The look on the faces of Winston Churchill’s players — all wearing sweat-drenched grey undershirts after removing their pads and jerseys following a season-ending loss in the state semifinals — was a mix of devastation and motivation.
Especially for those returning.
Junior Matt Leonard wandered about, face scrunched in anger. Sophomore Matt Moshyedi hung his head and frowned. Freshman Louis Dubick quietly granted an interview in the aftermath of Saturday’s 14-10 loss to Westminster in the Maryland 4A/3A semifinals at Franklin High in Reisterstown.
As the Bulldogs slowly walked to the team bus, they did so to a standing ovation from Churchill’s parents and supporters.
“The offseason starts now,” senior Cameron Moshyedi said after the game. “The next two years are going to be unbelievable because they know how poor this feels coming out here and not being able to accomplish exactly what we set out for.”
Moshyedi, one of the captains on a team that included 15 seniors, couldn’t stop talking about Churchill’s future following the tightly contested game. The Bulldogs (14-3) were tied with Westminster, 10-10, early in the fourth quarter, but didn’t score again as the Owls broke the deadlock with four unanswered goals to advance to the state finals and extend Montgomery County’s quest for its first-ever state championship in boys’ lacrosse.
Fritz considers the season — during which Churchill reached the state semifinals for the second time in school history — a success.
“We broke through that glass ceiling,” Fritz said. “When you’re able to knock off the defending region champs and then get here, we gave it a real good run. We just fell 12 minutes short here in the fourth quarter with a chance to go to a state championship game.”
The scary thing, for Churchill’s opponents at least, is the Bulldogs return three of their four main offensive weapons in Leonard (51 goals, 21 assists), Matt Moshyedi (36 goals, 22 assists) and first-year superstar Dubick (50 goals, 47 assists). Given that many coaches in the area agree the Bulldogs’ offense was the best in the county this season, next year’s unit could be even more dangerous. Churchill scored double-digit goals in all but four games this year. Goalkeepers Peter Hurd and Matt Gloger also will return in 2013.
“This year we really felt like we built a foundation for years to come,” Cameron Moshyedi said. “I really feel like we set a standard for the next generation of Churchill lacrosse. It’s an unbelievable experience for all of us, seniors especially.”
The Bulldogs spent the summer practicing and melding as a unit, and many players gave up their spring break to participate in optional practices with the team.
“We put in a lot of hard work and I feel like they’re going to tell themselves they’ve got to come out even harder. I promise you, they’ll be sick for the next few years,” Cameron Moshyedi said.
In the two games prior to Churchill’s loss Saturday, the Bulldogs utilized homefield advantage to its fullest advantage. In the regional semifinals and finals against six-time defending region champ Thomas S. Wootton and Sherwood, respectively, Churchill was nowhere to be found as its opponent warmed up.
One side of the field was empty. Instead, the Bulldogs were on an adjacent field well behind the stadium, warming up to loud music blasting out of a car and mentally preparing for the game.
With roughly five minutes to go before the games began, the Bulldogs walked into the stadium with “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC playing through the sound system.
“I think it’s helped us prepare for the game better and think about what we have to do,” Leonard said after the team’s win against Sherwood.
Churchill wasn’t afforded such luxuries Saturday, but still displayed its usual offensive prowess. Had it not been for struggles on extra-man opportunities, the result could have been different. The Bulldogs failed to cash in on eight penalties committed by Westminster.
One thing is for sure. Churchill can’t wait for next spring to arrive.
“We’re prepared to go to that next level next year with the young guys here,” Fritz said. “They got a taste of it [in the semifinals] and they’re ready to make a run. We’re not a one-year team. We’re not a one-year wonder. We’ll reload and we’ll be back.”