QO Lacrosse Teams Overcome Challenges

Photo | Mac Kennedy Julian Culp takes on Watkins Mill in the Cougars’ last home playoff game.

Photo | Mac Kennedy
Julian Culp takes on Watkins Mill in the Cougars’ last home playoff game.

After tryouts in March, Quince Orchard High School boys’ lacrosse coach David Heiney Gonzalez decided to keep sophomore attackman Mike Fierstein on the junior varsity squad and give him more time to develop. But when injuries and availability issues due to SATs left the Cougars short players the first week of the season, Heiney Gonzalez brought Fierstein up to varsity. He’s been a starter ever since, and his 20 points (13 goals, seven assists) rank sixth on the team.

That’s the type of season it’s been for Quince Orchard, which fell, 13-8, to Frederick County power Urbana in Monday’s Class 4A/3A West Region Section II final. The Cougars (9-8) had a lot of questions to answer this spring after graduating 17 seniors from last year’s region final campaign, but young and sometimes unexpected talent surfaced to help support the little experience Quince Orchard did bring back, keep the Cougars afloat, and put them in position to make a deep postseason run.

Sophomore long-stick middie Match Hanson was another junior varsity player Heiney Gonzalez pulled up in the middle of the season. He turned out to be an impact player, playing 10 games and scoring three goals.

“There were a lot of great surprises,” Heiney Gonzalez said, “a lot of kids wanting to step up and do their part. Over the season the team definitely progressed immensely. A lot of the younger kids stepped into (prominent) roles and embraced the challenge of playing high-level lacrosse.”

The Cougars were at their best this season when they were “running and gunning and moving the ball around with a lot of energy,” Heiney Gonzalez said. Though they abided by their game plan to stay aggressive Monday against Urbana, they might have played a little too fast even for themselves. Nevertheless, Quince Orchard continued to work hard as the team has all season and continued to compete, scoring its final goal with 13 seconds left in regulation when it was already out of contention.

“I think the boys were so excited to be there and competing,” Heiney Gonzalez said. “Unfortunately sometimes you can be too aggressive.”

Quince Orchard will have some holes to fill: three-year starter Eisley Kim, who has been a tremendous leader on defense, defensive midfielder J.T. Rommell and Adrian Culp (eight goals, six assists), among them. But the Cougars will be in excellent position next year with their top six scorers—Joe Beville (39, 13), Drew Levine (24, 27), Vic Greenberg (27, 13), Johnny Hodges (29, 5), Julian Culp (17, 6) and Fierstein—scheduled to return.

Quince Orchard girls’ lacrosse overcame even more challenges to reach the section final. Adversity—for instance, four concussions before spring break—tried to hold an injury-plagued team down this spring. But the Cougars, who at points this season were missing eight players due to injuries, valiantly never stopped fighting to find their form. The result was a run to the Class 4A/3A West Region Section II final.

Though Quince Orchard ultimately fell there to two-time region winner Urbana, 10-9, a team the Cougars lost to by four goals earlier in the season, Quince Orchard (6-9) rebounded from four consecutive losses to close the regular season by stringing together two straight victories for only the second time this spring to give themselves a chance to compete for a spot in the region final.

“I think everything came together (in playoffs); we only had one girl injured, which is totally different than six or seven, so everyone was feeling more confident,” Cougars coach Jennifer Mohr said. “All the bumps and the injuries, we got past that and the best thing to see was the girls were doing everything we had been coaching them to do the entire season, and we didn’t have to remind them. They were just doing it.”

It was playing as a collective unit, rather than trying to rely on one go-to scorer that helped Quince Orchard in playoffs, Mohr added. Five different players—Francesca D’Cruz (four goals), Megan McDanald (three), Morgan Avissar (two), Skylar Saffer (one) and Lauren Kelly (one)—scored the Cougars’ 11 goals in a section semifinal win over Watkins Mill.

Eight seniors will graduate this spring but 10 juniors are set to return next season, one that hopefully won’t present so many challenges.