Hitting the high notes

Conference Player of the Year Matt Hughes in action.

Thanks in large part to talent developed in the Herndon-Reston Youth Lacrosse program, South Lakes High School is finishing its regular season with a flourish. Since returning from spring break, the Seahawks (9-1) have reeled off wins over West Potomac 12-4, Hayfield 17-4, Herndon 17-5, and Washington-Lee 16-2.

This year, HRYL alums Matt Hughes and Dodson Piotrowski were first-team All-Conference selections. For the second consecutive year, Hughes was named Liberty Conference Player of the Year—a first in Seahawks program history. Hughes has committed to play Division I lacrosse at Mercer, while two more HRYL alums—Seahawks Spencer Alston (Ohio State), and Stevie Jones (Villanova)—are D-1 commits.

The HRYL was founded in 1996 by Lou Petersen, who remained its commissioner until his death in 2013. He grew the program from a handful of players to over 400, including most of the students now playing for South Lakes. “Petersen acted as a bridge between the communities of Herndon and Reston,” South Lakes coach Craig Lunde said. “He focused on respect for the game and less on the rivalry.”

Lunde—named 2016 Virginia 6A North Regional Coach of the Year and the Virginia State Coach of the Year—started his coaching career in the HRYL with Petersen. Lunde played collegiately at Yale, where he part of a team that won the 1988 Ivy League Title and finished as Yale’s fourth all-time leading scorer. Another HRYL coaching alumnus under Petersen is Broad Run coach Sean Tate.

Notable players who came up through the program include South Lakes graduate Peter Moran (Class of 2013), who was part of the first scholarship class at the University of Richmond. The Spiders recruited Moran as a faceoff specialist, and in four seasons he won an average of 100 faceoffs per season—only the 22nd player in NCAA Division I history to accomplish that feat.

Lunde and Tate got a special thrill when Richmond faced VMI. Among the Keydets was the 2014-15 Lou Petersen Award winner Joseph Flynn (South Lakes class of 2015). That marked was the first time in history that two SL alums and two HRYL alums played against each other at the Division I level. Said Tate, who coached both players, “I know Lou was smiling and was watching that game.”

Prior to South Lakes’ fourth consecutive win over crosstown rival Herndon, the Lou Petersen Memorial Award was presented to the player from each school who best exemplifies sportsmanship on the field, citizenship off the field, and leadership in all endeavors. The recipients were Herndon senior Patrick Reilly and South Lakes sophomore Stevie Jones and junior Noah Smith.

Jones celebrated his honor by scoring five goals against the Hornets. Junior midfielder John Johnson hit a perfect inside roll to break the game open for the Seahawks, and his goal was followed up by a Quinn-Irons goal on a feed from Sophomore Jackson Cook. Defensive midfielder Eric Kiss scored his first goal of the season and had two assists.

During their late-April run, the Seahawks’ senior stars worked their usual magic. Against Hayfield, senior attack J.C. Sipher exploded for five goals and five assists, then added three more goals and three assists against Herndon; senior attack Chris Sherbert scored a hat trick against the Hornets; and defenseman Matt Hughes was his usual stellar self. But South Lakes also has been getting a spark from its bench. Fourteen Seahawks scored a goal or made an assist against Hayfield, including senior midfielder Conor Quinn-Irons and junior middies Kameron Choe and Greg Hadley, who each scored their first varsity goals of the season. Junior attack Tyler Lefave also had his first assist of the year.

South Lakes capped the week off with a big Senior Night win over Washington-Lee, a game where senior midfielder Carlos Rodriguez won the faceoff and notched the first goal of his career. Johnson continued his hot play with an unassisted goal to give South Lakes and an assist to Alston, while Sherbert played the part of quarterback calling all the Seahawks’ offensive signals.

While Lunde will lose two First-Team Conference selections in seniors Sherbert and Sipher next year, he was pleased with the performance of his next crop of attackmen. In succession against Washington-Lee, sophomore Jackson Cook set up junior Kevin Colston for a goal, and less than a minute later Colston returned the favor and set up Cook for a goal. Capping of the flurry of activity was a super athletic play by sophomore Jack Ryan, where he intercepted a pass by the opposing goalie and quickly sent the ball to the back of the cage.

Minding the net for the Seahawks all week were junior Noah Smith and sophomore Bennie Tignor. “They’re two of the finest goalies to ever come out of the Herndon-Reston Youth League,” Lunde said. They held opponents to a 3.0 goal per game average.

South Lakes finishes its regular season with a home game Tuesday night against West Springfield (7-3). Game time is 7:15 p.m.

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