The weather delay that halted the DeMatha boys’ lacrosse team’s Washington Catholic Athletic quarterfinal matchup at Paul VI Tuesday night had come and gone, and the Stags were presented with an opportunity they likely would have squandered a year ago. With about four minutes remaining in a tie game, neither team had led by more than a goal for much of the afternoon.
It would end that way, too. Once DeMatha returned to the field, senior Quint Burroughs dodged down the alley and fired a right-handed shot into the back of the net. It stood up as the game-winning goal in a dramatic 11-10 victory over the Panthers, an upset that may not have been possible without the struggles these Stags went through last season.
“It was huge,” said Burroughs, who will play college lacrosse for Division II Limestone next year. “It’s such a great feeling after last year not doing what we wanted to.”
DeMatha (10-9) now moves on to the WCAC semifinals with wins in four of its past five games and will face St. John’s with a chance to advance to the conference championship game for the first time in four years. Regardless of that outcome, the Stags can already reflect positively on a season that turned out much better than 2015.
They finished last season with a 7-11 record, tied for their worst mark under eighth-year Coach Scott Morrison. Injuries hampered the lineup, and the improved play of the entire WCAC in recent years often left the Stags searching for answers.
“We had almost a chip on our shoulder after last year,” Burroughs said. “We just played more as a team than last year. We didn’t gel as well.”
That’s because seniors like Mitchell Howell (UMBC), Colin Kasner (U-Mass.-Lowell) and Ricky Koehler (High Point) all returned a year wiser this spring. Though they began the season by losing four of their first five games, improved chemistry became evident over time. This perhaps wouldn’t have been possible without the struggles they had already endured together.
All of that, Morrison explained, contributed to moments like Tuesday, which felt more like a culmination of progress than an upset.
“It’s extremely meaningful,” he said. “We definitely had a down year last year in terms of wins and losses, but last year was actually an enjoyable year with how we finished up and the fight that our kids had. Having most of the guys back from last year’s team certainly has gotten us through some adversity.
“We focused a lot on how we deal with failure. [Against Paul VI], it worked out. We could have lost by one goal and I would’ve been proud of these guys.”
Stone Bridge goes into each game with a target on its back. Such is life for the defending Virginia 5A state champions.
But in the midst of an undefeated season, the No. 7 Bulldogs were presented with an unprecedented challenge, and overcoming it required some of the best teamwork — and footwork — they’ve had all spring.
On Saturday morning, the 13 Stone Bridge seniors put on basketball jerseys and performed a dance routine as part of Trailside Middle School’s Mini-THON, which raises money to fight pediatric cancer. The Bulldogs did their best to keep in step to a three-minute mix that included “Macarena,” “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” “Y.M.C.A.” and the “running man” challenge.
The seniors choreographed the performance the previous week by taking 10 minutes from practices to work on their dance moves, mostly in silence.
”It was more comedic,” senior attack Cade Groton said. “It slowly came together and I’m pretty surprised we were able to put together such a routine.”
The Bulldogs (12-0) have plenty of reason to dance, as they’re on a 26-game winning streak that started in April 2015. They’re outscoring opponents by an average of 10.8 goals and have been playing some of their best lacrosse of late, with recent wins over Chantilly and Champe.
With one regular season game remaining, Groton said the team is hoping to peak as it heads into the playoffs.
“We just gotta keep working hard,” Groton said, “and I think if we keep working hard, things will go our way.”
After closing out another perfect regular season in league play, Gonzaga bested Bishop Ireton, 16-3, in the WCAC quarterfinals Tuesday. . . . Bullis registered its first shutout since 2008 in a 15-0 win over Lake Braddock Tuesday and needs only to beat St. Albans Friday to secure its first outright IAC regular season title. . . . With junior Nate Buller back from a thumb injury, Landon scored wins over rival Georgetown Prep and Robinson over the past past week. . . . Broadneck beat South River for the first time since 2007 on Tuesday and could cap off an undefeated regular season with a win over Severna Park Friday. . . . Churchill closes its regular season with an intriguing matchup against Landon next Monday. . . . Dominion enters the rankings for the first time after handing Woodgrove its first loss of the season last Thursday.
1. Gonzaga (17-2) Last week: 1
2. Bullis (17-2) LW: 2
3. Landon (15-3) LW: 3
4. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (15-3) LW: 4
5. Broadneck (13-0) LW: 5
6. Georgetown Prep (11-5) LW: 6
7. Stone Bridge (12-0) LW: 8
8. Churchill (13-0) LW: 9
9. Northern (11-1) LW: 10
10. Dominion (10-0) LW: NR
Dropped out: No. 7 Severn (13-6)
Records through Tuesday.