Since 2009, no one in Howard County had beaten the Glenelg boys’ lacrosse team. The Gladiators didn’t stumble in a fluke regular season loss, never allowed an off day to doom them, never let hopeful opponents hungry to end their streak catch them napping just long enough to end their dominance.
By the time Glenelg downed Centennial in last year’s region final, the Gladiators’ win streak against Howard competition had climbed to 60. They’d been to four state title games and won one, falling only to powers outside Howard County — Hereford, Queen Anne’s and Pikesville.
So what happened Monday night at Western Regional Park marked sight not seen yet this decade: in both teams’ season openers, the Centennial Eagles knocked off Glenelg 9-6, ensuring the streak wouldn’t reach 61.
“A lot of times you want to get wins early, and to build up your confidence,” said Centennial senior Andrew Gavlin, who scored the Eagles’ ninth goal, which convinced the bench that they’d finally ended Glenelg’s historic run. “But when you can establish yourself as a front-runner in the county after the first game, it leaves the rest of the schedule in our own hands.”
The Eagles nearly halted the Gladiators’ run in last year’s season opener, losing by one in a game that ultimately kept Centennial from Howard County supremacy.
But Centennial Coach Nick Kellinger says his team’s historic win doesn’t as much propel the Eagles directly to the top of Howard County. Instead, he think it indicates a league that will be hotly contested and potentially wide open, noting that Howard may be the favorite, and that Glenelg — despite losing a large talent pool to graduation last year — is still an elite contender.
Senior Quinn Western, who scored three goals in the Eagles’ win, agrees that now that Glenelg has shown its mortality — if only for one night — the landscape of the league has changed.
“I definitely say we’re up at the top with Howard, Glenlg, Atholton, and others,” Western said. “I feel like it’s going to be good competition this year, and that’s always good.”
The last time a Washington Catholtic Athletic Conference team other than Gonzaga won the conference crown was 2009. For four years, the Eagles have been the team to emulate in the up-and-coming lacrosse league, a team so good it “lifted the rest of us with them,” as second-year Paul VI Coach Bob Waters put it.
But with 20 seniors gone from Gonzaga’s dominant 2013 team, two losses to out-of-region powers already on their record, matching last year’s loss total, and WCAC teams in hot pursuit, Eagles’ Coach Casey O’Neill feels uneasy calling his team a clear favorite in the conference or the best in the D.C. area.
“It sure doesn’t feel like it,” O’Neill laughed.
That’s not to say his Eagles haven’t reloaded — they have, boasting 14 Division I commits on a roster stabilized by talented upperclassmen and energized by a corps of high-ceiling underclassmen. Plus, they’re Gonzaga: “until someone knocks them off,” said Waters, “they’re still the team to beat.”
Waters’s Paul VI team lost 16 seniors from last year’s upstart squad that fell to Gonzaga 13-11 in the WCAC championship game. So far this season, the Panthers are 1-5, a deceptively dismal record: they pushed No. 1 Georgetown Prep in a one-goal loss, fell by two to nationally ranked St. Paul’s, and stumbled against No. 2 Landon in their opener. Waters says he knew his early-season schedule was a risk, but hopes it will yield rewards in late season experience.
The Panthers will need all the experience they can get if they’re going to challenge Gonzaga for the WCAC crown, though by year’s end DeMatha may be the team the rest of the conference is chasing. The Stags are 7-0, and rallied to a big 8-6 win over Bullis last week in a win that senior Matt Brisolari said showed the depth of experience he and his teammates — eight of them Division I-committed seniors — hope will help them stand out this year.
“Most of these guys have been starting for three years now,” he said. “We’ve played some big games, we know what to expect, we know how to win, and we know how to stick together.”
Georgetown Prep is unbeaten against a strong early schedule that includes wins over nationally-ranked St. Paul’s (Md.) and Calverton and WCAC power Paul VI. . . . Defending WCAC champion Gonzaga is off to a 4-2 start against a tough early-season schedule despite losing 20 seniors, but with an experienced lineup and a hot start to the season, DeMatha looks ready to challenge the Eagles for conference supremacy. . . . St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (3-3) nearly knocked off Gonzaga in a one-goal loss in their opener.
1. Georgetown Prep (17-6)
2. Landon (13-7)
3. Gonzaga (19-2)
4. DeMatha (11-8)
6. Howard (16-3)
8. Centennial (14-3)
10. Chantilly (21-2)
On the bubble: Severna Park, Glenelg, St. Mary’s-Annapolis