When Jenna Ries took over the Academy of the Holy Cross girls lacrosse program two years ago, she had just one goal: Beat Our Lady of Good Counsel.
If the Tartans were able to knock off the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference rival and power, Ries knew it would be a milestone victory. In turn, it also would signify that the all the pieces were in place for the program to take on new challenges.
On May 16, Holy Cross did what was once considered unthinkable. It defeated the Falcons 9-4 in the WCAC championship game to end Good Counsel’s 90-game conference winning streak and eight-year reign at the top of the league. The Tartans (15-5), who never trailed, were the last team to beat Good Counsel, a 10-7 regular season victory in 2004.
“The girls have learned how to win and they really deserve all the credit,” said Ries, whose team was the league’s runner-up the previous two seasons, but were outscored 43-11 against the Falcons. Earlier this spring in the regular season, the Tartans lost 16-9 to Good Counsel.
“Getting beat so badly by Good Counsel definitely made them stronger. They forced us to learn how to be a deeper team.”
Seniors Monica Lucas (University of Denver signee) and Shannon Gallagher (Winthrop University) were the face of the Kensington school’s program for four years. The duo combined for seven goals in the championship game.
“I still can’t believe we did it,” Lucas said during a Friday phone interview. “Our goal since freshman year was to win our final game. It was our final chance and I didn’t want to regret anything and we did it. … Everything just fell into place.”
Added Gallagher: “Jenna has been telling us every day for three years that we could do it. She was always on us and it was frustrating at times, but I don’t think the team would be like this if she wasn’t so intense.
“I mean, we were finally able to get over the hump and we weren’t intimidated. Everything ended perfectly and I will never forget it.”
The Tartans have many reasons to celebrate the 2012 season, but Ries is not satisfied. Freshman goalie Jackie Branthover, who recorded 11 saves during the WCAC final, returns.
“We accomplished our goal, but it’s hard to stay on top,” Ries said. “We have to work that much harder if we want to run with the [Independent School League] and the [St. Stephen’s/St. Anges] and Georgetown Visitations of the world. We are obviously graduating a good group of seniors, but we need to be at the point where we can just reload.”
A hat trick of victories, losses for Churchill
For three consecutive years, Winston Churchill won the Class 4A/3A West Region by defeating Sherwood in the title game. And for three straight years, the Bulldogs (13-3) lost by double digits in the state semifinal round.
But this spring was a little different for the Potomac-based program. Despite an impressive record, it struggled at times with consistency and battled a rash of illnesses and injuries at the end of the regular season.
“This is even a better feeling than the other two times because of a few things we’ve been through,” fourth-year coach Christen Gjeldum said May 16 following the region final victory.
In the end, Churchill, which has won 55 of its past 63 games, was the county’s last team standing. It rallied from a five-goal deficit to defeat Sherwood 20-19 and lost 18-8 Saturday to Westminster.
“This game, we usually lose by like 20,” senior and leading scorer Mairin Hall said following the 10 goal state semifinal loss. The Bulldogs were outscored 42-5 in their previous two state tournament appearances. “Coming back and playing well in this game was a really good experience.”
Hall, who transferred from Stone Ridge following her freshman year and led the team with 79 goals and 47 assists, will graduate later this spring along with fellow dynamic scorer Maddy Flax, but the Bulldogs have found ways to reload in the past.