“Could” was never the question for the Bishop Ireton girls lacrosse team in 2014, loaded with talent and well aware that it was closer than ever to becoming the WCAC’s best.
The question, conjured by injuries, a tough schedule and the fact that they’d never won a title before, was “would.” Would the young Cardinals put it together for the “six days in May” they’d focused on all season? Would Ireton morph from contender to champion by the first few days of May, the week of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association title games?
The answer was a resounding yes, as Ireton won the first WCAC and VISAA Division I titles in history to earn the No. 1 spot in The Post’s final girls’ lacrosse rankings of 2014. With their whole team healthy and available for the first time since early spring, the Cardinals avenged an early-season loss to Good Counsel with a stunningly convincing 17-7 win in the championship game. Then, despite having just two seniors on its roster, Ireton showed composure down the stretch against national powerhouse and Independent School League champion St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, rallying from a late deficit to knock off the Saints for the first time in team history.
“It was just amazing,” junior Kaitlin Luzik said. “To experience that as a team, but also for our whole community, it was just so great. People are still coming up to me and congratulating me. It’s just awesome.”
The Cardinals’ ascent likely isn’t short-lived, either. Ireton loses two seniors, goalie Olivia Cole and attacker Kendall Cunningham, and while both featured prominently in the title run, the Cardinals will have plenty of firepower left in 2015.
Luzik was one of the area’s top defenders, anchoring the back line with fellow junior stalwart Natalie Irwin. Classmate Kelly Mathews led the Cardinals in scoring, and fellow junior midfielder Charlotte Sofield was the WCAC Player of the Year as a versatile, do-it-all force in the middle. They hope they’re building Ireton lacrosse into a brand of which titles are expected, instead of hoped for.
“Hopefully this is how Bishop Ireton lacrosse will be for years to come,” Luzik said. “Strong teamwork, and we’re a very aggressive team. We play an aggressive type of defense, we pressure on offense, and work very hard.”
Ireton wasn’t the only Virginia school to earn its first title. After years of watching Madison and Oakton claim championships and the headlines that came with them, Westfield (18-3) took them both down in a 10-day span to earn its first Virginia girls’ lacrosse title. Led by seniors Meghan Heick and Molly O’Sullivan, the Bulldogs downed Oakton 13-11 in the 6A championship game Sunday.
The Woodgrove girls did the same in the 5A championship game, earning their first state title with a dominating 15-1 win over neighborhood rival Loudoun Valley. Sophomore Nora Bowen sparked the Wolverines all season, and scored four goals in the title game to help them win a state championship in the school’s fourth season of existence.
If Virginia was the land of opportunity for first-time title hopefuls, Maryland remained firmly in the grasp of traditional girls’ lacrosse powers. Marriotts Ridge and Severna Park each won their third titles in the past four seasons. Both the Mustangs and Falcons won convincingly in the 3A/2A and 4A/3A state title games, respectively, emerging from brutal regions to earn state tournament berths and cruise to titles.
Ireton edges St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes for the top spot, though the Saints turned in a 29-2 record in a typically dominating year. . . . Severn nearly did the impossible and beat national No. 1 McDonogh in the IAAM-A tournament. The Admirals carried a lead into the final minutes before falling by a goal. . . . ISL runner-up Georgetown Visitation played one of the toughest schedules in the region and emerged with eight losses, five of them by one goal.
1. Bishop Ireton (20-4) LW: 2
2. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (29-2) LW: 1
3. Severn (14-5) LW: 5
4. Georgetown Visitation (17-8) LW: 4
5. Marriotts Ridge (17-2) LW: 9
6. Severna Park (15-2) LW: NR
7. Good Counsel (14-6) LW: 3
8. Mount Hebron (13-2) LW: 8
9. Westfield (18-3) LW: NR
10. Broadneck (14-3) LW: 6
Also considered: Madison (15-2), Woodgrove (18-4), Oakton (15-2)