The Potomac Lacrosse Club, which was formed in 1971, is the oldest club team in the sport in the Washington area. It also is the oldest in terms of players' age, with an average of 28.
The age of the Potomac team didn't hinder its performance, though. Potomac finished 8-0 and won its sixth Montgomery County Summer League championship since 1978, with a 14-6 victory over Landon Aug. 8, at North Bethesda Athletic Complex.
Most teams average 22 to 25 years old and have current college players on their rosters. This year, Potomac, whose roster is dotted with former collegiate all-Americas from throughout the metropolitan area, split into two teams for the summer. The older players stayed on the main team and the younger players formed the Potomac Juniors, headed by Bill Brown.
Realizing the team, which each spring plays in the United States Club Lacrosse Association, was showing some age, Potomac made the move in hopes of rejuvenating it for the future.
"We carry 35-40 players on our spring team, but only 18-20 in the summer," said player-coach Chris Van Syckle. "More guys who played this past spring wanted to play in the summer, so that's why we split the teams. Some of our older guys were going to quit, but then changed their minds. Everybody wants to get ample playing time, which was another reason for the split."
Some of the players had decided that this past spring would be their final season, but the team lost to Landon, 14-12, last summer in the Montgomery League finals and players wanted one more shot at their summer arch rivals.
"Some guys said this past spring would be it, then we would pack it in," said Van Syckle, 32, who was one of those who intended to stop playing. "But some of the other guys said they wanted to win the Montgomery championship one more time. It didn't take a lot of convincing to get us back, that's why beating Landon this year was a sweet victory and one that we really enjoyed."
After opening the season with an 11-10 victory over Alexandria, Potomac steadily improved this summer. It closed the regular season with a devastating 18-3 win over Fairfax.
The victory over Landon wasn't as easy as the eight-goal margin would indicate. Potomac led, 6-5, at halftime, but Van Syckle and fellow defenseman Dick Louck helped shut down Landon's high-scorer, Rick Kirschner, and goalie Steve Allison allowed just one second-half goal.
"We played well in the first half, but in the second half, they got a couple of quick goals and then it was bang-bang-bang," said Landon captain Kevin Cosimano. "It's hard to touch a team like Potomac when they do that because they have so much firepower."
The offensive star for Potomac is former University of Maryland all-America John Lamon, who scored six goals in the championship game. Lamon, playing with the Maryland Lacrosse Club last spring, was voted USCLA player of the year.
Defensively, Potomac's veteran lines are difficult for most teams to penetrate. When the opposition does get deep into Potomac's territory, it must deal with Allison.
A former all-America at Ithaca College, Allison is an alternate on the U.S. world team, which competes against England, Canada and Australia. Potomac's summer record since Allison joined the team is 34-2.
Potomac has a somewhat different look during the USCLA season. Some of the better players, like Lamon, play for teams in Baltimore where the caliber of play is better. Potomac qualified for the USCLA playoffs in three of the last four seasons, but has not had the success of its summer team.
"A lot of talented players from the D.C. area go and play in Baltimore during the spring," said Van Syckle. "We're trying to upgrade our team in the spring, but its tough to battle the Baltimore teams.
"We are a nonprofit organization without sponsorship. Most of the Baltimore teams have sponsors and that makes it easier on guys because they don't have to pay for anything. We would like to have sponsorship, but for our spring season, the cost is $3,500. A lot of companies can't justify spending that type of money. It's easier to sponsor a softball team where the cost is just a couple of hundred dollars."
The sponsorship is helpful, but the Baltimore club teams also have better talent. Van Syckle hopes that Potomac's continued success in the summer, plus the split with a junior team, will help keep the pipeline of young, talented players coming to his club.
The Juniors, in their first year, proved more than respectable this summer. Competing in the strongest division of the Montgomery County League, the Juniors, led by Al McGuckian, finished 3-4 and reached the semifinals of the postseason playoffs. They received a lesson from the senior team in the semifinal round, 17-6, but Van Syckle said the summer season provided exactly what the club intended.
"We wanted to expose players to playing and winning in the summer and keep more of them in the D.C. area," he said. "We want to show them that they don't have to travel to Baltimore to play good competitive lacrosse."
For the present, Potomac continues to win in the summer and improve in the spring. Some players will be quitting after this summer season; age having slowed the reflexes. Van Syckle plans to stop playing, although he will remain as coach.
"You just don't react the way you like to and the way you have before," he said. "It takes much longer to recover from the many bumps and bruises you get in this sport. When you slow down in lacrosse, it becomes very noticable, and guys want to leave when they are still at the top of their game."