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On Saturday afternoon in Manassas, the Osbourn boys lacrosse team's four senior captains took some time out after racking up an 8 to 2 scrimmage win against the St. James Saints to discuss how they're determined to make sure this year ends better than last season.
OHS boys lax team brings experience, hunger into 2013 season
© Gainesville TimesFor the first month and a half last year, the Osbourn varsity boys lacrosse team played like a potentially region-bound contender.
At 8-3 overall, the Eagles only beat one team (Stonewall Jackson) through April 28 that ended the season with a record above .500.
Yet all of those wins meant something big for the Eagles, considering that they spent the previous three years mired below .500 themselves, including a record of 3-11 during the 2011 season.
Somehow, that was actually worse than 2010's mark of 4-10.
What happened during the last four games of 2012 though left a sour taste that lingered into this season.
The Eagles lost their last three regular season matches and then fell by a 10 to 7 margin at home against Freedom (South Riding) during the Cedar Run District tournament, a game they actually led at one point but let slip away.
On Saturday afternoon in Manassas, the team's four senior captains took some time out after racking up an 8 to 2 scrimmage win against the St. James Saints to discuss how they're determined to make sure this year ends better than last season.
Nick Best explained that, at this point, tempo control is the "end all, be all" for establishing a strong presence on the field.
Best, now in his third year on the varsity squad, is a defender joined in the backfield by fellow senior captain Hugh Campbell and first-time goal keeper Cole Marcie, who didn't start playing at his current position until last summer.
Senior midfielder Nathan Underwood, another captain, explained that one of the key qualities for a strong goalie is being able to "let go" of bad moments, like letting a ball slip into the net, in order to stay mentally tough the rest of the match.
He pinpointed the final Freedom game at the end of the 2012 season as being a prime example where a series of bad plays piled up on the defense and affected their collective mentality.
"We surrended two goals late," added Best.
Tommy Henrie, a senior captain at attack, mentioned that the Eagles at this point are solid in the back field this year and are working on transitioning offensively.
"We've got the defense," said Henrie.
After all, Osbourn led 8 to 0 Saturday before giving up a couple goals during the final period.
According to Campbell, "(We're) just going after groundballs hard."
Underwood pointed out that ground balls and passing are two areas the boys are concentrating on during the pre-season.
While they have some help from up-and-coming players like junior attack Jimmy Arensdorf and Campbell's younger brother Matt Campbell, fourth year head coach Ryan Gast is emphasizing conditioning this year as he expects his veterans to receive plenty of playing time.
The team's Facebook page is notable for the number of times posts about exercise routines appear.
One post from Feb. 13 states, "Wednesday - Legs and Abs" and "Friday - Biceps, Triceps, Abes and Lower back", with specific exercise instructions provided too.
Another from Feb. 5 reads, "Work Out of the day- Back and Biceps".
Part of a Jan. 30 post includes the phrase, "Bulgarian Split Squat x 10" as part of a "Work out for gym class."
In short, keeping a small team of 15 or so players in shape is a critical part of Gast's formula for success this season.
"We never have a lot of depth as a team," said the coach as he explained the traditional size of the varsity roster.
Because of that, "We have to be able to control the tempo (and) the pace of the game," he added. "We don't have numbers, so we have to be well-conditioned."
Gast described last year's team as having "a lot of youth," which meant that he had to make sure players were up on their fundamentals as well as understanding more complex strategy.
Now though, "We don't have to teach every day," he said.
When he does, his captains help coach on the field, though Gast noted that last year's leaders tended to be more vocal while this year's group is more of a lead-by-example gang.
One difference the coach pointed out between his team and a group like Battlefield, which repeated as district and regional champs last year, is that "They're all confident in what they do."
Osbourn has reason to be confident against such a powerhouse squad as the Eagles proved last year that they could hang with one of the best teams in the state.
Despite losing both times to Battlefield, Osbourn became only one of two teams all season to hold the Bobcats under 10 goals in one game.
The other game ended in a 15 to 11 final score, which is pretty close by lacrosse standards.
With that in mind, all roads to the Northwest Regional playoffs run through Battlefield and the the Eagles are well aware of that as the season starts up next week.
"We're trying to find our confidence," said Gast. "(We) were learning how to win last year."