Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Springbrook boys finish better than expected, even by them

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Springbrook boys lacrosse head coach Darren Murray came into his first year at the helm with the idea that it was going to be a struggle all year long. As it turns out, it wasn’t as difficult as he expected.

As a team that lost almost all their key cogs from the year before — when the Blue Devils registered 13 wins, a trip to the 4A-3A West Region final and the best season in school history — Murray’s expectations weren’t nearly as high. This year, he just wanted his team to compete.

That’s exactly what they did, and then some. The Blue Devils (5-8 record) even won a playoff game with a 2-0 win over Blair. It was the second time they beat the Blazers, a team that finished with a winning percentage over .500. Even in their season-ending 12-1 loss to powerful Wootton in the 4A-3A West Region quarterfinals over the weekend, they only trailed 3-1 at halftime.

All told, they took their lumps with a squad of almost all new starters.

‘‘It’s been an uphill battle —we had some tough injuries as well,” said Murray. ‘‘But the guys really came together in the last game. The experience factor was big. Honestly, we were lucky enough to play Wootton two times.”

Suddenly, the future for Springbrook lacrosse looks a lot brighter than it did even a month ago. It was a team that at one point was defined by losses. It started out with their four leading-scorers from last year, including All-Gazette first-team midfielder Ben Simmons and Mark Pim, their only previous head coach in school history.

Then came more crushing losses specific to the 2008 season — defender Dan Oliver, one of only two starters returning from a year ago, tore a ligament in his ankle in the season-opener against Walter Johnson. And the team’s only senior middie, Carlo Galeano, missed much of the season with stress fractures in each leg.

But a pair of Blue Devils stepped into the breach and carried much of the load. Senior attackman Mike Winogradoff was far and away the team’s leading scorer, who Murray called ‘‘a one-man show a lot of times this year.” On the other side of the field was senior goalkeeper Tim Hood, in his first year starting between the pipes, who was awesome down the stretch of the season. He recorded two shutouts in May, including the playoff victory over Blair in which he stopped 17 shots on goal.

Though both will be gone, the middie line holds the key to tomorrow for Springbrook. Sophomores Alex Abramson — whose brother Dave graduated a year ago and was a four-year starter — and Joe Galeano (Carlo’s brother) played the entire game in their finale at Wootton.

‘‘Those guys are going to be big for us the next couple years,” said Murray. ‘‘Whenever you play talent, it only makes you better, and we had sophomores running up and down the field with seniors. It will make us better in the future.”

Seniors set Cavs’ bar high

The Kennedy boys lacrosse team couldn’t quite match its performance last year, when it went 8-6 and posted its first winning season in school history. But the Cavaliers’ six wins in 2008 are still an upgrade on most of their prior seasons, which is enough for head coach David Heiney-Gonzalez.

‘‘It’s a lot more than I had in my first couple years, I’ll tell you that much,” he said. ‘‘The kids that are in the program now are really starting to take to lacrosse a whole lot more. I see in the future seasons above .500 happening often.”

It didn’t look like six wins would even be a possibility early in the season. After defeating Clarksburg in their opening game, 11-5, the Cavs (6-9 record) lost five games in a row. But they climbed out of the hole fast, edging Watkins Mill before blowout victories against Wheaton, Northwood and Northwest.

It was almost an entire starting lineup of seniors that Kennedy trotted out on the field this year. The only underclassman was junior Bill Okiji, who started the year at defensive midfield before moving to attack. He came on as the season drew to a close, scoring twice against Sherwood and once against Tuscarora in their 14-7 loss in the first round of the 3A-2A West Region playoffs last week, and will be expected to carry the scoring load in 2009.

But this year was a teammate’s time to shine. Senior Alex Yewdell was the workhorse on the attack line for the Cavaliers, scoring over 40 goals in addition to 10-plus assists. He will also become the first player Heiney-Gonzalez ever coached to play college lacrosse, as he will take his skills to Division III Union College (N.Y.).

The Cavaliers’ strength was on the defensive end of the field. Goalkeeper Art Adhatonsootra started every game and registered a save percentage over 58 percent, while Adriel Simon and Nadir Mechairia anchored the back line.

‘‘Nadir was our shut-down defender and Adriel was probably our best defender in terms of body position — we were strong on defense,” Heiney-Gonzalez said. ‘‘All around, this was a great group of guys to have for our run.”