The Bishop Ireton girls’ lacrosse program has improved throughout Rick Sofield’s four-year tenure as head coach.
In 2011, Sofield’s first season with Ireton, the team finished 12-9. In 2012, the Cardinals went 15-8 and reached the VISAA state championship game, where they lost to national power St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes.
Last season, Ireton posted a 17-6 record, finished runner-up in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and reached the state semifinals.
This year, the Cardinals have shown no signs of slowing down. Ireton defeated Springfield Delco High School (Pa.) 16-8 on April 17, improving its record to 10-2. Among the Cardinals’ victories is a 13-12 win over Georgetown Visitation on April 7. The Cubs were recently ranked No. 2 in the Washington Post’s top 10.
Ireton’s two losses came against Good Counsel, the team which defeated the Cardinals in last season’s WCAC title game, and the undefeated Brighton Barons of Rochester, N.Y.
“Last year, we got to the conference finals and that was a great experience,” Sofield said. “We led at half and we didn’t finish. We played a good team and they outperformed us in the second half. We know what it’s like; it’s not a mystery anymore. We want to get back there and we want to come out on the other end this year.”
Junior attacker Kelly Mathews said the loss to Good Counsel last season is a motivator for the Cardinals.
“Over the past couple years, we’ve definitely gotten better and better each year, so we’re definitely expected to do big things this year,” Mathews said. “But I think losing that game last year definitely lit a fire. All the girls are really like, we’re up for the challenge and we want to do big things this year.”
“Last year, we got to the conference finals and that was a great experience. We led at half and we didn’t finish. We played a good team and they outperformed us in the second half. We know what it’s like; it’s not a mystery anymore. We want to get back there and we want to come out on the other end this year.”
— Bishop Ireton girls’ lax coach Rick Sofield
Mathews, who is committed to Boston University is the team’s leading goal scorer this season, while junior midfielder Charlotte Sofield, who is committed to the University of North Carolina, is the team’s leader in assists, according to stats from the Washington Post’s allmetsports.com. The duo performed well against Springfield Delco, helping Ireton bounce back from a 17-7 loss to Brighton (N.Y.). Sofield finished with four goals and five assists, and Mathews tallied four goals and an assist during the Cardinals' 16-8 win.
“[Mathews is] great off ball,” Rick Sofield said. “She’s sneaky. Half the time, you look at her and you’re not sure what she’s up to and all of the sudden she takes two steps and she’s wide open. Charlotte’s our best feeder — she leads the region in assists — and she’s finding Kelly open. It’s just a great tandem.
“Charlotte is tall, so she can see over the defense. Kelly is a really deceptive cutter and she catches anything near her. You throw the ball anywhere near her, she’s going to catch it and she knows exactly what to do with it after she catches it.”
Charlotte Sofield said she is 6 feet tall, which has its ups and downs.
“I’ve always been in the tall group, but in seventh grade I had a growth spurt,” she said. “… It’s a little bit awkward being a 6-foot 13-year-old, but you get used to it. Everything has its advantages and its disadvantages. It’s good for me for feeding and I can get big, I can get more power on my shots. But it has its disadvantages: I get a little bit more fouls than most people, look a little bit more threatening.”
Senior attacker Kendall Cunningham, one of three team captains (Charlotte Sofield, junior defender Kaitlin Luzik), scored three goals against Springfield Delco.
“We’re hungry this season,” she said. “We want to get Good Counsel back. … The team is looking good.”
Cunningham will play for Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.
“When she maintains that maximum effort, positive attitude, the whole team follows her,” Rick Sofield said. “She’s a natural leader and they gravitate to her and that’s what makes her such a strong player.”
Ireton will travel to Georgia to play three games the weekend of April 25-27. The Cardinals will return home to host Bishop O’Connell on Monday, April 28.
Rick Sofield said Ireton’s focus is on winning the six games in May necessary to bring home WCAC and VISAA state championships.
“Our expectations are consistent,” he said. “I tell the girls every year we want to win championships and don’t be shy about that. It’s not a secret. That’s the goal and that’s the goal every season.”