Holton-Arms lacrosse builds culture and confidence in return to field

Since Janet McCormick began coaching Holton-Arms lacrosse 11 years ago, her players have followed the traditions she’s ingrained: acknowledging teammates for strong performances after practices, setting team goals and arranging group lunches.

When players didn’t adopt those customs at the start of practice in March, McCormick was confused. Then she came to a realization.

“Oh my gosh, because no one knows it’s supposed to happen,” she thought. “They weren’t here.”

As Holton-Arms (4-5) established itself as an Independent School League contender the past decade, players passed rituals to the groups that followed them. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, this spring is the Panthers’ first varsity season since 2019.

Holton-Arms’ inexperience has shown in one of the most competitive leagues. Against ISL power St. Stephen’s / St. Agnes last Tuesday, the Panthers trailed by a goal with about 16 minutes remaining. They didn’t touch the ball for the next 10 minutes in their 15-7 loss.

“The way that we do things – how even the parents teach the younger parents how Holton lacrosse runs, or this is what I expect – I took that for granted,” McCormick said. “I didn’t realize how important some of those things were and how much work they take to build.”

McCormick said her players’ confidence is rising with each game. After their loss to St. Stephen’s / St. Agnes, the Panthers defeated Flint Hill and St. Mary’s Ryken.

After two years of pandemic-related uncertainty, many soccer programs across Northern Virginia have seen an uptick in interest and turnout this spring.

The Tuscarora Huskies girls’ program was already in pretty good shape heading into this season, set to return a young core from last year’s condensed campaign. But they also brought in a few new contributors. These were players that had avoided high school soccer because of scheduling conflicts last year. Now that the calendar was back to normal, they found a balance with club responsibilities.

“They’ve really made us take it to a different level,” Huskies Coach Dave Gryder said. “But you never know how it’s going to work with a lot of new people coming in. So far, things have gone really well. ”

From Gryder’s perspective, the early part of a season is all about finding cohesion and chemistry.

“To me, that cohesion looks like a joy they have when they have to come out to training and a commitment they have to support each other,” Gryder said. “For some of them, it’s the first time playing high school and we want that to be a good experience for them.”

It helps that the Huskies keep winning games. After a 4-0 win over Millbrook on March 4, they are 6-1-1 heading into spring break.

From the onset of its season, Riverside softball’s top priority has been clear: defend its home turf for the chance to win a state title.

The Rams (10-1) will play host to this year’s Virginia Class 5 final. For Coach Kevin Bednoski, the opportunity for his team to potentially win a state title on its home field has been a major motivator as the team continues to rack up wins.

“Our eyes are on a pretty big prize this year, and I think that if you asked any of our 14 players on our roster, they would tell you that we’re eyeing an opportunity to play in those semifinal and final games,” Bednoski said.

Bednoski’s squad has dominated early in its state championship campaign, heading into spring break as the winner of 10 of its first 11 games with the season now fully in stride.

And with both of Riverside’s last two wins coming in thrilling fashion – Marley Owens and Kaylie warned each notched walk-off hits in back-to-back games – the Rams ’hopes for a deep postseason run continue to grow.

“We know that the road is paved with tough competition ahead,” Bednoski said, “but we’re certainly up for the challenge.”

Even though their seasons are already over, private school tennis players around the region are preparing for an intense series of tournaments and championships.

Private school girls’ tennis players play on their school teams in the fall season, so they’re forced to lean on their own commitment to the sport to stay in shape ahead of the spring state championships. For St. John’s junior Eva Doomes, that means balancing busy schedules to coordinate practices with her teammates.

“I’ve been talking to my doubles partner and our number one doubles team about playing some practice matches on the weekend, which is hard because the girls have been playing tournaments,” Doomes said. “So it’s four different schedules and four different workloads and four different tournament schedules.”

Like many of her teammates, Doomes practices five days a week and competes in US Tennis Association tournaments. For her, tournaments go hand-in-hand with her work in the offseason, climbing the regional rankings while training for the DC State Athletic Association championships.

Doomes also spends time attending practice with the St. John’s boys’ team, playing scrimmage matches to improve how she adapts to different opponents.

“The boys tend to, just based on their style of play, they tend to be a little bit immature,” Doomes said, laughing. “They’re going to try and show off. So I can beat a boy just by hitting the ball back until they try and show off too much and they miss. Considering [girls] have to worry more about placement, not just hitting the ball hard. ”

Coming off a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title win in the fall, she hopes this rigorous practice and tournament schedule will keep the Cadets on top of their game for a shot at the DCSAA title.

And now that she’s finished studying for the ACT, Doomes plans to devote even more time to strengthening her tennis strategy, which, she says, is “way more fun than doing practice math problems.”

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