By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
With several players unavailable due to illness, conflicting school trips and other requirements, the T.C. Williams boys lacrosse team had to shuffle its players around and make do with fewer available substitutes Monday night against Thomas Jefferson.
Backup goalkeeper Daniel Coughlin III and defenseman Dylan Buek both started in attack for the Titans alongside sophomore Brody Dickson, while other players logged significant minutes.
But it mattered not for the hosts, as they took a comfortable 12-4 win over the Colonials at T.C.’s Minnie Howard stadium and improved to an 8-3 record overall.
“We came in with a lot of people missing and we just played well, put that in the back of our heads and worked well,” Dickson said. “We knew this was a team we could probably beat, but with the lack of numbers we knew we just had to play hard.”
Sophomore midfielder Samuel Zang and Dickson led the way for the Titans’ offense with three goals apiece, while Coughlin III and senior midfielder Scott Passalugo added two each. Also on the scoresheet were senior midfielder Chase Larsen and sophomore long-stick midfielder Matthew LaGanza.
Titans head coach Mike Mulherin was full of praise for Coughlin III as one of several players who occupied a different position than normal but did not prevent the team meshing well offensively.
“We’re a small team; we only have three attackers to start with, so [Coughlin III] came through and had two goals and really started us off strong,” Mulherin said. “He gave us stability down on the offensive end and I can’t say enough about guys who stepped up and did a great job in unique roles.”
That rotation of players into different areas of the field is something Mulherin said has been part of the process this year for T.C., which has a relatively small roster compared to some of its opponents in the Patriot Conference of the Virginia High School League.
“I won’t say we’re used to it this year, but we have a short bench,” he said. “Guys have anticipated that they’re going to have to, whether it’s play attack or midfield or switch just to give guys breaks or whether it’s a defenseman going to play long-stick midfield or a long-stick midfield is going to be on close defense. It wasn’t hard to necessarily manage; it was more how these guys would perform when they got out there under the pressure.”
The Titans have three games left in the regular season, starting with Senior Night against W.T. Woodson on Thursday evening, after the Times’ print deadline. Already, the team has secured home field advantage in the first round of the Patriot conference tournament for the first time since 2007, and its first winning season since that same year.
After Woodson, away games against Bishop Ireton and Washington-Lee are the only regular-season games remaining.
Mulherin said his players have embraced their new status as one of the top teams in the area, and surprised a few opponents along the way. The only conference opponents to have defeated T.C. this year have been Lake Braddock and South County.
“We definitely have seen where some teams are a little disappointed at the outcome,” Mulherin said. “We used to be a team that maybe they would count on as being an easier game or even a win, but our guys have worked so hard in the last few years. It’s been multiple years of building on the guys before them.
“They’ve gotten to this point where really we feel we’re a skill team that can possess the ball and move the ball and on any given night score a number of goals.”
The players put their success down to an improved chemistry and team spirit among other factors, which has helped carry them to some impressive margins of victory as well as wins
in tighter games.
“I think it’s just everyone working really hard in the offseason, working in the weight room, doing travel lacrosse,” said Larsen. “I think we play well as a team. We’re supportive of each other, and that’s a big difference.”
“Nobody’s getting down on each other,” Dickson said. “Our chemistry is really good this year, and everybody’s playing well together. We’re gluing as the season progresses and getting hyped before games.”
The postseason is set to begin for the Titans on May 9, with the tantalizing prospect of the first appearance in the 6A North regional tournament since 2011 if they win their first-round Patriot tournament game. Even with plenty to look forward to, the team refuses to get ahead of itself.
“People say when you lose you’ve got to put it behind you, but when you win you’ve got to do the same thing and treat every game like a new game and play hard,” said Dickson.
“Really we’re taking it one game at a time,” said Mulherin. “We’re trying to talk to the guys, not necessarily comparing ourselves to the other team, but comparing ourselves to what we’re capable of and judging our success based on that. That’s how we’re trying to keep it going; we’ll see how long the run lasts.”