The Langley High girls’ lacrosse team is coming off of back-to-back years in which the Saxons captured the Liberty District tournament title.
Langley, a younger team overall this season, realizes it will be a difficult task to garner another district crown this spring. But the Saxons will be going for it. On top of that, Langley hopes to go a step further at the 16-team Northern Region tournament. The past three seasons have seen the Saxons lose regional quarterfinals games. Last year’s season ended with a quarterfinals loss to Robinson.
"Obviously, our goal is to get to the [region] semifinals," said fourth year Langley head coach Rich DeSomma.
Once again, Woodson and Langley are likely to be the Liberty District’s top two teams. Woodson dominated the Liberty from 1998 through 2005 (eight straight district championships for the Cavaliers) before Langley dethroned the powerhouse team in 2006.
The two teams will meet for the first time this spring on April 24 at Langley.
"The Woodson game is going to be the big challenge," said DeSomma.
THE SAXON COACH knows what it takes to win in the Northern Region. His coaching background includes being an assistant coach at Lake Braddock High for five years before becoming Westfield’s inaugural head coach when the school opened up in the 1999-2000 school year.
DeSomma said that first season at Westfield, the spring of 2000, was challenging because he had a varsity squad made up of freshmen and sophomores.
"It was very intense," said DeSomma. "The first year was a developing year."
By his third season there, DeSomma led Westfield all the way to the region semifinals where the Bulldogs were finally eliminated by Robinson.
DeSomma, who was the Westfield head coach for four years, has taken over a more established program at Langley, and the Saxons have been one of the region’s better teams. This season should be no different.
The Saxons’ key players this spring include senior attack/midfield player Lauren Canning, who recently signed a letter of intent to play the sport collegiately at William & Mary, sophomore goalie Mary Riley Pembroke, junior attack/midfielder Maggie Kovacs and senior Sonia Singh, who will anchor the defensive unit.
Pembroke played a backup role last year at goalie. This year, she is the team’s starter in the net.
"I think she’s a real promising goalie," said DeSomma.
Canning, senior attack Nora Luce and Singh are each team tri-captains.
Lauren Canning’s younger sister, sophomore midfielder Jillian, is also a member of the team.
Lauren Canning will bring aggressive and intense play to the Saxons’ offense, while Kovacs plays a more finesse style.
The offense will be a strength of the Saxons’ team, as will the team’s defense.
"To have a good defense, you have to have girls who work together," said DeSomma.
The coach said his team members worked hard during the offseason to improve their games. Pembroke and Singh were both members of the Maryland-Delaware Club Team. Kovacs, meanwhile, played for the Maryland Skywalkers club.
"All these girls played club ball in the offseason," said DeSomma, of his team members. "When they came back, they were better players."
THE COACH BELIEVES the Saxons are hungry to go further at regionals then they have gone in recent seasons. Prior to the team’s region quarterfinals loss to Robinson last year, the coach talked to his team about breaking through and getting into the semifinals. It didn’t happen, but Langley is going to continue working hard to give itself the best chance possible of advancing further later this spring.
"We have discussed getting over the hump and getting into the semifinals," said DeSomma. "I’ve talked about it this year because they need a long range goal. But our short-term goals are game-to-game.
"Getting to a place where we’ve never been before is our long range goal at Langley High School," said the coach. "They’ve got to want it, and they do. It’s got to come from them."
Langley won a scrimmage game over Annandale last week, 15-14. The team opened the new season with a game against Loudoun Valley on March 14. This week (Spring Break week), the Saxons are off. They are scheduled to play again on March 25 at 7:15 p.m. at non-district opponent Mount Vernon. On March 27, Langley will travel to district opponent Marshall. The Saxons’ next home game is set for March 31 against Wet Springfield.
A young Marshall High girls’ lacrosse team has enough talent where it should show marked improvement from last years’ Statesmen team that finished 1-11.
Marshall, under second year head coach Andrew Freeman, lost its season opener last Thursday night, 16-9, in a high-scoring, non-district contest played at Falls Church High School.
But Freeman was not dis-pleased with his team’s play in the setback to the improving Jaguars.
"We have some talent, but we’re pretty young," said Freeman, who was the Marshall programs’ head JV coach for two years before taking over the helm of the varsity program prior to the 2007 season. "Falls Church really impressed me. They have four players who are really good and they played as a team. I was glad to see our team play well. We moved the ball well amongst ourselves,"
Marshall was not scheduled to play any games over spring break week, but Freeman said the club would practice a few times. The team’s next game is scheduled for Thursday, March 27 when the Statesmen open up their Liberty District schedule with a home game against Langley.
Marshall’s top player this spring is junior midfielder Nicole Brown, a team captain and one of the Northern Region’s premier players.
"She’s just a phenomenal player," said Freeman. "When she has the ball, she draws a lot of attention. She’s just a great athlete and sees the field well. She has a good shot and will learn to master it by next year."
Last year, Brown played more of a defensive role for the Statesmen because that is where the team needed to utilize her skills most. She earned Second Team All-District honors.
"She’s a potential, shutdown defender with her intelligence and athletic ability," said Freeman. "She can just lock down on one player and make it hard for them to get a quality shot."
Brown is one of 11 juniors on the Marshall roster this season, which bodes well for next year when each of those players will have another year of varsity experience under their belts.
Another key junior is goalie Charlotte Miller, who, like Brown, is a team captain. Miller earned Second Team All-District accolades last year and could be even tougher in the net this season.
"She has a good chance to be First Team this year," said Freeman. "She’s really finding herself [at the position]. Last year as a sophomore she had the position down pretty well. What she lacked was that goalie presence. This year, she is showing a leadership role and most of her teammates look at her as a leader."
In all, Marshall has five team captains, all of them being juniors. Along with Miller and Brown, the teams other three captains are midfielders Lee Hughes and Emma Chafetz, as well as midfielder/defender Margaret Goodnight.
A sophomore, attack Mallory Grant, is one of the Statesmen’s top players, as well. Grant started last year as a freshman and was second in the voting for the team’s Varsity Player of the Year honors. She has a good grasp of the game’s basics and is an exceptional ball-handler and shooter.
"She has top stick skills and a very wicked shot," said coach Freeman, of Grant’s game. "She has all the fundamentals to be a top player in the Liberty District."
Time will tell if things come together better for Marshall this season. There is certainly talent to work with. Freeman remains optimistic that the Statesmen can have a good spring.
"I expect us to be more competitive than we were last year," he said. "One thing I really like about this group of girls is that they want to play together. I really can’t ask for anything more than that."