SSSAS lax dominates state tournament

SSSAS lax dominates state tournament
The St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes 2018-2019 varsity girls’ lacrosse team with the VISAA state championship plaque. (Photo credit: Kevin Burtnett)

By Cody Mello-Klein |

Saturday was a big day for St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes athletics. After victorious playoff seasons, both the SSSAS boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams took home state championship titles.

Neither team is new to the state spotlight. The boys’ 10-5 victory over Paul VI marked the team’s third Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association title in four years and seventh title in the past decade.

The girls gained a measure of revenge over city rival Bishop Ireton after losing to B.I. in an epic 7-6 overtime thriller in last year’s state championship game.

This is the sixth consecutive year the Alexandria lacrosse powerhouses have faced off in the state final. On Saturday, the Saints claimed just their second victory over B.I. in those six championship contests and their first VISAA title since 2016.

The Saints’ 10-6 win over B.I. in the state final came just a week after SSSAS locked down the Independent School League title in a 10-7 game against Georgetown Visitation.

“I haven’t seen them that excited in a long time,” SSSAS girls’ Head Coach Kathy Jenkins said of her players after Saturday’s game.

Jenkins said that heading into the game, she was worried her players were exhausted after the ISL championship and final exams. Seeing the team come together in the state championship was a proud moment for everyone involved, Jenkins said.

“I worry about them because I know they have a lot on their plate with academics and everything else in their lives, but to see them really come out and just play within themselves and as a team was just great,” Jenkins said.

Izzy D’Antonion leads a charge during St. Stephens’ St. Agnes state championship game against Bishop Ireton High School. (Photo credit: Kevin Burtnett)

Games between the two rivals have been tough in the past, Jenkins said. Last year, the Saints lost the VISAA final to B.I. in a match that went into quadruple overtime.

“A lot of the girls all play on the same club teams, so they know the girls well,” Jenkins said. “I think it’s always a competitive game. It’s never an easy game. They know they have to come out and play their very best.”

At this year’s championship game, the Saints came on the field strong and, throughout the first half, showed few signs of slowing down. SSSAS led 7-2 at half- time.

Jenkins and the team put a lot of work into analyzing B.I.’s strong defense and finding ways to work around it, Jenkins said.

“Their defense looked really good, so we were trying to work on ways that we could get through their defense and get some good shot opportunities,” Jenkins said.

In the second half, B.I. fought back against the Saints’ patient offense and lockdown defense.

“We faced a strong, well-coached team from St. Stephen’s,” B.I. Head Coach Rick Sofield said in a statement. “We didn’t have a good start and were unable to get any momentum going against their patient offense. I’m proud of the way the girls fought until the end and wish we could’ve had a better finish to our seniors’ high school careers.”

The Saints received four goals from senior Christina Cavallo and seven saves from senior goalie Emma Bradley.

The state championship marks the end of eight SSSAS senior girls’ high school careers and a major milestone for Jenkins. The team’s VISAA quarterfinal win on May 14 marked Jenkins 800th career win as head coach of the team. After starting the team in 1976, Jenkins has been coaching for 43 years.

“I don’t really even think about it,” Jenkins said. “It’s something that’s great, but it’s happened because I’ve had great teams and the girls have bought into my system or my type of program. … It’s really been them and my assistant coaches helping me along the way. It’s really a family.”