Woodson’s season could not have started much better. After stumbling to early losses each of the past three years, the Cavaliers’ varsity lacrosse team kicked off its 2014 campaign with a pair of impressive victories. They opened with a 3-1 win over Robinson — the same team that handed them an 11-4 defeat at this juncture last year — followed by a 7-5 triumph over Langley, winners of four state championships in the last five years.
It marked Woodson’s most promising start in recent memory, but players and coaches hardly view it as an automatic gateway to glory.
“Everybody’s got a long way to go,” Woodson coach Ryan Hilliard said. “It’s March. Nobody’s winning championships in March.”
Hilliard raises the asterisk of Langley’s fatigue, as the Saxons were playing their third game in three days when they met Woodson two weeks ago. As for Robinson, he suspects the Rams’ loaded roster will look considerably sharper when temperatures and stakes rise in the coming weeks.
“It was a great boost motivation-wise, but it’s just two wins,” said Drew Treger, a senior captain spearheading the team’s attack this season. “You’ve got to keep pushing through the schedule. We’ve got great teams like Oakton, Chantilly and South County still in front of us.”
The Cavaliers are fairly young on paper, but they’ve got plenty of experience returning to the fore this season. Mike Williamson is back to lead a solid defense with the help of fellow senior Connor Delery, who replaces Peter Cheneler in the net this year. A reliable core of returning juniors is led by China Moon, who brings plenty of speed to the long stick position. Will Cogan provides another stabilizing presence in the back, while Declan Casey, Connor McLaughlin and Matt Dennis should prove dangerous in the attack.
Woodson should also benefit from the improvement of several younger players. Coming up from JV this year, sophomore attackman Noah Guttendorf has already found the back of the net on more than one occasion, while sophomore midfielder AJ Krstulovic appears to be the team’s lead faceoff man this season. Jackson Miller, who notched two goals against Langley, leads a talented trio of freshmen that features Alex Olson in the midfield and Grant Johnson on defense.
Having played and trained together during the offseason, the Cavaliers feel like a close-knit unit ready to make some noise this spring.
“We’ve got great team chemistry,” Treger said. “We’ve been playing with each other for a while. All the seniors have been on varsity about the same time, and a lot of the young players have been producing.”
There are some guys Woodson will miss this season. Midfielder Jeff O’Brien graduated last year, as did all-region defenseman Erik Weed, who is now playing at Roanoke College.
Still, those losses have only pushed this year’s players into more comfortable roles this season.
“Where you lose some guys, you add some guys that can apply depth at attack,” Hilliard said. “I think we have guys that can play up and down the midfield, and we’ve got pretty good depth on defense.”
Woodson is looking to atone for last year’s 7-6 Patriot District semifinal loss to South County, the same team they defeated 13-6 one month earlier. They also deserve a place in the regional conversation, having lost to eventual champion Madison by a score of 6-5 in last year’s region quarterfinals.
All that postseason talk is premature at the moment, though. The Cavaliers first need to get through an unusual six-game road swing before finally playing their first home contest on April 25th. That game will pit them against none other than defending state champion Chantilly.
If both sides live up to their potential, that might not be the only meeting between those two teams this spring.