Anya Saponja, right, and Madison have hit their stride in the second half of the season. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The Madison girls’ lacrosse team has a longstanding tradition. On game days, before school, the players head to the Manhattan Bagel in Vienna to eat breakfast and anonymously exchange goodies.

They’re called “secret buddy gifts,” senior Shannon Condon said, and they can be anything from protein bars, to cookies, to sports drinks to inspirational notes. The routine not only keeps the players energized and hydrated, but also serves as a team-bonding activity.

But on a team with eight freshmen and loaded with underclassmen, everything has been a learning process, and not just the X’s and O’s. Madison has met at Manhattan Bagel the morning of every single game this season, and yet after two months, Condon still gets the question, “Are we going today?”

Madison’s youth may show off the field, but the talent is showing on it. The Warhawks (11-2) defeated No. 7 Langley, 11-9, on Friday to avenge their regular-season loss and capture their sixth consecutive Virginia Conference 6 title. They secured a top seed in the 6A North region tournament, where they’ll host Osbourn in Tuesday night’s first-round game.

The Warhawks have only four seniors and graduated All-Met second team midfielder Kierra Sweeney (Dartmouth) from last year’s 11-3 team. Their inexperience is obvious sometimes, whether a player misses a defensive assignment, or doesn’t know whose hand to shake during the pregame ceremony, Condon said. But it hasn’t slowed them down in the standings.

Sophomores Zoe Dyer and Carly Rogers are among the team’s top goal scorers, joining an offense that includes junior Logan Hanton and Anya Saponja. Sophomore Ellie Socher has been a steady presence in net, with Madison surrendering 7.2 goals per game and winning eight of its last nine games.

“It’s hard for the freshmen to come in and know the ropes right away,” Condon said. “It definitely took a lot of games and a lot of practices to figure things out, but I think we’re starting to.”

Goalie Maddie Malone, left, and Robinson will look to defend their region and state titles this spring. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
Virginia 6A North region vital stats

• 16 teams

• Semifinals: Wednesday, May 25 at top seed.

• Final: Tuesday, May 31.

• Defending champion: Robinson (Story)

• The four semifinalists advance to the Virginia 6A state tournament.

No. 1 seeds: Madison, Battlefield (11-1), Robinson (15-0), Annandale (10-8)

Darkhorses: Langley (16-1), Centreville (11-5), W.T. Woodson (10-3)

Potential games to watch:

Madison vs. Centreville — quarterfinal, Tuesday

Patriot vs. McLean — quarterfinal, Tuesday

Langley vs. Robinson — quarterfinal, Thursday

Battlefield vs. W.T. Woodson — quarterfinal, Thursday


Robinson followed up its historic 2015 season by going undefeated this spring and winning a Conference 5 title. Its reward: a top seed, and one of the toughest draws in the region. If the No. 5 Rams get past Westfield, they’ll likely meet Langley in a must-watch second-round matchup.

Annandale has a No. 1 seed and is led by one of the region’s most dangerous scorers in Ashley Britton (98 goals). But the Atoms might not even be the favorite in their own section of the draw. If they beat Oakton, they’ll play the winner of Patriot and McLean, which tied in their regular season meeting. The Pioneers beat Annandale, 21-9, in the regular season.

Madison and Battlefield are the favorites on the other side of the bracket, but look out for No. 2 seeds Centreville and W.T. Woodson, which both put together impressive regular season campaigns.