Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Girls lacrosse: With JV, will county’s girls look state-ly?

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Junior-varsity lacrosse has arrived in Montgomery County, and the girls varsity coaches are rejoicing.

‘‘It’s amazing,” Gaithersburg coach Michelle Lewis said. ‘‘I’m still refining basics with the varsity players, but I am not teaching the basic skills anymore. We kept only 20 kids [on varsity, as opposed to 30 last year], but now we have more depth. All these players have the fundamentals.”

The goal is that the junior varsity will feed and replenish the varsity ranks and bring parity to county competition as a whole.

‘‘The girls now have time to learn,” Wheaton coach Lauren Mincher said. ‘‘We have a chance to make JV a stepping stone to develop skilled players. There is still a gap, but this might help us close it.”

Quince Orchard is looking to close the gap between itself and the Frederick County schools that it will eventually face in the 4A-3A North Region playoffs. In the last few years, the Cougars have been among the elite in Montgomery County, but have not made it out of the regional playoffs. First-year coach Skye Saltsman, who played college lacrosse at Penn State, hopes to get a team that lost the bulk of its scoring to graduation, over the hump.

‘‘We’re still building the attitude of the team,” Saltsman said. ‘‘They know how to win games, but we need to start over in some areas, especially in the midfield transition.”

Senior midfielder Alicia Vicenty returns to add some stability to that area, as does senior Melissa Goleb. Alissa Peterson returns to lead the scoring attack and Bethany Scanlan will head up the defense. They have lofty goals.

‘‘We want to take it one game at a time, but the girls are already talking about going undefeated,” Saltsman said. ‘‘They want to go up against the tougher teams.”

At Wootton, coach Anne-Marie Ritzell will try to get her team past the regional semifinal round. A year ago, the Patriots won 10 games, and earned the second seed in the 4A-3A West Region playoffs, before getting upset at home by Sherwood. The loss of scorer Courtney Saunders to graduation will make that difficult, but senior Julie Klatzkin may pick up some of that slack. The Patriots also have an experienced and accomplished goalie in Amelia Titus, to anchor the defense.

At Rockville, first-year coach Tamika Jancewicz inherits a team that has been on the rise over the past two seasons. She played lacrosse at Messiah (Pa.) College and then stayed in the state to coach before coming to Montgomery County and feels ready to keep the upward trend going.

‘‘There is a larger demand for lacrosse in this state, which is cool,” she said. ‘‘The transition here has been a work in progress, but I see that the girls are excited at the progress they have made.”

The Rams suffered heavy losses to graduation, and return just 15 players that saw time last year, but among them are captains Mary Gorman and Danielle Durham, who could be the most pivotal links to their success.

‘‘They aren’t beginners anymore,” Jancewicz said. ‘‘Their skill level has improved.”

Richard Montgomery hopes that its second year under coach Kristin Ramsay produces a leap forward in their development. The Rockets spent the off-season playing in a winter league, and are already more cohesive than a year ago.

‘‘There is a lot more focus, now,” Ramsay said. ‘‘We are able to give more attention to specific stuff, and one of our goals is to work on our defense this year.”

Senior center Molly Sweeney will be counted on all over the field, and defender Tasha Lockett, who played basketball in the winter, will anchor the back line.

‘‘Her basketball background has helped a lot,” she said. ‘‘She’s a great defender.”

Another team hoping to take a step forward is Magruder, which is in its third year with coach Kate Hilton at the helm. She feels like the process of molding the team to her style has taken a leap forward.

‘‘I’ve had most of these girls since they were sophomores,” Hilton said. ‘‘And, this year, we have added some freshmen that can get out on the field and play.”

Three seniors, attacker Kiki Sackett, midfielder Ashley Boyle and defender Elise Ruland, are captains, and their presence on the field should help the mix of youth and experience. Everyone is expected to chip in.

‘‘We’re keeping a small roster,” Hilton said. ‘‘They’re all going to play.”

Lacrosse in Montgomery County first took a foothold down county, and the teams in that area are looking to make some noise again. Whitman rebounded from a disappointing season two years ago, to win seven games and make an appearance in the regional quarterfinals. Though the Vikings are not fully back to the power they once were, having last won the 4A-3A West Region title in 2004, they have a young core that could make some strides this season. Sophomore Julia Kerns has emerged as a potent attacker, and Whitman has experience in the net with Susan England. The four-year player returns for her senior season.

B-CC, which suffered a disappointed quarterfinal loss to Springbrook last year, comes back with several players looking to help it advance further this season. Leading that charge is senior Leslie Grill, who will step in for the departed Shay Smith to add scoring, as well Holton-Arms transfer Mimi Wentzel. But the biggest addition may have been that of coach Jenna Reis, who comes over to the Barons after nine years at Quince Orchard. She turned the Cougars into a power, and may do the same with this talented group.

‘‘I see a lot of potential in this group,” Reis said. ‘‘We will be challenged early, but this is a team that can be very good in May.”

Walter Johnson had a season full of lessons last year. The Wildcats won just four of the 12 games they played, but lost six games by two goals or less. If that trend can be reversed and close losses are turned into close wins, then Walter Johnson has a chance to close in on a seed and go deeper into the playoffs. Returning for the Wildcats is attacker Lauren Euler, as are juniors Abby Bieber, Tess Petesch and Sarah Langley to give the Wildcats a boost.

‘‘I feel that the group of girls we have had is the strongest it’s been in quite a few years,” coach Bill Euler said. ‘‘We have speed at the D-wing positions, which should help quite a bit in transition.”

In the private school realm, three Montgomery County schools play in the Independent School Leagues AA division, possibly the toughest league in the area. Bullis made a surprising run the league semifinal game last year, cementing its arrival in the top division, and look ready to continue to build upon that success with young talent. Midfielders Dina Jackson and Alex Aust, both lead the attack and midfielder Adrian Wendling, also a junior, flourished.

Stone Ridge made it to the ISL AA Division final two years ago, but last year, rebuilt with some younger players. Among those, Brooke Blue, a junior, emerged as a potent scoring threat in the mold of two-time All-Gazette first-team selection Kaitlin Duff, who is now playing at the University of Virginia. New coach Kara Henry also can count on center Liza Beckler and defender Michelle May to provide some leadership.

‘‘We have solid players at each position,” Henry said. ‘‘We should be able to control the field, especially at the midfield.”

Last year, though, Montgomery County’s representative in the ISL AA final was Holton-Arms. The Panthers have graduated several players now playing at Division I universities, but return some firepower that should keep them at the top of the division. Senior Lucy Hayes, who will play at North Carolina next year, returns to lead the offense, and Bailey Fogarty, who will play at the University of Virginia, is in the midfield. Senior Catherine Swanson is also headed to another major lacrosse program at Stanford. However, in a season opening loss to Good Counsel, coach Alivian Coates-Jorgensen reminded her players that their season will not be made on their name alone.

‘‘It takes hard work,” she said. ‘‘We haven’t practiced together much, and we need to get better at working as a team, with our communication. We have to do that if we want to meet our goals.”

Holy Cross will make a legitimate run at a title in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, despite the presence of four-time defending champion Good Counsel. Last year, the Tartans’ only losses were to the Falcons, the second of which came in a tense championship game at the University of Maryland. With senior Grace Din returning to bolster the defense, and junior Hayley Katzenberger on the attack, the Tartans have a chance to snap Good Counsel’s 38-game league winning streak.

Fast Facts

B-CC Barons

Head coach: Jenna Reis, 1st year (10th overall)

Last year’s record: 8-4

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A West

Players to watch: Leslie Grill (Sr., M), Mimi Wentzel (Sr., A), Michelle Hayes (Sr., D), Catherine Mirsky (Jr., M)

Bullis Bulldogs

Head coach: Kathleen Lloyd, 2nd year

Last year’s record: 11-5

League affiliation: Independent Schools League

Players to watch: Dina Jackson (Jr., M), Alex Aust (Jr., M)

Churchill Bulldogs

Head coach: Louisa Feve, 2nd year

Last year’s record: 4-9

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A West

Players to watch: Lauren Plotnick (Sr., A)

Holton-Arms Panthers

Head coach: Alivian Coates-Jorgensen, 3rd year

Last year’s record: 10-5

League affiliation: Independent Schools League

Players to watch: Lucy Hayes (Sr., C), Bailey Fogarty (Sr., M), Sophia Corrigan (Sr., M)

Quince Orchard Cougars

Head coach: Skye Saltsman, 1st year

Last year’s record: 11-3

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A North

Players to watch: Alissa Peterson (Jr., A), Alicia Vicenty (Sr., M), Bethany Scanlan (Sr., D), Melissa Goleb (Sr., M)

Richard Montgomery Rockets

Head coach: Kristin Ramsay, 2nd year

Last year’s record: 4-9

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A West

Players to watch: Molly Sweeney (Sr., C), Tasha Lockett (Jr., D)

Stone Ridge Gators

Head coach: Kara Henry, 1st year

Last year’s record: N⁄A

League affiliation: Independent Schools League

Players to watch: Brooke Blue (Jr., M⁄A), Liza Beckler (Sr., C), Michelle May (Jr., D)

Whitman Vikings

Head coach: Mary Pat Veihmeyer, 15th year

Last year record: 7-6

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A West

Players to watch: Susan England (Sr., GK), Julia Kerns (Soph., M), Caitlyn Dwyer (Sr., D)

Wootton Patriots

Head coach: Anne-Marie Ritzell, 3rd year

Last year’s record: 10-3

League affiliation: Montgomery 4A⁄3A West

Players to watch: Amelia Titus (Sr., GK), Julie Klatzkin (Sr., M)