By Jim McElhatton
One player suffered a concussion. Another had a torn tendon. Then there were all sorts of illnesses that kept various T.C. Williams boys lacrosse players sidelined for games this season: bronchitis, strep throat and bad colds.
For T.C., a true measure of the lacrosse team’s play has been hard to gauge with so many unexpected injuries and illnesses throughout the spring.
The Titans had a down year in 2012, with a 3-13 record, but expectations were higher this season with nine seniors returning, not to mention underclassmen transfers Aaron Cargas and Andrew Field from St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes.
The Titans started out 2-2, winning their home opener against Mount Vernon before beating Hayfield. But that’s when the injuries — and the losses — began piling up. A dismal seven-game losing streak thankfully ended with a 9-3 win against Lee on April 22.
“We’ve just had a number of setbacks personnel-wise, and we just haven’t been able to get everybody back at one time,” said fourth-year head coach Michael Mulherin. “But the kids have never given up.”
With the postseason looming, most of Mulherin’s players are finally back. At just about full strength in the final week of the regular season, the 3-10 team is poised to pull off an upset or two entering tournament play in a strong Patriot District, in which the Titans find themselves ranked seventh out of eight teams.
In one of its final regular season games, T.C. traveled to Annandale on Monday night. The Atoms, which typically have a strong program, were 6-7 entering the contest. It was senior night against T.C., and a small but very vocal crowd was on hand as a light rain fell throughout the nighttime matchup.
In ways, the game was a mirror of the season so far. The Titans started out strong, scoring the first two goals in the opening minutes on shots by Cargas and Reece Belcher.
Next, however, came an unbroken string of 10 goals by the Atoms. By halftime, four goals had come from Annandale team captain Max Ruffing.
Though Annandale held a 10-2 lead, T.C. hung tough. The Titans netted four out of the next six goals before time ran out with the final score 12-6.
A spectator in the Atoms crowd, which obviously wasn’t providing much encouragement to the visiting Titans, yelled out the closest thing to a compliment near the end of the game, saying, “Way to keep it interesting, T.C.”
After the game, Mulherin said T.C. gave Annandale too many chances on offense.
“When we’d get the ball — we’d get possession on defense — but then we might make a mistake in transition and give it right back,” he said. “And that’s a team where if you give them enough chances, they’re going to score a goal.”
But for all of Ruffing’s goals, Mulherin would single out Atoms goalie Joe Bermingham after the contest as the evening’s star.
“He had a heck of a night,” the T.C. coach said. “He made big stops when they needed them and that can make such a big difference as far as momentum.”
Bermingham, who scooped up one shot after another, thought he had good visibility during the game despite the rain. From his perspective in the net, the senior Atoms goalie said the Titans have improved compared to past seasons.
“They’re a lot better than we’ve played them in the past,” Bermingham said. “They’re getting a lot better as a program.”
Annandale coach Bill Maglisceau said he thought T.C. performed well on faceoffs and singled out senior midfielder John Carver.
“We think we’re good at faceoffs, but they pounded us,” he said. “They did some nice things out there, but you just have to keep building on it and get better every game.”
Two of the Titans’ final goals came from senior Ed Kargbo, who also blocked an Atoms shot with a few minutes left in the game. Mulherin called him “a quiet leader who steps up.”
Kargbo has been playing the sport since eighth grade. His interest in lacrosse grew out of watching his older brother play for Hayfield High School.
When he competed on the junior varsity squad at T.C. a few years ago, Kargbo said it turned out to be one of the program’s best JV teams.
“We went 7-3 and pretty much that 7-3 team is the varsity team today,” he said. “We’ve grown together; we’ve developed a bond. We’re always there for each other. We try to encourage each other.
“It didn’t come out our way tonight. We fight and fight, and no matter how hard we fight, it doesn’t always come out our way. But at the end of the day, we’re still together as a team.”