When 80 players showed up for the Stone Bridge High boys’ lacrosse team tryouts a few weeks ago, new first year head coach Scott Mitchell realized he had a challenge ahead of him.
Mitchell, who only recently moved to the Northern Virginia area from New York, had to work with his staff in learning players’ best positions as well there overall strengths and weaknesses as lacrosse players. And he needed to form both a varsity and JV team.
That was quite a job for a newcomer coach just getting his feet wet at a new school and getting acclimated with a new team.
"The most difficult part was the tryouts," said Mitchell, of the biggest task he has faced thus far in his role as head coach of the Bulldogs’ program. "That’s a lot of people to watch, especially with myself being new. There are new names and new faces you’re trying to assess."
Following the challenging opening weeks of assessing the program and its numerous players, Mitchell is beginning to feel a little more at ease.
"At this point, I have a very good feel for what the kids are capable of," he said.
Mitchell, who was hired as the program’s new coach during the fall, grew up in Long Island and played four years of collegiate lacrosse at the State University of New York (SUNY), a Div. 1 program out of Binghampton. Mitchell, an attackman and defender during his collegiate playing career, earned his undergraduate degree from SUNY in 2005 before going on to obtain his Masters from the school in 2007.
Mitchell, whose team opened up the season with a non-district game last week at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, is impressed with the talent level of the Stone Bridge players.
"It’s as good as any team I’ve helped out with in New York," he said. "If we can continue to work hard in practice, I think we’ll be able to run with a lot of [the Liberty District’s] better teams."
Those teams include Madison and Langley. Mitchell has learned about those two squads and has also been told that the Liberty District, as a whole, is one of the best districts in the state of Virginia.
"We’re in a tough position," said the coach, of competing in the Liberty. "[But] I’m confident we can be a surprise."
<b>The Stone Bridge team</b>, which is off over the spring break week, is coming off a 2007 season in which it finished 4-9 overall.
Two of this spring’s key returning players are attackmen Nick Osborne, a senior, and sophomore Derek Maltz. Also playing an attack position will be newcomer Chris Wilson, a junior transfer student from Notre Dame Academy in Middleburg.
Mitchell has heard lots of good things in regards to Osborne’s game.
"He’s a creative player," said the coach. "People say he is much quicker this year. He’s a very coachable player, he listens real well and he hustles. He really is a leader."
Other key players to watch this season include senior middie Sean Smingler, junior defender Scott Smingler (Sean’s brother), junior midfielder Tyler Lowdermilk and junior midfielder Jack Burke, a transfer student from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington. In all, Stone Bridge has four seniors on its roster. Most of the team is made up of underclassmen.
Mitchell said things have gone easier for him over his initial month of the season because he has players who are taking the initiative to lead.
"People are just kind of stepping up," he said. "I have leaders on this team already."
Mitchell, who is teaching at Eagle Ridge Junior High School, said his team will play hard from start to finish all season long.
"If we develop mentally [as a team] we can fight, scrap and win games," he said. "I don’t care what the score is, we’ll keep fighting the whole game."