Crystal Morgan to this point has done her part in maintaining the winning tradition of the Yorktown girls lacrosse program, leading the Patriots to an undefeated regular season record in the National District.
Now she needs three more victories to avoid finding herself at the wrong end of any jokes.
Morgan is Yorktown’s third head coach in as many seasons. Despite shuffling at the top, the Patriots have won five consecutive district championships and enter the 2011 district tournament as the No. 1 seed. This year’s success has come despite the loss of 14 seniors from last season’s team that edged district newcomer Hayfield 9-8 in the title game. While the Patriots’ regular season success is an accomplishment considering the team’s relative lack of experience, Morgan needs three tournament victories to keep the streak of district titles alive, starting with a win in Friday’s opening round.
"Coming into this season, we lost 14 seniors last year, so we were a little bit worried," said Morgan, who coached the Yorktown JV last year. "But I kept telling the girls, ‘This is not rebuilding. This is what we make it.’ … It’s kind of like a little joke around [here]: ‘Don’t mess this up, coach.’"
Yorktown held its senior night on Monday, beating Thomas Jefferson 16-5 in what equated to a district tournament tune-up game. Senior midfielder Michelle Casteel led the Patriots with five goals, and senior attack Hannah Madison and junior midfielder Ella Richardson each added three.
Madison, a four-year member of the varsity, said playing for multiple head coaches has been difficult, yet rewarding. Last season, Anne Bodnar came up from the JV to lead the Yorktown varsity to a district title. Prior to Bodnar, it was Robin Steinberg.
"It’s been different every year," Madison said. "With the new coaches, it’s been a challenge to kind of adjust to what their expectations are and kind of re-prove yourself. But it’s definitely been great to have all the different coaching styles and learn a lot of different things because they all bring a fresh perspective."
Now it’s Morgan looking to capture a district title with a team led by six seniors, including captains Casteel, Madison and Christine Downie.
Casteel is one of the team’s top goal-scoring threats.
"Michelle’s amazing," Morgan said. "She’s the heart of the team. She’s an incredible player. Every time she has the ball, half the time I don’t even know it goes in the goal because she’s so fast with it."
Morgan said Madison was unanimously voted as a team captain, and Downie is the leader on the field who calls plays. Erinn Spack consistently gives a strong on-field effort, and Virginia Brady and Anna Oak are defensive leaders.
Madison said the Patriots feel pressure to continue the program’s winning tradition.
"We know that the other teams that we’ve beat are really going to want to come back and beat us and take the district championship from us, assuming we that we get to that game," Madison said. "So I think that it’s definitely going to be competitive and we need to go out really strong and be aggressive. …
"It does add an element of pressure because you want to live up to all of the past successes, especially once it’s our senior year. For all the years I’ve been on the team we’ve always won and it’s always been our district."
Casteel said the Patriots will need teamwork and the right attitude to be successful in the district tournament.
"I think being pumped up is a lot of it, and having good transitions," she said. "We’ve been so much better with our transitions from the beginning of the year to right now. We look like a really good team. Before, we were kind of getting used to each other and we really have a lot of chemistry now."