With a young squad dominated by sophomores, the DeMatha lacrosse team has mostly kept its focus on short-term goals this season. The Stags, who alternated wins and losses for their first 16 games, didn’t dare consider a deep postseason run while they struggled to post consecutive victories.

On Thursday, DeMatha earned its reward for pushing through all those growing pains: a spot in Monday’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title game opposite rival Gonzaga. The second-seeded Stags, perennially regulars in the finals, held off St. Mary’s Ryken, 9-6, in a semifinal in Hyattsville to make a return trip. The top-ranked Eagles beat Good Counsel, 9-4, in Thursday’s other semifinal.

“We’ve come a long way,” said DeMatha sophomore Steve Partlow, who scored a game-high three goals. “Our seniors and juniors push us hard because we’re the rookies. They’re trying to get us to be the best we can be.”

DeMatha Coach Scott Morrison has started seven sophomores for most of the season, a majority of whom, like Partlow, are playing varsity for the first time. After an uneven start, the Stags (11-9) have shown more consistency since beating the Knights and Bishop Ireton on back-to-back days two weeks ago.

The youngsters weren’t bothered by the playoff stage Thursday, helping to stake DeMatha to an 8-2 halftime lead. Five sophomores combined for five goals and two assists in the outburst, and sophomore goalie Nick Ramsey made six of his 10 saves during the second quarter when the Stags pulled away.

The Knights (14-5), who were paced offensively by two goals from senior Connor Summers, dominated possession in the second half but never got closer than the final margin. Partlow scored the Stags’ lone goal of the second half with one minute, 30 seconds left off a feed from senior Matthew Justice to clinch the victory.

“In the first half, they played like juniors, and in the second half, they played like sophomores,” Morrison said of the group. “A lot of that was because of good adjustments by [St. Mary’s Ryken] Coach [John] Sothoron, but regardless, I’ll certainly take the outcome.”

In the other semifinal, Gonzaga (19-1) got a pair of goals from senior Matt Bowman and junior Patrick Myers to knock off Good Counsel. The Falcons (8-10) kept it close with a three-goal run late in the third quarter, but the tournament’s top seed responded with one of its own. On Monday, the Eagles will try to win their third straight WCAC tournament title for the first time in program history.. . .

On the girls’ side, eighth-ranked Good Counsel will play for its ninth straight WCAC tournament title after beating O’Connell, 18-7. Sophomore Paige Graham had four goals and three assists and senior Jennifer Morrissey added four goals to help the Falcons (13-6) to their 90th consecutive conference victory.

The Falcons will meet Holy Cross (14-5), who will return to the title game for the second straight year after a 9-8 win in Kensington over Bishop Ireton (13-7).