By Boots Giblin | [email protected]
The Alexandria City High School boys’ lacrosse team finished their regular season by defeating Fairfax High School, 13-1, at Stalnaker field on May 5.
The Titans turned in another strong defensive performance, lowering their season average for goals against to just over six per game. Their aggressive and hard-nosed play on defense resembled what their mantra has been all season: playing with as much energy and effort as possible.
Last week’s game was far from a barn burner, as the Titans led Fairfax 9-0 after three quarters. Senior attackman Ryan Smith got the Titans off to a hot start with a goal in the first two minutes of the game, to which he added three more goals to make his tally four goals on the day. Even better was ACHS junior midfielder Benji Chader’s sixpoint performance against the Lions. ACHS’ defense rounded out the strong Titan’s performance, giving up their only goal of the game off of a Fairfax two-man advantage, when Fairfax had six players on offense to ACHS’ four.
Last week’s game was in many ways the perfect capper for the Titans’ regular season, as everyone received playing time, made plays and had fun doing so. But this past week is more a testament to the team’s overall character.
The Titans entered this week holding an 8-4 record, with their two lopsided losses coming against the best two public teams in the state of Virginia: Robinson High School and Lake Braddock Secondary School. The Titans streaked to a promising 8-1 record to start the season, but then suffered three straight district losses, one coming at the hands of archrival West Potomac and two games which they lost by two goals or less.
“Our regular season started very well. We came out the gates hot as can be. Then losing to two of the top teams in the DMV area wasn’t very easy for us,” senior Ryan Smith said.
The team entered the West Springfield game with a 1-4 record in district play, not fully healthy and disappointed after losing to their rivals down the George Washington Parkway.
According to players, the next few games were a testament to the principles of first year coach Robert Allen and key veteran play at the right time.
“It was definitely tough for us to lose such close games to Woodson and West Potomac, even being injured, as the importance of these district games [doesn’t] set in until later in the season,” senior defenseman Tim Sloan said about the three-game skid.
According to Sloan, the magnitude of this week and the two district wins against West Springfield and Fairfax was not lost on the team.
“District seeding is very important for the success of our season overall. With teams like Robinson [High School] and Lake Braddock [Secondary School], who have dominated for the past couple of years, we want to have favorable matchups in the district to hopefully gain momentum if we were to play them later on,” Sloan said.
The Titans went on to win both games last week, only giving up 3.5 goals a game on average, and outscoring their opponents in the third quarter by a combined 10 goals to none. Senior captain and faceoff Max Islas won close to 80% of his faceoffs this week. Junior Reid Kidd and senior Briggs Hayes were steady in goal all week as the team’s two goalkeepers and junior attackman Ethan Van Wagner gave the Titans a balanced performance, scoring the ball and finding open teammates.
The Titans’ defense relied throughout the year on its upperclassmen, with seniors Harry McDermott and Sloan and junior David Heiden providing leadership. The offense tallied as many as 18 goals in one game, with senior Ryan Smith and juniors Van Wagner and Crader sparking the offense.
“The boys have exceeded my expectations a lot this year because of their willingness to play for each other and to play with a tremendous amount of heart all year,” Coach Robert Allen said.
As for the postseason, Allen said he expects his team “to bring the same energy and commitment to the team they have brought all year.” Allen admitted that there is still a lot of improvement the team needs to make if they want to go from a good team to a great team.
“The boys do have great character, and always play hard, but there are little things that we still struggle with that add up, and end up holding us back from where we want to be, ” Allen said.
The Titans ended their season on Monday with a 12-8 loss to divisional foe Woodson High School in the first round of the district playoffs, the second time in two weeks that the Cavaliers prevailed over the Titans.
Overall, even with a first-year head coach and several injuries, the Titans said they felt as though their season was a success and that the future is bright for ACHS lacrosse.
“As a whole, the regular season was a success because of the 10-win season. There were some games we should have won, but it was definitely an improvement from years past,” Heiden stated.