Wednesday, May 14, 2008

’Dogs look new but have similar results

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On the surface, it looks like 2008 was status quo for the Churchill boys lacrosse team. As it awaited Tuesday’s 4A-3A West Region semifinal with Bethesda-Chevy Chase, it was once again a top contender to advance out of the bracket. With its 15-11 quarterfinal-round victory over Sherwood, it had cemented five 10-win seasons in a row.

Yet head coach Jeff Fritz saw some differences other people may not have seen. First, he discusses a balanced attack instead of one with ‘‘real star players,” like a year ago, when they had four current Division I college players: attackman Kyle Hann and midfielder Harris Middel (Vermont), long pole middie Bertan Unal (Providence) and defender Phillip Halls (Towson). It’s also a Bulldogs roster younger than usual, especially on the defensive end, with a junior goalkeeper, defender and five sophomore long poles.

Yet the wins have kept a-coming.

‘‘I think we have more of a team — we have no real standout star players but it’s just been great team chemistry,” said Fritz. ‘‘You never knew who’s going to stand out.”

In truth, two Bulldogs do stand out, at least at the offensive end of the field. Seniors Connor Wielgus and Kyle Cissel have been the two go-to options all year, and have each put together some monster games. Wielgus, a midfielder who has been ‘‘good for a normal four or five points every game,” according to Fritz, was the team’s leading goal-scorer for most of the season, and put up four goals and three assists in an 11-7 victory over rival Whitman. Cissel, an attackman, has put up even gaudier offensive numbers at times. He banged home six goals in a loss to arch-rival Wootton, and posted a team-record 10 points in the playoff victory over Sherwood.

What has been a consistent theme this season for the Bulldogs, maybe unlike years past, is their ability to come from behind. Against Whitman, they trailed by four goals early on. Against Walter Johnson, they trailed by six before eventually winning 10-9 in overtime.

‘‘We don’t need to do anything out of the ordinary, we need to play four quarters,” said Fritz. ‘‘We haven’t really played four quarters well the entire season. We’re a better team now than when we played them the first time, so we have a chance to run with teams like B-CC and Wootton.”