By ROB WITHAM
H-P Sports Correspondent
The fastest growing sport in Hanover County high school sports this decade is lacrosse. While some teams continue to grow in their early years as Virginia High School League (VHSL) recognized programs, two teams look to return to their respective state tournaments in 2017.
Atlee: The boys came within, literally, a shot of winning the 5A State Championship last June, missing a chance to score in sudden death overtime before seeing a ball trickle into their goal as Briar Woods took a 9-8 victory. And, while the Raiders lost a talented half-dozen players to graduation, and will have to play this season without midfielder Davis Hatch who tore his ACL in January, Atlee has a core of returnees that will fight tooth and nail to finally put Atlee over the top.
Jack Wilson returns in goal, while Dylan Rice anchors the attack, Will Stockhausen leads in midfield, and Jacob Lovins controls the defense. Thirteen players return who can now contribute heavily to Atlee’s success, and it is their development that will be key for head coach Fielding Crawford and his Raiders to be successful. Offensively, Rice and Stockhausen combined for over 80 goals in 2016.
“We will need a balance of offense and defense. Some younger, less experienced players will certainly have to step up and make their mark,” Crawford said.
Christina Dobson takes over at Atlee girls lacrosse (10-4), who lost seven seniors, but return six talented players, led by Kylie Eastman, Emily Karn and Claire Reagan on the attack, Faith Anna in the middle, Kellyn McGlamery on defense, and Savannah Clarke, described by Dobson as “the heart of our defense,”,in goal. Clarke has committed to play collegiately at St. Bonaventure.
Look for Reaghan Kolb, Kara Hines, and Jordan Fox to contribute in the middle, and Jessie Peffer to join in on the attack.
“We lost a very strong, vocal group that really acted as leaders,” Dobson explained. “While we have a young group this year, they are extremely motivated and dedicated to our team goals, and it will be exciting to see who rises to the occasion, stepping into those leadership roles.”
Hanover: The Hawks boys squad are the other state tournament participants in 2016, and they have much bigger shoes to fill. Third year head coach David Daly lost 15 seniors to graduation, including two in Colin Disesa and Tyler Flora who are now contributing to the rise of Randolph-Macon men’s lacrosse this season.
Goalkeeper Tyler Cook, a four-year starter with 156 saves in 2016, will be counted on to keep the Hawks in games, especially early on, as the rest of the new team comes together. Dylan Carlson and Dylan Crytser will lead the offense, with Chandler Atkinson, Ward Smith and Peyton Grubbs manning the middle, while Palmer Martin, Tim Dubec and Caleb Smithers stand in front of Cook on defense.
“We have a talented group returning. Cook has a career record of 35-15,” Daly noted. “Carlson will be a huge piece for us as well. We want to start the season fast and upbeat, but know we need to continue to get better each day. We’re focusing on playing team defense and running a team offense to get us back to the 4A State Tournament.”
The Hanover girls look to build on last year with lots of returning talent, led by seniors Kaela Bickham, Keri Kane and Brenna Everette. Head Coach Taylor Woolard has to count on a bevy of sophomores to contribute as well, from Anna Dockum and Kora Kane to Jennifer Yeager and Julia Yeager. CeCe Ashworth moves from Lee-Davis to join the Hawks.
Patrick Henry: A familiar face from another sport now patrols the sideline for the Patriots’ girls team as Taylor Huber takes over a Patrick Henry squad coming off a 6-7 campaign and now the loss of twelve seniors to graduation.
Four starters return: sophomore midfielder Ryann Peebles, junior midfielders Natalie Nichols and Lilly Domalik, and junior attacker Emily Flinn. Senior Clare Suess will help anchor the defense. Huber points out freshman attacker Lucy Pelham as one to watch as these Patriots try to come together.
“As a team, we are very talented skill-wise with our returning varsity players,” Huber explained. “We have players who have previously played together, but also have a lot of newcomers. We will focus extremely hard on team-building skills this season.”
There’s a new coach for the boys lacrosse team as well as Blair Penny takes over for the Patriots, who will count on returnees Parker Davis, Ben Schubert, Blake Jones, Henry Prillaman and Kyle Ishler to improve on last year’s campaign.
Lee-Davis: The girls continue their rebuilding project with six returning starters, led by sophomore goalkeeper Harley Steger, attackers Brynne Elrod and Ashley Varner, and junior defenders Madison Ulm and Haley Knighton.
Head Coach Meridee Gibson not only lost two defenders to graduation, but two more due to other conflicts. Ulm moves from midfield to assist, and freshman Brynn Gibson will be counted on to help.
“We’ll be working on the basics this season, as our team is very young and very small physically, but also very fast,” Coach Gibson explained. “We’re trying to get positioned for the future of the program and get up into the middle of the competitive pack as soon as we can.”
There’s a youth movement as well on the boys team, who only have five seniors on the varsity roster. Look for Chase Berbert, Ian Courter, Elijah Elliott, Ty Mills and Mason Walczak to make impacts during the season.