our go-to man up front; he’s strong, tough and gets it done.”
Defensive leaders were seniors Chris Valente and Henry Houghton. “Together these guys have anchored a young defensive unit and helped us improve tremendously,” said Whitten. “It’s been so much fun watching them develop. Chris is a big, strong athlete and runs the field really well. Henry’s a very vocal leader and stepped into and embraced that role for us this year.”
Whitten noted that the team has 20 rising juniors. 2018 will feature a deeply experienced lineup. Particularly exciting are the prospects of three returners: sophomore Jack Lesemann, junior Wilson Kelley, and junior John Carr Haden. “We’re looking for these guys to do some amazing things,” he said. “Jack’s probably our best current all-around defensive player and is great at transitioning. Wilson has been our go-to faceoff guy this spring, which is a critical role, and he’s only going to come back bigger and stronger. And John is likely our best all-around attacker. So we have a lot going for us.”