Score on the ends, win it in the middle.
That was the mantra of the Douglas Freeman Mavericks boys and girls lacrosse teams Thursday night as they owned faceoffs and built big leads, both capturing Class 5, Region B championships at Mills Godwin High School. The girls defeated Atlee 17-13, while the boys topped Midlothian 18-4.
After stunning top seed and defending region champion Atlee in overtime in the semifinals, Midlothian entered with momentum. But Douglas Freeman (10-1) quickly quashed it, controlling faceoffs with ease and slicing through the Trojans defense at will to score six goals in the first 7:04 of the match.
Two early goals were from junior attacker Dell Vidunas, who has seen huge improvements in his team’s play since its only loss on opening night to Deep Run.
“We made a bunch of changes, and I think everyone bought in,” Vidunas said. “We knew we had the pieces to be really good. We’ve gotten hot, and we’re peaking at the right time.”
Midlothian (7-5) struggled early defensively and never recovered. Maxx Lawton had two goals for the Trojans, while Wesley Hazzard and Otto Waldbauer added one each.
Gavin Stone led the Mavericks with five goals, while Vidunas tallied four and his best friend Matt McCabe scored three times and added seven assists.
“We know each other so well,” Vidunas said of McCabe, voicing his confidence for his team next week. “I think we have the best horses in the area, no question.”
Next is a Class 5 state semifinal home date against Region 5C runner-up Freedom. Coach John Neal’s attention turns to that team, happy to not have to travel on Tuesday.
“We’ve been focused on getting through [regionals], but we’re excited to do some work and see what the team up north brings to us,” Neal said.
In the girls game, the faceoff is called a draw control. It perfectly described the game plan and execution of the Mavericks, who won seven of the first nine draw controls of the match, drawing their offense into a quick chemistry, seemingly a step ahead of the defending champions.
Kerry Nease, the leader of the draw control dominance, scored two of the first five Mavericks goals. Twelve seconds after her second tally, Claire DeSouza scored to give Douglas Freeman a 5-1 lead just 6:47 into the contest.
According to Nease, who will play for Duke, the ability to win in the middle, then capitalize on opportunity, comes down to one element.
“This time, in particular, we worked together so well. On the circle, Grace Moore, Bridget Wilson are incredible on the draw and so ambitious,” Nease said. “They always seem to know where I’m going to put it. Everybody was engaged and ready to play today.”
Atlee (10-1) finally got its offense on track in the latter part of the first half, scoring three goals in 81 seconds. Ashley Karn and Olivia Ritter, who tallied twice, cut the margin to 8-5. The teams traded goals the remainder of the half with the Mavericks up 12-7 at intermission.
The Raiders found their groove in the middle in the second half, winning 7 of 12 draw controls, keeping the margin at five until the Mavericks scored two during a four-minute span for a 16-9 lead.
While the Raiders scored four of the last five goals of the match, it was too little, too late as the Mavericks began burning time off the clock after a timeout with 7 minutes left. Kate Miller ended her illustrious career with five goals, while Karn added three.
It’s the first region crown for the Mavericks girls, who travel to face Patrick Henry-Roanoke in a Class 5 state semifinal Tuesday. For Douglas Freeman head coach Christina D’Angelo, it’s back to work with some familiarity, as the Patriots feature players that Nease and others have faced on the club circuit. Her postgame perspective was simple.
“We used [the pandemic] to motivate us. We kept saying, this could be the last time, at any moment,” D’Angelo said. “We held on to the feeling we had when [last] season was taken away, reminding ourselves this is precious.”
Nease stood savoring how precious the moment was, holding the trophy in one arm and D’Angelo’s young daughter in the other.