If the Landon lacrosse team needed another reminder of its tradition beyond the 27 Interstate Athletic Conference championship banners and the detailed wall of history outside its gymnasium, a visit from the program’s all-time leading scorer Saturday afternoon did the trick.
Patrick Keena, an All-Met whose Landon career ended last season, met with the players in the locker room before they left for the IAC title game at Bullis, delivering a 10-minute speech on brotherhood that brought chills to at least one player.
Hours later, the fourth-ranked Bears ensured their own place in that history and a 28th banner with their 7-4 win over the second-ranked Bulldogs in Potomac. Senior Matt Potolicchio finished with three goals and an assist and senior Charlie Schnider scored twice to help the Bethesda power take its third IAC tournament title in five years.
Potolicchio said that after Keena’s speech “all of us seniors got together and decided we weren’t going to lose this game. It wasn’t going to happen.”
Potolicchio, a two-time All-Met hockey player, provided Landon (13-6) an early spark, contributing to the game’s first four goals. The attackman’s first two scores came after picking up ground balls around the net and the third — a blast off a feed from senior Hank Brown — made it 4-0 with 7 minutes 15 seconds left in the first half.
Senior goalie Alex Joyce (10 saves) and the Bears defense protected the lead, holding Bullis (14-4) scoreless in six-on-six situations. Senior Kylor Bellistri, a Brown recruit, had three man-up goals, including two in the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs had five chances. Senior Matt Opsahl added another man-up tally in the third quarter.
The loss ended an unprecedented run for Bullis, which was making its first title game appearance after an undefeated regular season in conference play.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Bullis Coach Bobby Pollicino said. “Now we’ve just got to finish.”
Meanwhile, Landon took its lumps early this season with a 3-5 start that included a 7-6 home loss to Bullis on April 5 — the first in program history to the Bulldogs. The Bears only got stronger down the stretch, closing the season with 10 wins in their final 11 games.
Through those struggles, Landon, which lost last season’s final to rival Georgetown Prep, understood it still had time to get it together. After awarding split titles for years, the conference decided last year to let the tournament alone decide a champion.
“After some of our early-season losses, people got down on us, stopped believing in us,” said Schnider, an Ohio State recruit. “We knew we still had our goal to achieve. We kept going and stayed positive, and now I’m so proud to be a part of this win.”