The Northwest High School girls’ lacrosse team defeated two-time state semifinalist James Hubert Blake, 10-4, in the Class 4A/3A West Region Section II quarterfinals on May 10 to make it one step further into this postseason than it did a year ago. And though the Jaguars fell in the following round—to perennial county power and 2013 state finalist Sherwood—the game was a valuable learning experience, first-year coach Tara Nicholas said, and Northwest heads into the offseason with much to look forward to in 2018.
“(Sherwood’s) stick skills were stronger than ours and they moved the ball very well,” Nicholas said of the Warriors. “Both my dad, who is my assistant coach, and I told our girls, ‘That’s what we want to see from you.’ And they’re very capable of doing it. That is what we want to be.”
Earlier this spring Northwest (9-5) might have been more intimidated by the prospect of playing a team of Sherwood’s status. With about an even mix of returners and players new to varsity, it took the Jaguars some time to find their offensive footing this year. But during the second half of the season, Northwest proved, most importantly to itself, that it is capable of competing with the county’s traditional powerhouses. And with only two seniors graduating—albeit major contributors Summer Jacobs (20 goals) and Sydney Gabitzer (14)—the Jaguars are poised to pick up right where they left off next spring.
After graduating much of its offensive production from 2016, Northwest spent the early portion of its 2017 schedule learning its offensive strengths: Who was the feeder? Who preferred to drive to cage?
“I think next year we will be even stronger because the girls have gained confidence and are used to playing together and know how each other works,” Nicholas said. “I know it took them a while to figure it out this year with almost half of the players coming up from junior varsity.”
Junior Julia Brock surfaced as a go-to scorer this spring and led the team with 32 goals, including three against defending region champion Winston Churchill. Brock scored at least once in every game and tallied three goals or more in seven games, including a six-goal performance in Northwest’s 10-7 win against Montgomery West Division foe Gaithersburg last month. She worked alongside classmate Lexi Halem, a multifaceted playmaker who was second on the team in points with 27—20 goals and seven assists. Freshman Maggie Palmore scored 14 goals this spring and should be ready to step into an even more prominent role next year.
Northwest’s defense, led by sophomore Katherine Jones and junior Erin Lynch, was a constant steady this season and helped its attack feel more comfortable moving forward. With everyone returning, the backline should continue to be a vital cog in the Jaguars’ success moving forward into next spring as well.
“I would just expect for an even better season next year,” Nicholas said. “Even though it will be a little different missing (Jacobs and Gabitzer), I think people will step up and say, ‘OK, I did this last year, so why can’t I do it this year and even better?’”