Just as it did last season on the way to winning the 4A state championship, the South River boys’ lacrosse team bulldozed its way through the Anne Arundel County schedule this year, going 11-0 to claim a spot in the May 6 county championship and likely the number-one seed in the East region playoffs.
Opponents didn’t expect much of a drop-off in strength from the defending state champions, and following back-to-back losses to prep powers St. Mary’s Ryken and Boys’ Latin in late March, the Seahawks went on a tear through the remainder of the season.
On April 9, with the Seahawks sitting at just 4-2 overall, the team faced their first major in-county test when they met upset-minded Chesapeake at home on April 9. The Cougars were enjoying a strong season and still had memories of last season’s 8-7 loss to the Seahawks, the closest any opponent came to toppling South River during its undefeated run to the state title.
Any hope the Cougars had of a shocking win unraveled quickly. Goals by Brandon Senft (2), Matt Gaskins (2), Mike Ward and Ben Chisolm had the Seahawks up 6-2 by halftime, and South River shut out Chespeake (12-2, 9-2 as of May 5) in the second and fourth quarters to claim a 10-3 win.
The Seahawks faced tough tests in Arundel and Severna Park over the final 10 days of the regular season, with both the Wildcats and Falcons looking to supplant the Seahawks as the county’s best.
Against Arundel, South River’s Gunnar Schimolar, Dylan Mansur, Gaskins and Chisolm had the Seahawks ahead 6-5 at halftime, and an outstanding defensive performance in the second half by Craig Chick, Lavon Chaney, Brian Kraus, Tyler King, Stephen Hincks and goalkeeper Jake Gavin allowed the Wildcats only one goal in the third and fourth quarters as South River took the 10-6 win.
“We knew they were going to come out hot in the second half,” said Hincks of the Seahawks’ defensive intensity in the third and fourth quarters. “It’s always like that in every game, in every sport with Arundel. We just turned it on in the second half, realizing that. On defense, we just shut it down. We were all over the place, and that helps.” Arundel had been 11-0, 8-0 entering the night, and while South River were happy with the win over the Wildcats, they immediately turned their attention to the always-dangerous Severna Park Falcons.
“We’re at a high, coming off Arundel, definitely because they were the team to beat,” said Hincks after the victory over the Wildcats. “But Severna Park, that’s the biggest rival, always with them, so it’s going to be a big game. Always a big game with them.”
Severna Park was 9-1 entering its April 30 home matchup with the Seahawks, still with a shot at the county championship, but South River didn’t waste any of the night indulging the Falcons’ upset fantasies. Four goals by Senft, three by Chisolm and scores by Ward, Gaskins and CJ Pendleton made for a convincing 10-5 win over Severna Park.
Having set a standard for their mostly unchanged group by winning the state title last year, regular season victories are business as usual for the Seahawks. Head Coach Paul Noone knows his players will need to elevate their play following the May 6 county championship as they enter the region playoffs.
“They’re kids. They’re pretty confident, but they’re just having fun, and they’re doing the right things,” said Noone after the win over Arundel.
As with any year, the regular season is important, but it is only after the regular season ends that a team must be close to playing its best game. “I’m not going to say we’re firing on all cylinders [right now],” said Noone. “We’re not peaking. We did the right things tonight. Hopefully we can just carry it on and maybe play a little better each game.”