Almost every practice, the Gonzaga lacrosse team breaks into six-on-six scrimmaging with a competitive twist. The offense gets a point for a goal; the defense must get a clear on the run to score. The first to seven points earns a water break. The losers hit the ground for 25 push-ups.
By now, junior midfielder Max Planning and the offense are used to extra calisthenics.
“We’re definitely pushed,” Planning said. “Our defense prepares us for every game. It goes back-and-forth, but they usually get the better of us.”
Boosted by plenty of early-season competition, both units shined in Gonzaga’s 12-2 win over Bullis on Thursday in the District in a game between teams that finished ranked in the top 10 last year. The defense held the Bulldogs’ powerful offense in check throughout. Meantime, the offense exploded for a 5-0 halftime lead, then got going again late with six fourth-quarter goals in an emphatic victory.
Gonzaga — which heads into the season seeking its third straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title — dominated play from the start: Five players scored the five first-half goals.
Bullis (2-1) added Landon transfer Matt Opsahl (Hobart) this season to an already potent lineup featuring returning second-team All-Met Kylor Bellistri (Brown). But the Bulldogs of the Interstate Athletic Conference struggled Thursday to string together any sort of offense.
Against a Gonzaga defense anchored by senior Luke Miller (Hobart) and juniors Jack Slater (Bucknell) and Matt Borda (Fairfield), the Bulldogs rarely challenged the net until senior Chris Welch scored almost four minutes into the second half.
“There’s going to be some growing pains,” said Bullis Coach Bobby Pollicino. “We’ve just got to get back after it in practice and iron out the kinks.”
The Eagles — who have five more Division I commits on offense — showcased that firepower with five goals in the final six minutes, including a pair of goals 10 seconds apart. Junior Joe Fitzpatrick led the way with three goals and juniors Planning, Patrick Myers and Alex Corboy added two apiece.
Gonzaga (2-0) continued an impressive start after beating St. Mary’s-Annapolis, 10-8, on Saturday to avenge one of its three losses last season. Buoyed by a pair of units in constant competition, the Eagles hope to keep that run going, while striving to figure out whether they are more of an offensive or defensive squad.
“I’ve always thought that our defense holds us together, but at the same time, our offense might be the best its ever been,” defenseman Luke Miller said. “It’s hard to say, but I’m rooting for us.”