When they gaze at their school’s turf field, Langley’s girls lacrosse players don’t just see an icy surface lying dormant in the wake of a brutal winter, nor are they flooded with memories of seasons past. Instead, the Saxons see a clean slate, a chance to start a new season with renewed hope for something more.
Eradicating memories of last season might seem strange to some. After all, the Saxons played in three championship games, including an appearance in the state final last June.
Each of those championships, however, yielded bitter defeats, all of them at the hands of district rival Madison, which went undefeated last year against area competition en route to its second state title in three years. Some tensions and uncertainties lingered within the team heading into this year, boding poorly for a unit that graduated multiple senior starters in 2013.
Enter Rebecca Watkins, a former Westfield standout charged with replacing longtime coach Richard DeSomma. Coming off two years as an assistant coach at Shenandoah University, the 26-year-old Watkins is determined to push Langley toward a long-awaited state title this spring.
“We had a really productive returning varsity meeting that really resolved a lot of issues from last season that were still under the surface,” Watkins said. “Once we got all that resolved, they really came together. Last year honestly doesn’t even exist anymore. They’re here now, they’re in the moment, and that’s where I want them to be.”
According to Langley’s captains — Lauren Clubb, Jordan Simonides and Aubrey Zarella — Watkins has worked hard to strengthen the team’s sense of unity as much as its skills and discipline on the field. Only a handful of starters return to the mix this year, making chemistry up and down the lineup a challenge they would need to address right away.
“I think she’s done a really good job of making sure that everyone’s included and that we emphasize being a family so much,” said Clubb, a senior midfielder committed to play at Claremont McKenna next year. “That’s something that she really stressed to me, Aubrey and Jordan.”
Watkins wants to ingrain a high-speed attack that relies on contributions all over the field rather than the stick of one or two players. As with most teams around the area this winter, conditioning has been a challenge within the restricting confines of the gym, but so far the team has made do.
“We’re fast paced. We’re going to be subbing people in and out very quickly,” Watkins said. “Our middies honestly shouldn’t be in the game for more than two or three minutes at a time. If they get gassed, we get fresh legs on. I just want the entire game to be like that.”
With so many inexperienced players coming to the fore, it’s hard to say where Langley’s scoring will come from this season. The Saxons see that as an advantage, though, as opponents won’t be able to key in on any one player.
“I think looking on LaxPower, people were saying it’s hard to pick out one person that you have to stop. Everyone’s pretty even,” Clubb said. “We don’t have anyone that will score six or seven goals a game. Everyone’s going to score two or three.”
As usual, the Saxons will have to fight through an unforgiving schedule that features Oakton, Westfield, Loudoun Valley and, of course, Madison. Beating the Warhawks would be especially sweet, since they have come up short against them in each of their last five meetings.
For now, though, Langley’s players are only focusing on carrying their positive vibes into the new season, which begins at home against McLean Thursday.
“I think just going as far as we can and ending on a good note as a team and as a family will be important,” said Zarella, a Cincinnati commit. “Our last game, if we do lose it or if we don’t make it to states, we’re not bitter about it or mad at each other. We just want to say, ‘Okay, it happened for a reason. Next season we’ll get them.’”