Two girls’ lacrosse teams at different junctures met this past Tuesday night, April 26, when Lee High, an up and coming team currently in re-building mode, traveled across town to take on host West Springfield, a team coming off a 10-win season a year ago and one of the this season’s Patriot District frontrunners.
From the start of the district meeting, the home team Spartans, on a windy but overall pleasant spring evening, grabbed control of the game and never relinquished it on way to a 20-3 win over its Springfield cross-town rival.
It was the third win in a row for West Springfield, which improved to 6-3. The Spartans, under veteran head coach Brian Puhlick, are scheduled to celebrate their Senior Night on Thursday, April 28, with a 7:15 p.m. meeting with district opponent South County. Next Tuesday, May 3, at 6 p.m., West Springfield will conclude its regular season schedule with a home make-up game versus a Loudoun County school opponent. The Patriot District Tournament is slated to begin later next week on Friday, May 6.
Lee, which has won three games this spring, has two games remaining on its regular season schedule — a district home game on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. versus W.T. Woodson, and a non-district contest at Falls Church High next Monday, May 2, also at 7:15 p.m.
The Lancers, under second year head coach Walter Bagwell, have shown some improvement this season following a 2-9 campaign last spring. Bagwell said his squad is young overall, with a starting line-up featuring five sophomores, and still learning fundamentals of the fast-action sport. Lee has victories this season over Edison, Wakefield, and Stuart — a trio of teams all from the National District.
"It’s a developing team starting from scratch," said Bagwell. "We have young players who don’t have [much] experience but they give it 110 percent. It’s a good group of girls. We have lots of sophomores and a few freshmen on the team. Our team, for the most part, plays pretty good defense. We’re an up and coming program."
West Springfield, in contrast, is a more seasoned team with six seniors in its starting line-up. The Spartans, a year ago, reached the district tournament semifinals before losing to Annandale High. At the 16-team regionals, West Springfield lost in the first round. The team has expectations of hopefully going further at regionals later this spring.
"I’ve been on the varsity since my freshmen year, and I think this is our strongest team yet," said senior midfielder Rachel Lawrie, one of the Spartans’ top players. "We’re real fast and have a lot of athletic girls. I definitely think we should win our district."
Going into the season, Puhlick, the team’s head coach, was concerned about how good the Spartans’ defense would be. But as it has turned out, West Springfield has played terrific defensively, allowing an average of just five goals a game.
"Our defense, we thought, would be our Achilles’ heel because we have so many new people," said Puhlick.
West Springfield’s prior wins this season have come over Hayfield, Woodson, Edison and T.C. Williams. The Spartans, in district play, are 5-2. The district losses have come to Annandale and Lake Braddock, both one-goal setbacks.
The team’s only other loss came to non-district opponent Chantilly, 14-7, at home on March 17. The Chargers, members of the Concorde District, are currently unbeaten and a team that could make a strong run at the region crown.
"We’ve been competitive in every game we’ve played, even against powerhouse Chantilly," said Puhlick. "We’ve been really stressing defense, and we’ve had outstanding goal tending."
West Springfield’s starting goalie is senior Haley Cook, who has stopped 60 percent of opponents’ shots this season. Cook played the entire first half against Lee. In the second half, with the Spartans well ahead, backup goalie Katelyn Lovan, a junior, took over in the net.
<b>IN THE CONTEST</b>, West Springfield scored the game’s first eight goals to seize control. The Spartans maintained possession of the ball most of the half and ran the field for fast-break scores whenever they could. When it had to set up its offense, West Springfield did a nice job working the ball around and displaying patience before ultimately getting a good shot on goal.
Lee goalie Elian Zarour, a senior, made several outstanding shot blocks. But the Spartans’ offense was relentless and West Springfield held a 13-2 lead at halftime.
The Lancers, although they did not have the ball often, were an exciting team to watch when they did hold possession.
Sophomore attack Carly Martin displayed outstanding ball-handling skills and speed, and her aggressiveness in attacking the Spartans’ net resulted in her scoring twice, both in the first half — the first score off a penalty set-up play and the latter goal coming after she made several nice maneuvers with the ball in working her way to a close-range chance that found the net.
Other first half highlights for the Lancers included a nice interception by sophomore midfielder/defender Madison Curtis, ending a Spartans’ scoring threat, and a steal of the ball by senior Jessica Kolonich, who then took it all the way down the field and ultimately earned a scoring chance off a penalty. Later in the game, Kolonich scored her team’s third and final goal.
For West Springfield, top scorers in the win were senior attack Sarah Blaylock (4 goals, 1 assist), junior attack Nikki Yohe (3 goals, 1 assist), sophomore attack Lindsay Mares (3 goals, 2 assists), freshmen midfielder Morgan Akers (2 goals, 1 assist), and junior attack Savannah Pinnata (2 goals). Single goals came from Lawrie (3 assists), senior attack Jill Parker (1 goal, 2 assists), Cook, senior midfielder Stacy Radzymski, freshmen midfielder Tina Nagel, and sophomore midfielder Marissa Lim.