The Havre de Grace boys lacrosse program, the butt of many jokes over the years, got the last laugh this season.
The Warriors bounced back from winning only one game each of the past three seasons to go 10-7 and make an improbable trip to the Class 2A-1A North regional championship game. Havre de Grace hadn't ever won a playoff game before this season, much less gotten to the regional final, and that's why coach Jason Alford wasn't all that upset with his team's 16-2 loss at Glenelg on Wednesday.
"It earns them a certain level of respect from other teams around the county and within the region," Alford said. "I think they're really going to work hard and come out next year and accomplish their goals. We'd love to have another shot at winning the region next year."
Havre de Grace probably wasn't anyone's pick to make the regional final after going 1-14 last year. The Warriors didn't start well this season, going 2-6 before getting hot and winning eight straight, a streak that carried them into the final.
"It was just a lot of hard work from the kids that have never played before," Alford said. "The whole team turned it around."
Havre de Grace first beat Howard County's Reservoir, 8-7, in a regional quarterfinal. The Warriors then outlasted Howard, 16-15, in a wild semifinal on Monday. Christian Schafer led Havre de Grace with six goals and three assists, and teammate Nick Kahoe added six goals and two assists.
The two juniors combined to give Havre de Grace a surprising 12-3 second-quarter lead. But the Warriors had to hang on as Howard roared back. The Lions sliced the lead to 12-8 at halftime and 16-13 at the start of the fourth quarter.
However, freshman goalie Grant Steelman made 36 saves for the Warriors, six of them in the final 90 seconds.
Alford, who will lose just one starter from this year's team, thought it was such an emotional game that his team didn't have much left two days later against defending regional champion Glenelg, also from Howard County.
"We knew that we'd have to play basically close to a mistake-free game," Alford said.
C.M. Wright still perfect
C. Milton Wright continued its five-year run of perfection in tennis, going 13-0, stretching its winning streak to 78 matches and winning the inaugural Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference tournament.
C.M. Wright last lost a match in 2000, to Bel Air, and posted another undefeated season despite having some uncertainties about depth heading into the spring.
The Mustangs came up big in the UCBAC competition. Senior Roger Torres (16-0) beat Gary Preston of Rising Sun, 6-1, 6-1, in the boys singles title match. Junior Jessica Ahn (14-0) did the same thing on the girls side, breezing past Whitney Reid of Rising Sun, 6-2, 6-0, in the championship match.
Chad Ashley and Brad Hanley of C.M. Wright came up short in the boys doubles title match, as Fallston's Jordan Bukovsky and Matt Winter pulled out a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.
The Mustangs also won in girls doubles, with Stephanie Fritch and Kristie Trinchere topping Fallston's Aubrey Carpenter and Ashley Sherinski, 6-3, 6-2.
The Cougars and C.M. Wright hooked up again in the mixed doubles final with Fallston's Jeremy Butanis and Jackie Conrad taking a 6-4, 6-4 victory from Anita Sahu and Josh Weiner, 6-4, 6-4.
C.M. Wright coach Peter Griffiths said that Fallston is a team to watch in the coming seasons. The Mustangs beat Fallston twice this year, 7-4 each time, but it was a battle.
Patriots on the upswing
The John Carroll girls lacrosse team made it to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A1 Conference semifinals for the first time since 1993, and the Patriots are hoping for more next year.
After going 6-8 last year, the Patriots were 10-8 this season, beat Roland Park and second-seeded Notre Dame Prep in the playoffs before Severn beat them, 10-8, in the semifinals. The Patriots, behind 7-2 at halftime, didn't make a move until the final 15 minutes, drawing closer but running out of time.
But coach John Hughes' team has a number of talented young players due back next year, including most of his offense - Katelyn Strasdauskas, Chelsea Ford, Courtney Aburn, Allyson Carey, Casey Ancarrow and Grace Gaeng.
Assistant coach Ann Kangas also credited the arrival of new assistant coach Krystin Porcella, who was an assistant with the late Diane Geppi-Aikens at Loyola College, with helping the team. Porcella also played at John Carroll.