All season long, the Stone Bridge High girls’ lacrosse team has known success under its first year coach Kristin Howard.
The team experienced an outstanding regular season in which it went unbeaten within the tough Liberty District and lost just one contest – that coming in a one-goal setback to Ashburn neighbor and Dulles District power Broad Run – all spring.
And the good times for the Bulldogs have continued right into the postseason where Stone Bridge, in a game last Friday night at Madison High School in Vienna, defeated a talented W.T. Woodson squad, 14-11, in the Liberty tournament finals. It marked the first time Stone Bridge (14-1 overall record) has ever captured the Liberty District tournament title.
Howard, the first-year head coach of the Bulldogs who moved to the area within the last year from New Jersey, said Stone Bridge’s success was a result of overall team work and team unity.
It is only fitting that Howard , with the success her team has achieved this season, was recently named the District coach of the Year.
But Howard deflects the success of her team to the players, a talented group that, prior to the season, realized it was on the brink of becoming an outstanding team. A year ago, Stone Bridge finished a solid 9-5 overall. The 2007 Bulldogs finished third in the district and reached the second round of the 16-team Northern Region playoffs.
But there were no guarantees that the 2008 squad would continue to blossom. Afterall, there is no telling how a seasoned squad might adapt to a new head coach.
But Howard, who worked her new team hard during early season practice sessions and conditioning workouts, adjusted nicely at Stone Bridge and her players worked hard and heeded her leadership.
"They definitely play as a team and they rely on each other," said Howard.
<b>STONE BRIDGE</b> reached Friday’s title game by defeating Madison handily, 21-7, in a district semifinals affair.
The finals match against Woodson, as expected, was a closer game. But the Bulldogs prevailed. Leading the way for Stone Bridge was sophomore midfielder Lauren Giusti, who found the net an incredible eight times versus the Cavaliers. Giusti, a First Team all-Region selection this spring, scored on drives to the net as well as on catch-and-shoot scenarios from the outside. She simply had a dominating game. For the night, Giusti took nine shots and converted eight of them for goals.
"She was just on," said coach Howard.
"She played a great overall game. The team worked so well together and that helped her get great shots. She has great stick skills. She’s just an all-around player who is great on offense and defense. And she’s a great team player."
Giusti’s eight goals is a Stone Bridge team record for one game. She also broke school marks this season for goals in a season (66) and assists in a season (42).
Giusti is one of three Stone Bridge players who earned First Team All-Region honors this spring. The other two Bulldog players to earn such accolades were midfielders Meghan DeMartino and Kristen Pascale. Meanwhile, defensive player Kelly Dunn made Second Team All-Region.
Stone Bridge had several other players earn postseason honors as Amy Rollins, Rachel Pascale, Michelle Leon and Holly Kramer were each named Second Team All-Liberty District.
It is one thing to have a talented team, and quite another to have a talented team that plays like a team. That is what Stone Bridge has done this season under Howard. And the coach was thrilled as Friday’s championship game neared its end with the Bulldogs about to become champions.
"Friday was just so exciting, seeing how excited the girls were," said Howard, a James Madison University graduate. "They’ve worked hard all season and they play their best each game. Each game, they come out and try to win. They play as a team every game."
The victory over the Cavaliers was no easy feat.
"Woodson is a great team," said Howard. "They have great stick skills and great coaching."
Stone Bridge was scheduled to play Lake Braddock in a first round region playoff game earlier this week on Tuesday.