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Rookie TC Coach Wants Fresh Start

Girls lacrosse program trying to move past problem-plagued 2009 season.

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Caroline Van den Berg enters her first season as head coach of the T.C. Williams girls lacrosse program.

Caroline Van den Berg smiles when it’s mentioned — sort of an awkward acknowledgement — but the rookie head coach doesn’t dwell on it.

"It" is the controversy that surrounded the T.C. Williams girls lacrosse program last season. Multiple issues led to the firing of then head coach Jill Clacherty. The 23-year-old Van den Berg, a graduate of St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes and Columbia University, took over the program this season and isn’t looking back. The first-year coach said she did not address the team about last year’s troubles and, with roster turnover leaving only two seniors, Van den Berg said the Titans are focused on 2010.

"We’re starting fresh," she said. "We have a really young team [and] we’re moving forward."

T.C. Williams opened its season with a 15-11 loss to Washington-Lee on Tuesday at Howard Field. The Titans displayed some offensive firepower, led by six goals from junior midfielder Anjuli DeWakar, but their late rally fell short. Sophomore midfielder Tiana Barlow scored three goals for T.C. Williams and senior midfielder Justine Johnson added two.

While the Titans would have preferred a win, simply playing could be viewed as a plus.

"I think we played well for our first game [and] we can build off of everything," DeWakar said. "The fact that we scored 11 goals in the first game is pretty good. … It’s just a fresh start because we’re coming in with new plays, new coaches, new players — it’s kind of a building year, you could say, but it’s just good to start off fresh."

DeWakar, along with seniors Katie Newsham and Johnson, are the team’s captains. DeWakar and Barlow will likely be the Titans’ 1-2 offensive punch.

DeWakar has "got great game sense, really, really good stick skills and heart," Van den Berg said. "She wants to be out there, she wants to win and she wants to play for her team. … [Barlow is] fast as lightning."

Sophomore Jordan Cirenza is the Titans’ goaltender. Junior’s Carmen Lodato and Kimberly Rector and sophomores Elizabeth Aguilar, Wendy Calderon and Sarah Phippen and freshman Sydney Trout play the attack position. Junior Samantha Donis and freshman Hannah Drexler are midfielders, and junior Gena Gillis, sophomores Michaela Lynott and Meghan Okonsky and freshman Charlotte Sackett are defenders.

"I think they played well," Van den Berg said of the Titans’ performance Tuesday. "I think they showed a lot of hustle and a lot of really good effort. We definitely have things to work on but that’s to be expected for the first game of the season."

The Titans are back on the field Thursday when they travel to face Edison at 7:15 p.m. While the new coach and her players get used to one another, Van den Berg said she is careful not to change everything the athletes are used to.

"Instead of having me run the warm-ups," the coach said, "I had the captains decide how to do the warm-ups because certain people do it certain ways. I don’t want to mess up if they’re into some sort of pregame ritual that they did last year."

Just don’t expect many more references to the past.

"That was last season," Van den Berg said, "this is our new season."