By ROB WITHAM
The fastest growing high school sport in the county, lacrosse is underway for the 2018 season, where, at Atlee, both the boys and girls teams look to finish and finally claim an elusive state championship, while Hanover turns the page with two new head coaches, while Patrick Henry and Lee-Davis’ teams each look to reach new heights this season.
BOYS: Few teams in all of high school sports have experienced more highs and lows than Atlee. They have reached the state championship match three straight seasons, only to fall short each time, twice by a single goal, once in sudden death overtime. For head coach Fielding Crawford, it’s reload rather than rebuild, but the work begins in goal, where Jack Wilson, a standout between the pipes, is graduated, along with the likes of Dylan Rice and Will Stockhausen.
“We have a good core of players back that know the system and have game experience,” Crawford said. “The leadership provided by numerous seniors last season will be hard to replicate.”
Jackson Baitinger and Mark Isabelle now man the net for the Raiders. Their strongest returning area is midfield, where Andrew Cook, Kevin Dunne and Ian Shirey are back. The defense is anchored by Hayden Moore and Walker Everhart. Mason Walczak and Aiden Shields join Drew Miller for a revamped attack.
Zack Carey takes over at Hanover (8-9), who slipped last year after a state tournament run in 2016. Losing goalie Tyler Cook to graduation, Carey will have a youth movement between the pipes with sophomore Cole Newton and freshman Connor Bond.
Seniors lead the Hawk defense with Caleb Smither, Jacob Atkins and Quint Gribbin returning, while Peyton Grubbs and Keegan Smither lead the attack.
“Chandler Atkisson, Grubbs, Smither and Atkins will all have large roles on this team,” Carey noted. Atkisson heads up the midfield, joined by Ward Smith, Tyler Elrod, Paul Agrillo and Will Fahed. “Developing our lacrosse IQ throughout the season will be big for our team.”
Lee-Davis (5-8) is ready to take the next step, but will face a challenge in the new Region 5B, which includes Atlee and Henrico County powers Douglas Freeman and Deep Run. Head Coach Philip Feigenbaum returns eight starters, including sophomore goaltender Micah Rice, senior defenders Tate Smith and Ian Courter, and attackers Randolph White and Jordan Stanley. Smith and midfielder Colin Creasey are returning captains.
“Defensively, we’ll be working with our most mature and experienced defensive unit in years with Smith as the backbone,” Feigenbaum said. “Team defense will be our emphasis this season, along with winning the ground ball game.”
Patrick Henry will build this season’s boys squad around the returning Freddie Schools and Ben Schubert. Look for Jake Huber and Cameron Strange-Boston to make impacts as well.
GIRLS: Patrick Henry finds themselves also seeking a new goalkeeper, as Andrea Lindgren has departed. Head Coach Anna Mason takes over the helm of the Patriots with a building block of seven returning starters, from defenders Lindsey Clay and Lilly Domalik, to juniors Ryann Peebles and Piper Mullins.
Mason brings on freshman basketball standout Ava Smith, and two of the best field hockey players this season, Molly Enright and Catherine Dozier, adding athleticism to the squad.
“Peebles led the team in goals last season, Domalike will be a new captain for 2018,” Mason added, happy to have two important seniors back. “Natalie Nichols and Emily Flinn are both committed to play in college.”
Lee-Davis also brings in a new head coach, as Robin Loving advances from junior varsity to take over a young team. Madison Ulm, Hope Butler, Sami Sepkowski, Caren Granderson and Haley Knighton are the only seniors on the roster.
Watch for juniors Ashley Varner, Madison Gowin, Morgan Rider and Harley Steger to contribute, while sophomores Bree Dickerson, Macey Kane and freshman Chloe Ulm are players to watch for the young Confederates.
The third new head coach in girls lacrosse is Matt Ellinghaus, who, too, steps up from JV to take over at Hanover, a team with a ton of experience back and ready to make amends for a season that did not meet their expectations a year ago.
Twelve starters return, including sophomore goalie Olivia Hunter, midfielders Natalie Willett, Jennifer Yeager and Julia Yeager. Ciarra Ashworth joins them. Kora Kane and Addie Michael help lead the defense, while Madison Gould, Brandilyn Williamson and Taylor Wayne look to generate offense for Ellinghaus.
“We have some holes to fill. Fortunately, the versatility of the returning players and our new additions have us well positioned to fill those gaps quickly,” Ellinghaus explained. “We have a deeper bench this season, which is creating some great competition in practice and will elevate our level of play.”
Then, there’s Atlee. Coming off an historic season where the Raiders qualified for the state tournament for the very first time, the 2017 campaign left Atlee hungry for more, and, despite a lot of losses to graduation, second-year head coach Christina Dobson has the nucleus for a team that can try to make history again.
Kellyn McGlamery, Emily Karn and Jessie Peffer lead the attack, as Dobson will need to find a new facilitator, and leading scorer, for the departed Kylie Eastman. Faith Anna and Reaghan Kolb lead in midfield, while Ari Wheeler, Kathryn Super and Ellie Woodward man the defense.
For the Raiders, the biggest change is, yes, in goal.
“Savannah Clarke was our starting goalie, and a vocal leader on our team. Those are big shoes to fill for this year because she truly was the heart of our defense,” Dobson said. “Kellyn and Faith dominated in draw controls, which will be a very important factor coming into our 2018 season. I feel we are deeper in the midfield this year and can use that to our advantage, but we also have a lot of young players and new faces that will need to rise to the occasion.”
Emily Devlin and Logan Christian could see more time defensively, while Ashley Karn, Elizabeth Moore and Layla Abbud join the attack for Dodson’s Raiders, who are looking to settle some unfinished business.