2016 Montgomery County High School Lacrosse Previews
Landon enters season ranked No. 3 in UnderArmour/Inside Lacrosse National High School Power Rankings
Landon assistant coach J.R. Bordley goes over a drill during a recent practice at the Bethesda lacrosse powerhouse
The two-time defending Interstate Athletic Conference champion Landon School lacrosse team—which has won 30 total league championships— might find itself at No. 3 on the preseason UnderArmour/Inside Lacrosse National High School Power Rankings list, but the Bears are giving little credence to that early selection, assistant coach J.R. Bordley said.
While Landon finished 2015 recognized as the second-best team in the country by three of four national polls—marking the sixth time since 1999 the Bears have finished the season ranked in the top 10, nationally—this 2016 squad has not yet proved itself. That, of course, is what the next two-plus months are for.
“All we care about is the ranking at the end of the season,” Bordley said. “We care more about where we’re ranked Memorial Day Weekend than [in early March].”
Interstate Athletic Conference
Not only do three of the nation’s top 20 teams compete in this league, but they’re all within miles of each other in the Bethesda/Potomac areas.
Landon (20-2 record in 2015) graduated its most talented senior class since 2002, Bordley said, and might experience some growing pains early. But as head coach Rob Bordley tells his team each year, according to junior attacker Nate Buller (Duke recruit), there really aren’t any down years when it comes to Bears lacrosse.
Landon is still the favorite to take the league, unless another team proves otherwise. Senior midfielder Griffin Brown (Colgate University) midfielder and face-off specialist Justin Shockey (U.S. Naval Academy), sophomore attackman Joey Epstein (Johns Hopkins) and defenseman Andrew Fowler (Cornell) lead a speedy, athletic team that will be more offensive-minded than in years past. Buller and Epstein combined for 120 points in 2015; a strong midfield should enable the Bears to stretch the field. Fowler is the only returning player to a traditionally strong backline.
Georgetown Prep (No. 19 in UA/IL rankings) fell to Landon in last year’s championship game and is looking to once against compete for the league crown. The Little Hoyas (13-4) are young on offense—two out of three attackmen are sophomores—but do return five starters. Senior John Railey (Loyola) and senior Mitchell Oliver (Brown) anchor a defense that has only given up double digit goals once in the last three years. U.S. U-19 National Team midfielder Terry Lindsay (Duke) has two talented seniors on his first line: Kevin Dunne and Keith Fernandez (Amherst). Senior attackman Matthew Gardiner (Trinity) and sophomore Kaleb Fernandez (Penn) will lead an offense that is small in stature but very quick and deceptive.
Bullis (14-6) lost in the IAC semifinals a year ago and enters the season at No. 19 in the country. With a good core of returning players on both ends of the field, including junior attack/midfielders Nicky Petkevich and Steven Shollenberger, sophomore attackman Alex Trippi and junior defenseman Paul Steel, the Bulldogs will rely on fast-paced play to score goals in transition.
Montgomery Central Division
While defending Class 4A state finalist Churchill, which has made it out of the Class 4A/3A West Region three of the last four years, is a preseason favorite to once again represent the county at the season-ending championship, this is a loaded division with four legitimate state title contenders.
The Bulldogs (17-2) welcome back five starters, along with a slew of talented returning varsity athletes who likely would’ve started at most other schools a year ago and are ready to take on more prominent roles.
Churchill will be more of a defensive-based team this spring, with an entire backline already committed to play in college—Christian Edwards (Syracuse), Jimmy Rubino (Penn State) and Jack Taylor (Brown). That stability will enable its offensive charge, led by junior attackman Spencer Knife (Towson), senior face-off man Austin LeBorwit (Trinity) and sophomore midfielder Reed Moshyedi (Brown) more flexibility and room to work.
Whitman returns five starters to a team that fell to Churchill in last year’s section final in double overtime. With two returning defenders—Danny Fraser and Chris Greenberg—and a strong midfield, including senior Alex Hilsenrath, Doug Bruchalski and Ben Montemarano, the Vikings are fast and will look to get up and down the field as much as possible, and to beat teams in transition, coach Tommy Rothert said.
Walter Johnson (11-5) graduated eight starters but, when taking into consideration the Wildcats’ two midfield lines and attack, still return about five starters. With five sophomores and about 10 juniors, including attackman Garret Brennan, midfielders Zach Cooper and Bradley Murray and defenseman Matt Canavan, who will likely get quality playing time this year, WJ will be a young team—but not short on talent. Senior Patrick Nugent will provide some experience and leadership in the middle as the Wildcats figure out their offense—the front field lost the most to graduation. If everything gels together nicely, the Wildcats have every bit of potential to be among the county’s top two or three teams.
Other than Churchill, perennial power Wootton is the only other county program to have made it to the state final. After graduating 15 players, the Patriots are quite young this spring. However, led by senior attackman Justin O’Daniel, sophomore midfielder Mason Romm and defenseman Al Gorsky, Wootton has no intention of lessening its expectations. The Patriots have a habit of replenishing quite quickly; but perhaps even more so than in years past, it will be extremely important for Wootton, with its up-tempo style of play, to work as a true unit this spring.
Under first-year coach Daniel Oliver and second-year coach Steve Puhl respectively, Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Richard Montgomery are programs on the rise, looking to test the county’s upper echelon. The Barons (2-12), led by junior defenseman Ogden Brown, senior midfielder Dan Rudolph and goalkeepers Colin Cowie and Owen Hopkins, who will split time, will look to dictate the tempo of the game, no matter who they are facing, Oliver said. Whether they need to play fast or slow it down, the Barons want to be in charge of the pace.
Senior-laden Richard Montgomery returns its entire backline, led by senior Nathan Serway, this spring, which should translate into more confidence moving forward. Senior attackman Ben Rosenberg (U.S. Coast Guard Academy) and sophomore midfielder Noah Lee lead the offensive charge.
Teams from the Montgomery Central division have won a combined 14 region titles since 2000.
Two-time defending Class 4A/3A state semifinalist Whitman (13-3), is responsible for seven of them and likely remains the “team to beat,” among this stacked group. Though the Vikings graduated two strong midfielders, they return 17 varsity players, including senior attackers Hannah Ginsky and Jenna Hosker. Sophomore attacking midfielder Gaby Svec will also add depth to the offensive effort. Returning midfielder Eden Gray and defender Grace Steinwurtzel will also help fill the void left behind by four graduated starters from those areas.
Whitman coach Katie Bitonti kept 25 girls and said she expects to rely on her team’s depth to keep fresh legs on the field at all times. While the Vikings have historically been this division’s most successful team, it hasn’t come easy and Bitonti said Whitman does not take any team for granted. But it does help, she added, that the Vikings know what it feels like to win the region; it serves as great motivation to get back to states.
Wootton (8-8), a 2008 state semifinalist, graduated only three starters from a team that lost to Whitman in the region final for the second consecutive season a year ago. Though the Patriots return a large core, they’re still young, coach Shannon Holiday said, with only five seniors. Among those leaders, are Bucknell recruit Marisa Morakis on defense and Monmouth recruit Olivia Mangum in goal. Mangum’s younger sister, freshman Carli, should make an immediate impact in the midfield. The Patriots might not have one particular standout to key in on, offensively, but will instead rely on a strong passing game and ball movement.
Three-time regional champion Churchill will again be a major contender this season. The Bulldogs should benefit from a good balance of leadership and experience and young talent. Freshman Lizzie Hsu joins an attack led by four-year varsity players Annabelle Humiston, Annie Moshyedi, Hannah Hansen and Bethany Bubik. Coach Jamie Frank said it’s been fun to watch the speed with which her team is able to move the ball; the Bulldogs thrive most when being unselfish.
Walter Johnson (5-7) has some holes to fill after graduating nine starters. But with its second consecutive strong freshman class, the team will look to fill the void with young talent, including freshmen Adrienne Bruch and Mia Goodstein and sophomores Izzy McMullen and Ashley Smith. Senior midfielder Sarah Caggiano and junior attacker Jordan Bryon provide experience on offense and returning senior defender Ashleigh Wagar will anchor the backfield. Walter Johnson should remain competitive among the county’s top teams again this season, but coach Gary Reburn said he also can’t help but be excited about the future, as well.
First-year B-CC coach Rosana Pagan said she’s enthused by the potential of this year’s powerful and athletic squad. Though the Barons lost four-year varsity player Grace Rosen to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Lexi Hopkins, Audrey Zantzinger and Lindsay Archer provide strength in the middle. Transfer Camille Walsh has quickly stepped in to direct the backline, Pagan said. Katie Cowie and Cate Patterson lead the attack.
Senior Sarah Morgan and junior Kerri Corcoran lead a Richard Montgomery squad looking to build on last year’s 6-7 campaign. That will be difficult while playing in such a strong division, but first-year coach Rodney Mullinix said he aims to try to build a program at the Rockville school.
Independent School League/Washington Catholic Athletic Conference
While Virginia’s St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (No. 4 in Nike/Lacrosse Magazine Preseason High School Girls Top 25) and Georgetown Visitation (D.C., No. 25) remain the favorites in the ISL “AA” (Upper) Division, Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart (10-5) and Holton-Arms look to continue testing the league’s top teams.
The Stone Ridge Gators have 10 girls returning to varsity, including Notre Dame recruit Maddie Carr, a midfielder who coach Maddie Keegan said has a nose for the goal, sophomore midfielder Janie Bell and sophomore defender Maggie Ballaschi (Stanford recruit). Stone Ridge will aim to use its good overall team speed to push the ball and keep opposing defenses under constant pressure while playing aggressive defense of its own.
Consistency will be the name of the game for Holton as it aims to finish in the upper third of the league this spring. Junior midfielder Annelise Kotz, senior defender Catie Mulligan, sophomore goalie Kaitlyn Pham, sophomore midfielder Taylor Lawrence (Stanford) and freshman Stephanie Hong (Harvard) lead a young team that makes up for its youth with athleticism and drive, coach Janet McCormick said. While the Panthers remain strong on defense, this year’s team looks more offensive-minded than Holton teams of the past.
After winning the ISL’s “A” division in 2015, Bullis (14-8) has its sights set on competing with and maintaining its place among the league’s upper echelon of teams. Allison Bass and Madi Ugaz lead a very strong midfield that can also include Avery Prince, who’s spent the early season on defense. The Bulldogs’ versatility could be the team’s biggest strength.
St. Andrews, led by senior Cat Wagner (attack/midfield) and returning leading scorer Lindy Hill, and Holy Child, led by Virginia Tech recruit MC McCarthy and Stetson recruit Peyton Holifield, both look to improve on sub-.500 campaigns.
With crosstown rival Good Counsel ranked No. 3 nationally, it’s easy for defending WCAC championship runner-up Holy Cross to fly under the radar. But the Tartans (16-4), who lost to Good Counsel by just one goal in the championship game, are just fine playing the underdog, coach Kristen Coleman said.
Holy Cross returns nine seniors, including Boston College recruit Kate Taylor, in the midfield. She and Mercer University recruit Michaela Lucas should make for quite a scoring tandem; senior defender Caroline Menn and Delaware University recruit Kelsea Konz will anchor a strong backline. The Tartans will look to lean on nonstop motion, Coleman said, remaining active and engaged for the duration of every contest.
“Last year was an awesome year,” Coleman said. “It was incredible. But it’s just one year. To [not be considered an underdog], it needs to become a pattern.”
Maryland Independent Lacrosse League
The Heights graduated only three players from a team that fell to Calverton in the league championship game by a goal for the third consecutive year and looks to overcome that obstacle this spring.
Last year’s Most Valuable Player, Richie Bartozzi (Denison), who led the team in ground balls and take-aways a year ago, defender Jack Scalia and senior attackman Jake Thomas lead a scrappy team that prides itself on its ability to out-hustle opponents, coach Dave Mitchell said.
Other county teams to watch
With the county’s division realignment, Montgomery Blair’s boys, who finished around .500 a year ago but return six starters, look to compete for the team’s first-ever division title in the Montgomery South. The Blazers will look to juniors Paul Moser on attack and Josh Agu on defense to shut down the county’s top scorers.
As always, the Blair girls (6-8 a year ago) will continue to try to test the county’s top teams and look to contend for the Montgomery South Division. Though inexperienced, coach Michael Horne said the team, led by senior goalkeeper Schuyler Cross and midfielders Maddie Boyer and Elizabeth Cove, is quite balanced on both ends of the field.
Blake’s girls (8-4), competing against traditional county powers Damascus and Sherwood in the Montgomery North Division, graduated nine starters, but look to continue the recent growth of the program. Senior midfielder Rachel Sigwalt, senior defender Sam Holley and freshman attacker Caroline Via are expected to lead the way.
The St. Andrew’s boys return seven starters from an 8-10 campaign, during which the Lions finished third in its Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference division. Under second-year coach Dane Smith, St. Andrew’s improved its record last year from 2014 and looks to continue rising within the league. Juniors J.D. Belin and Ryan Shephard return as two important members of the offense. Junior midfielder Alex Smith (University of Hartford) and senior defender Will Hughes (Hampden-Sydney) provide strength in the middle and on defense.