Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Trojans must study Carroll

After beating Watkins Mill, Gaithersburg faces old foe Westminster

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The Gaithersburg boys lacrosse team was under no illusions about the task it faced in the Class 4A-3A North Region this season. The Trojans’ large senior class had been knocked out of the playoffs by Carroll County teams in each of the last three seasons.

Saturday afternoon’s 17-4 home win over neighboring Watkins Mill sent second-seeded Gaithersburg (13-2) into the regional semifinals, where it met No. 3 Westminster Tuesday, a game played after press time for this edition.

The Owls went into that game having won five consecutive regional titles, along the way ousting the Trojans in the 2005 semifinals and ’07 final, the latter by a 12-4 score. Gaithersburg fell to North Carroll in the 2006 regional quarterfinals.

‘‘I think it’s a challenge,” midfielder Trevor Curtin said. ‘‘That’s just how it draws out; nothing we can do about it. But I think we have a good chance against them.”

The Trojans weren’t looking past anyone Saturday, invoking the running-clock rule by the second quarter. Gaithersburg led Watkins Mill (3-13) at the half, 15-1. Bennett Cord (3 goals, 4 assists) and Mike Greaney (5 goals, 2 assists) led the scoring, with Shawn Johnston (4 goals, 2 assists) and Curtin (3 goals, 2 assists) close behind.

Will Ludgate scored Watkins Mill’s first three goals, and Brian Ratliff had the final tally of the game. The Wolverines reached the matchup with Gaithersburg courtesy of a 14-4 win over Northwest in the first round last Thursday.

‘‘We’ve had some outstanding players in the past who have been real big contributors; our biggest problem this season was that we didn’t have someone to fill those shoes right away,” Watkins Mill coach Pat La Vay said. ‘‘This whole season was trying to play more as a team rather than relying on individual talent. We’ve progressed there. Our biggest problem has been not playing four quarters.”

La Vay is likely to return next spring, an immediate plus for a program that has seen three different coaches in the last three years. And the new coach is confident in his up-and-coming talent.

‘‘We’re losing a lot of numbers with the seniors, but we’ve got a good core of underclassmen,” La Vay said. ‘‘We look forward to that. And I think we’ve learned a lot this season. A lot of it’s been an adjustment to my coaching style.”

By contrast, Gaithersburg coach Matt Duffy has been with the Trojans in some capacity since 2001. The program has grown by leaps and bounds over that time; their win total improved over the previous season’s in every year from 2005-07, and they went into last year’s regionals as the No. 1 seed.

In many ways, this is the year to which the recent growth spurt has been leading.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of senior leadership,” Curtin said. ‘‘We’ve all been playing together for so long now, there’s a lot of team chemistry.”

But whether this year is ultimately more successful than last depends on what happens in the playoffs. And in the 4A-3A North that translates to what happens against Carroll County opponents.

‘‘I think our starters can play with any team out there,” Duffy said. ‘‘They obviously have better depth than we have, and that’s usually the factor. ... It’s a great opportunity for us. We’ve definitely got the kids to do it. It’s up to them.”