Mount Hebron seniors Bria Eulitt and Jackie Doherty want to end their careers by maintaining their school's championship heritage

Duo holds the line

Lacrosse

May 23, 2007|By Alejandro Danois | Alejandro Danois,special to the sun

The tryouts for the Mount Hebron girls lacrosse team in the spring of 2004 were eye-opening for Bria Eulitt and Jackie Doherty. The freshmen were not merely trying to make the varsity roster, they were attempting to do so with one of the nation's most dominant teams and the most decorated program in state history.

"I used to watch those girls play when I was in middle school, and now I was playing with them," Eulitt said. "I'd never experienced that kind of quickness and intensity."

"I was nervous because I came in late and felt like I was already behind," said Doherty, who was playing with the Vikings basketball team in the playoffs at the start of spring tryouts. "I saw that they were good and I wanted to play at that level, so I wasn't intimidated. But it's one thing to know what to do and another to be able to do it at the speed they were playing at."

The defenders made the team, although their learning curve was steep.

Eulitt and Doherty, now seniors, learned their lessons well, however, as both have developed into All-Metro players and helped the program maintain its lofty status. Mount Hebron, which saw its 103-game winning streak end this season, was going for its 11th consecutive state title last night.

Although athletically talented, Eulitt and Doherty as freshmen had to learn the movement and split-second adjustments in the Vikings' complex slide packages.

"You have to trust everyone on defense and be comfortable in our system because the double-team comes quick," Eulitt said. "The second and the third slide after that is just as fast, and you have to trust that everyone will be in the right place."

Said Doherty: "I'd never played on a defense that had different plays. I had to learn the team defensive philosophy behind the slides and double-teams, and I had to take my game up to the Mount Hebron lacrosse level."

During their first three years, they never experienced defeat, capturing three consecutive state championships and No. 1 national rankings by Lacrosse Magazine.

Last year, Eulitt and Doherty were catalysts on a defensive unit that ended a third straight undefeated season with the first shutout in state tournament history, a 16-0 victory over Stephen Decatur for the 3A-2A crown.

Eulitt was an All-Metro second-team defender whose finesse on the field made her look as though she was coasting effortlessly in transition.

"Bria is very smooth, has size and speed, she's a great leader on the field and has the ability to see plays develop," Mount Hebron coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland said. "She's adept at seeing the cutters and calling out the plays while continuing to defend."

Doherty had an intimidating, physical presence and was considered one of the country's best line defenders. She was a first-team All-Metro selection who could keep her body in front of any opponent, create loose balls with a fierce stick check and execute a flashy, one-handed pick-up while running downfield at full speed.

"Jackie and Bria both have great one-on-one skills, and they play great team defense, as well," Kuhl-McClelland said.

Sitting back on defense while her team had the ball, Doherty would hunger for some action.

"When the person you're guarding gets the ball, it's your time to shine," Doherty said. "I want to get the ball back to my offense, so whether it's intercepting the ball or executing a good check to get the ground ball, I'm looking to gun it up the field and give my team the advantage."

Doherty changed positions this year because of her speed and an aggressive defensive disposition that, in the past, led to forays in the midfield where she created turnovers and pursued ground balls. The move has allowed the natural left-hander to showcase her ambidextrous array of high-velocity shots.

"I always wanted to play midfield because I love to go up and down the field," Doherty said. "I'm having a lot of fun because now I can get to the ball earlier on defense, cause a turnover, take it over, be a part of the offense and set up a play or go one-on-one, take the shot and score."

The fun, however, ceased momentarily when the Vikings' 103-game winning streak came to a halt against an excellent West Genesee, N.Y., team in the second round of Mount Hebron's spring tournament. The Vikings were one win shy of breaking the national record set by Loch Raven in 1982.

"The loss was rough and everyone was shocked, but that was a great team we lost to," said Eulitt, who will play for the University of Richmond next spring. "It happened. We've grown closer because of it and we had to shake it off because it was one game and we had to be ready to play the next one."

Doherty was numb when she reported to her job as a food runner at a local restaurant the evening of the loss to West Genesee. When she told some co-workers and patrons that her team lost, most thought she was joking.

"Some people were congratulating me, telling me about how much they appreciated what we'd done for the community," Doherty said. "Most people looked at me and said, `You're funny.' "

It wasn't until a few days later, when she stared at the string of banners in the school gymnasium celebrating the Vikings' championships and national rankings, that reality set in.

"My mouth dropped, and I got sick to my stomach when I realized that there wouldn't be a banner up there for the 2007 No. 1 ranking," Doherty said. "But looking back at what we've accomplished has been amazing, and we still have an opportunity to leave our mark as seniors."

With the program's 17th county and 16th regional titles in hand, Doherty, Eulitt and the rest of their accomplished teammates are shooting for the Vikings' 15th state title.

"We still have a legacy to uphold," Eulitt said. "We'll play like we know how to play, and things will be OK in the end."

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