By Chase Pyke
Last season, when the Urbana High School (UHS) boys’ lacrosse team traveled to Middletown for a playoff matchup against the Middletown High School Knights, they left elated after capturing a dramatic 11-10 overtime win and securing a birth in the regional championship game. Then UHS senior midfielder Matt Harris scored the decisive goal and Urbana went on to win the Class 3A-2A West Regional Championship before losing in the state semifinals.
This season, on May 11, Urbana serendipitously faced the same school at the exact same stage of the state playoffs as a year ago — but this time around found themselves on the losing end. Urbana was unable to keep up with the Knights, falling 8-3 in the Class 3A-2A West Regional Semifinals.
“It’s been a season of ups and downs more than I’ve experienced with any team before,” said UHS Head Coach Rob Hokanson.
On the surface, the two scenarios seem identical. But this year, Urbana had a different team. Entering the 2015 season, Urbana needed to fill the void left by graduated offensive players like Harris and attackman Brandon Plante. Urbana lost four of six offensive starters and with a few starters lacking in-game experience, Urbana endured some growing pains during the regular season.
Hokanson added that the team “put a lot of work in with the offense throughout the entire off-season trying to build their skills. You can’t really teach team concepts out of season.” On defense, Urbana returned all three starting defenders from last season as well as starting goalie Griff Lehnert. When the offense did play well, the defense benefitted. “If the offense is controlling the game and playing how we want them to play then it gives us a lighter load on our shoulders, and it doesn’t make us feel pressured to do anything outside of what we were coached to do,” said senior defender Zach Cummings during the season.
Despite the young team, the Hawks managed to finish the regular season with an admirable 10-4 record. At their best, Urbana played a sound team game in important wins against Linganore and South Carroll. And at their worst, the team played below their ability in losses to Oakdale and Liberty.
“I had very high expectations for this team going into this season. All and all, I’m very pleased with all the hard work and effort that the boys have put in so far this year,” Hokanson said prior to Urbana’s second round game against Oakdale.
Urbana entered the state playoffs as the No. 2 seed in their region. A first round victory over Frederick allowed the team the chance to avenge a regular season loss to Oakdale in the regional quarterfinals. In the rematch with Oakdale the offense broke through, receiving major contributions from a threesome of juniors in Colin Hynes, Nick Clingan, and Connor Tarrant and seniors Steven Ramsburg and Jimmy Allen. While the offense rolled, Cummings and the rest of the defense stifled a late Oakdale rally for a 13-5 win.
Urbana’s shot at further redemption was rejected by Middletown’s strong defense in following game. Despite the season-ending loss, Hokanson was pleased with the maturation of the offense.
“The IQ of the offense grew dramatically throughout the year. If you watch the Middletown game you would see the offense put themselves in positions to score repeatedly throughout a good part of the game. We just weren’t able to put the shots in the cage which was ultimately the difference,” Hokanson said.
In a season filled with ups and downs, the third-year head coach continued to praise his team’s positive attitude and resiliency.
“I was very proud of the character of my team this year. They never gave up, they always worked hard, and they were really united as a team this season.”