At the end of this 2014 season, the Virginia High School League will crown two boys’ lacrosse state champions for the first time ever.
Virginia reclassified its high schools prior to the 2013-14 academic year, famously altering the playoff structure for sports including football and basketball. But perhaps no sport was affected more than lacrosse, one of the VHSL’s newest additions, which has played one state championship for schools big and small since the first in 2006.
This year, the first of the new alignment, the VHSL will host a 6A championship game and a 1A-5A playoff game. The move acknowledges the relative prevalence and popularity of lacrosse in Northern Virginia compared to the rest of the state; 6A Northern Virginia schools Chantilly, Langley, and Robinson have combined all eight VHSL titles.
Smaller Northern Virginia schools — including Stone Bridge (now 5A), Dominion, Woodgrove, and Loudoun County — now have their path to the state title clear of the 6A powers. But while the shift removes roadblocks for a school like Stone Bridge, formerly in the Liberty District, the Bulldogs face the new challenge of playing unfamiliar opponents.
“A lot of the teams we’ll be playing are used to playing each other, but I haven’t seen them, said Stone Bridge Coach Scott Mitchell. “Playing in the Liberty District, you see a lot of the same coaches, a lot of the same players year after year. But this year, there’s seven or eight brand-new teams that we’ve never played against. And there are some really good teams we’ve been playing.”
For Yorktown, formerly in the National District with now-5A schools like Edison, this year’s regular season schedule doesn’t reflect potential playoff opponents, a reality for several schools who will alter their regular season schedule over the next two seasons to mirror the playoff organization.
“We’re still playing schools that are 5A, even though we should play everybody in the old Conference 6,” Yorktown Coach Greg Beer said. “We tried to play as many as we could, and we do have a number of them scheduled, but it’s not all of them.”
But Beers said he’s excited for future seasons and annual matchups with the state’s top squads.
“Playing Langley every year, playing Madison every year, it’s only going to make us better,” Beer said. “So I was definitely excited.”
Langley coach Earl Brewer, who’s coached the Saxons for 20 years, joked that he was “totally confused” by the new system, and added concerns about his regular season schedule not featuring potential playoff opponents like Yorktown. But the four-time VHSL state champion coach said he believes the reorganization will be good for the game as it grows rapidly throughout the state.
“I am glad now that there’s two state championships in Virginia because a school like Dominion, for instance — they’re so good, but they’re just a little smaller than a school like Robinson or Chantilly or even Langley,” Brewer said. “Now, they can compete for a state championship.”
Area lacrosse fans are rarely treated to showdowns between the states, Maryland-Virginia matchups that allow for quality comparisons and dole out bragging rights.
Last Saturday, Anne Arundel County’s Broadneck challenged perennial Virginia state title contender Langley in one such matchup. The result was a lengthy thriller, a three-overtime marathon from which the Bruins emerged victorious, 8-7.
“That was wild,” said Brewer, who’s coached lacrosse for 33 years. “I’ve been in a double overtime game, in 1996 against Landon, but that’s the first triple-overtime game I’ve ever been involved in.”
Georgetown Prep marched through three games last week by a combined score of 42-12 to stay atop the rankings. . . . Since a 17-2 loss to national No. 1 Boys’ Latin, Gonzaga has bounced back with five wins in its last six games, including an 11-4 win over Bullis in which junior Timmy Monahan scored six goals. . . . Howard and goalie Bryan Mauser haven’t allowed a goal since April 1, rolling to two wins by a combined score of 24-0, their second and third shutouts in seven games this season.
1. Georgetown Prep (10-0) LW: 1
2. Landon (9-1) LW: 2
3. DeMatha (10-0) LW: 3
4. Gonzaga (9-4) LW: 4
5. St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes (5-3) LW: 5
6. Howard (7-0) LW: 6
7. Arundel (6-0) LW: 7
8. South River (4-1) LW: 8
9. Chantilly (4-0) LW: 9
10. Churchill (6-0) LW: 10