Editor’s note: school names are fictionalized up to protect the innocent.
Well that’s a wrap folks. After a second-round exit from the regional playoffs, the high school where I coach is done for the spring. Apologies to the ride-or-die readers who actually read this segment for only writing a few of these this spring. There was a lot more prominent lacrosse to cover. Anyhow, here’s how the season ended up.
The JV team, of which I am Defensive Coordinator, finished up with a 10-2-2 record. Yes, they do ties in JV so the varsity games can start on time, and yes it’s infuriating.
We were firing on all cylinders at 6-0 heading into spring break. We had just shut out one of the powers of Northern Virginia before the week off. Then we hit a lull. We lost our focus and, consequentially, our next two games. To make matters worse, we had been relegated to a county park for most practices due to a high demand for turf time at the school (spring soccer season is another terrible VHSL practice), so we were barely able to get anything done in practice. We even lost one of our top d-mids to a nasty ankle sprain on the uneven grass.
We got back on track with another shutout over a weaker opponent going into our huge matchup against Central NoVA, a team whose varsity has been the favorite to win states all year. This is a team our program has never beaten and I had a good feeling our JV team had what it took to break the streak.
Now I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my defense is so damn talented. They’re mostly 14-year-olds around 6 feet tall, with good feet and a nose for the ball. I had at least nine poles who could start for each and every one of the teams we faced. We held Central to two goals. Two!
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get over that two-goal threshold either. We had a great look get stuffed on the doorstep with 30 seconds left and had to ride home with a confusing and disappointing tie.
We took the district’s second-best JV record into our last game, a huge matchup with the front-runners, West River, in the de facto JV title game (only varsity plays a postseason). Much like the Central game, we put up a soccer score. At halftime, down 2-1, I gave an impassioned speech where I broke our head coach’s no-cursing rule (he’s a middle school teacher). He got an unsportsmanlike penalty in the second half for yelling at the officials, which made me feel less guilty.
We tied it up with 4 minutes left in the game and I celebrated my ass off, jumping up and down along the sideline with the same unbridled enthusiasm as my 35 teenagers. We ended that game in another disappointing tie, but that one moment validated all the hours I spent in the elements, the constant tests of my patience and the times I had neglected my real job. I was truly happy that I signed up.
I stuck around to assist with the varsity team for the postseason. While I was invested in their success, it was different because I didn’t know the players as well and didn’t have as much responsibility. The varsity coaches don’t have kids of their own though, which was cool because we got to go get beers after games.
After their playoff loss, I was called on to say a few words to the seniors. What I told them went something like this: whether you’re playing at the next level, going the club route or are unsure what your lacrosse future holds, there will always be a place for you in this game if you want it. Teams need coaches, men’s leagues need numbers and the lifelong pals you make playing this sport need friends to tailgate the final four with. This was actually the biggest lesson I learned this year. If a washed-up club player can lead a defense, then anyone who applies himself can find success and joy in this game.