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Setting Up the Stallion Stomp

South County girls lacrosse team hosts first outdoor tournament in program’s history.

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South County Megan Wears (8) controls the ball against a Marshall defender during the last game of the 2008 Stallion Stomp.

South County girls lacrosse head coach Barbara Mahony didn’t get much sleep on Friday night. Part of the reason was that Mahony’s Stallions were set to play three more games the next morning at their weekend tournament. What was really keeping Mahony up was the fact that the tournament, which featured six teams from across the state, was the 2008 Stallion Stomp, South County’s first girls lacrosse tournament in the school’s short history.

Before the Stallions played their first game of the day at 9:45 a.m., Mahony had work to do. The scheduled referees had been double-booked and wouldn’t be able to make it on Saturday, forcing Mahony to find refs from Richmond – enticing them to come up with a free car wash and paid mileage. And then there was the ever-looming threat of rain that could cancel the second day of a tournament that took months of planning.

“I am not real good at sleeping when there is stress like this,” said Mahony, who got to bed well after midnight and woke up at 5:20 a.m. on Saturday.

<b>MAHONY WENT</b> to South County Director of Student Activities Bob McKeag last year with hopes of being able to set up a tournament. Fairfax County rules dictate that high school lacrosse teams can only play 11 regular-season games. If a team enters an invitational tournament, that number can be bumped up to 14. Mahony couldn’t find an open slot in any existing tournament.

“The key is, we would like to maximize the number of games that the kids get to play,” said McKeag. “She wanted to do something. That is the main reason behind it.”

“What we needed to do was maximize what these kids were getting," said Mahony. "Eventually, we want to be on the level of the private schools around here, [who sometimes play over 20 games]. Not if we aren’t getting the game time. Not if we aren’t getting the time on the field.”

McKeag agreed and Mahony threw out a line to recruit other schools to sign up for the new tournament. The response wasn’t strong.

“I have just been so stressed as each month went by and I didn’t have enough people,” said Mahony. “I just kept advertising to everybody that I could think of.”

Two other Northern Region teams, Thomas Jefferson and Marshall, were joined by Woodbridge and Osbourn Park as the first four teams to respond. Eventually, with the inclusion of the Deep Run club lacrosse team, the six-team field was filled out. More importantly to Mahony, all six teams appeared to be at the same skill level.

“I was taking anybody who wanted to come, but we all were in the same general area,” she said. “Nobody had to get blown out. I’ve been on the receiving end of that. You don’t want to play that game.”

<b>ALL THAT WAS</b> left was actually making the tournament happen – something that became more than just a team effort. A committee of parents worked to take as much off of Mahony’s plate as possible. McKeag and assistant directors of student activities Pete Bendorf and Mike Pflugrath worked extra hours to help out.

“It was really about everybody pitching in,” said Mahony.

Even the players themselves joined in, helping design the program and making posters.

“Everybody had their piece to do and it all went really well,” said Millie Wears, mother of sophomore midfielder Megan Wears.

“I think in terms of just how things have run and all things falling into place, this one has been the smoothest [tournaments] that we have had so far,” said McKeag, who has hosted tip-off and holiday basketball tournaments. “I attribute a lot of that to the parent volunteers and the people that worked so hard to make it happen.”

<b>BY SATURDAY AFTERNOON</b>, Mahony was helping pack up the fields. Her squad had just finished a 15-7 win over Marshall to finish the tournament with a 4-1 record.

“I am beside myself,” she said – the stress that kept her up last night a distant memory. All of the games were played as scheduled, despite some brief rain showers. The referees from Richmond were well received.

“I’ve got a good situation here,” said Mahony of South County. “We had a group of parents that were just ridiculous and [DSA McKeag] didn’t once hesitate in supporting this.”