By John Knebels
Of all the significant accomplishments engineered by Catholic League high school teams over the years – and there have been plenty – Archbishop Carroll’s girls’ lacrosse squad’s eight-year winning streak might be the most impressive.
Critics might say that Carroll has established itself as an elite program in a sport that continues to look over the shoulders of athletic activities such as field hockey, soccer and basketball, to name just a few.
But when the spring ended, there was only one team in the entire state that had produced a winning streak that reached triple figures, and that was Archbishop Carroll’s lacrosse program.
So elite or not elite, it takes more than just an advantage in talent to win 107 consecutive league games the way Carroll has done, culminating in a lopsided victory over Archbishop Wood in the 2008 league final – Carroll’s eighth straight league championship.
“We never talked about the streak,” said Olivia Salata, who graduated in June and will play at Monmouth University next year. “We went out and took every game one at a time. We stayed with a routine. Every year, the graduating seniors reminded the underclassmen to keep our success going.”
In other words, one of the key reasons why Carroll has not been upset by another strong team such as Wood or Cardinal O’Hara is that the Patriots never took their opponents lightly.
If that seems like an obvious approach to team sports, think again. Every sport has included monumental upsets by teams that did not seem to have even a fighting chance before the game began. Then, when it was over, the losing squad stood around or laid on the floor or turf absolutely dumbfounded.
That could have happened for Carroll, but for eight long years, the Patriots have refused to relax.
“In the Catholic League, lacrosse is gaining momentum,” said coach Lorraine Beers, the architect and gatekeeper of Carroll’s program. “The good thing is that coaches have excellent athletes to work with. So even if they don’t have any experience playing lacrosse, with a lot of hard work and willingness to learn, they can quickly compete with other players.”
And, since lacrosse is still growing collegiately and statistically appears to be ready to overtake softball in terms of college interest, colleges are offering lucrative scholarships to athletes who probably would not have had such an opportunity had they had relied on their skills in other sports.
Athletes such as Salata (Monmouth University), Gabby Capuzzi (Ohio State), Annie Brophy (James Madison University), and 2007 standout Christine Readinger (St. Joseph’s University), to name just a recent few, have wowed college coaches enough to warrant tuition breaks.
Almost everyone credits Beers for that.
In June 2006, Beers accompanied Mary Beth Brophy on a three-day recruiting trip to New England. Brophy, who eventually decided to play at Georgetown University, was quoted as saying Beers “has the desire you don’t see in most people … she carries that love of the game that makes you want to love it.”
Carroll freshmen who try out for lacrosse are quickly put through the rigors of cardiovascular exercises since lacrosse is a sport that requires intense physical conditioning. Then, they begin learning the basics such as stick work and field positioning. Concepts such as strategy must wait before the fundamentals are established.
Since Carroll, while not dominating its opponents the way it does in the Catholic League, has proven to be rugged competition for other area schools, it’s apparent that Beers possesses quite a gift of teaching a game she learned under the tutelage of highly respected coach Mary Semanick at Drexel University before graduating with a teaching degree in 1973.
About 24 years later, Beers answered a newspaper advertisement asking for interested coaching applicants to contact Archbishop Carroll.
Unfortunately for the rest of the Catholic League, Archbishop Carroll obliged.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.