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One of South County’s senior lacrosse captains, attacker Peter Basnight, didn’t downplay what his team’s regular season record meant for the program’s history.

It’s a historic mark considering it is the school’s first-ever winning lacrosse year.

In the past, South County (10-1) had occupied the Patriot District’s cellar, and just competing for a quarter with the likes of Annandale, Lake Braddock and West Springfield was enough to satisfy the team.

“We saw the other sports in our school doing well,” Basnight said. “We all thought that the lacrosse team could be right up there with [football and basketball].”

Just days before the school’s first appearance in the Patriot lacrosse final this past week, Basnight shed light on the sudden change from doormat to dominance.

“We knew it was our last hurrah,” he said. “We wanted to give it all we’ve got and see what we could do.”

For Basnight and many of the South County seniors from seasons past, a collective decision was made to put the Stallions on the boys’ lacrosse map after a disappointing 4-7 season in 2011.

“By the end of last year, the kids were focused and realized they could have trained harder, they could have played harder,” coach John Nolan said. “So they thought about that in the offseason.”

Basnight, along with his co-captains — Luke Gladys, Stephen Rowley and Taylor Wirth — organized stricter workout plans for the summer. The team got involved in summer leagues and, in the fall, developed a rapport with younger players who soon would have bigger roles on the team.

“Our offseason work was a huge part of it,” Gladys said. “It’s a huge reason we’re so competitive this year compared to last year. We got to understand how we work together.”

When the spring season rolled around and practices began in early February, Nolan already could see an improvement.

Improvements in decision making, offensive control and trust paid off in a big way.

The Stallions opened the year with a 15-6 victory against Thomas Jefferson. In the next game, they dispatched Wakefield, 19-3, and increased their run with convincing victories against T.C. Williams, Westfield and Hayfield.

“We have great leadership and a strong freshman and sophomore class that’s stepped up,” Nolan said. “We’ve seen everyone stepping up, filling in gaps and playing well.”

Nolan said a 16-12 setback to West Springfield in early April didn’t sidetrack his team. Instead, the squad forged on with another five-game winning streak to close out the regular season.

According to Nolan, the success hasn’t just been because of offseason work, but also a new layer of trust between the players and coaches. In the past, South County struggled with leadership, but Nolan said this group has embraced the jobs and keeps the team calm on and off the field.

“I can trust them to run the offense, the defense and the midfield,” Nolan said. “For them, being the beacons of trust on the field is huge. Guys are comfortable giving them the ball when the game matters.”

Despite a 15-6 loss to W.T. Woodson in this past week’s district final, South County still has a chance to compete for the Northern Region title. The district finals appearance did help the team make a strong statement to the rest of the Northern Region, Gladys said. South County can compete with the area’s best.

On Tuesday night, the Stallions rebounded from their loss to Woodson with a 17-5 rout of Yorktown in the first round of the regional tournament.

“I thought last year would be like this,” Nolan said. “It just so happened it was a year late…we’ve definitely made a statement about our team [this season].”

ralbers@fairfaxtimes.com