BRANDYWINE – In a late-season clash between two undefeated boys lacrosse teams, Gwynn Park took control of the game early and forced Oxon Hill to play out of rhythm to clinch an important 8-4 home win on April 11.
Gwynn Park Head Coach Gary Smith implemented a successful defensive scheme and encouraged his guys to play with their emotions under control to come on top with the victory.
“I think a lot of our players stepped up knowing that Oxon Hill is actually our rival in lacrosse,” Smith said, adding that the win was a confidence booster as Gwynn Park hopes to repeat as the 1A/2A/3A regular season champions.
“They know it was a big game, and they know Oxon Hill was undefeated, so I told the guys ‘you really have to play… Play with controlled emotions, and we’ll be fine.’”
Gwynn Park’s offensive strategy against Oxon Hill was to win the faceoff, move the ball up the field, move the ball around the ‘X’ (area behind the goal) and take good shots, Smith said.
Edward Porterfield led the way for the Yellow Jackets with three goals and some pivotal stops on defense. The junior midfielder won numerous faceoffs to fuel his team’s offense en route to the home win. Christian Coleman added more support for Gwynn Park with six points coming from two goals and four assists.
“We both came in here with no losses, so we had to play our hearts out, blood, sweat and tears, and get out there to make the big win happen,” Porterfield said, adding that making “fluent passes” and slowing down the pace of the game were the keys to victory.
Gwynn Park led 5-4 at the half. Their defensive midfielders put more pressure up top to prevent Oxon Hill from getting the ball to the crease for easier scoring opportunities as the Clippers were held scoreless for the entire second half.
Senior midfielder Kendall Joyner contributed with two goals, and sophomore attacker Desmond Jordan added a goal and two assists to help the Yellow Jackets overcome a tough opponent and improve to 9-0 before spring break.
“We played more defense up top so the ball couldn’t get inside for the goal,” Smith said, also crediting goalkeeper Preston Rorick with the big game. The junior came up with some crucial saves in the final minutes of the game to hinder a comeback by Oxon Hill.
Entering the game, the Clippers were undefeated, winning games by an average of more than seven goals per game. Though Oxon Hill (6-1) fought back to tie the game up early in the first half, they committed several unforced errors that were too hard to overcome, Head Coach Reggie Martin said. They were held scoreless in the second half, largely due to Gwynn Park’s defense shape.
“We had some mental errors in the game that kind of cost us, and we dug ourselves in an early hole,” Martin said. “When we go back and look at this, we’ll see that there were a lot of mental mistakes made, we had a lot of unforced errors on our part, playing out of character, a little lack of discipline at sometimes.”
The Yellow Jackets possession to limit the Clippers’ offensive opportunities, Martin highlighted, while his team’s lack of sound ball handling played a major factor in the outcome also. Oxon Hill still had an advantage in shots with 22 as Gwynn Park took only 18 shots on goal.
“The first loss is always difficult, considering that we had six good days and now we have a bad day,” he said.
“The message is that we’re just going to continue to grow and get better. We’re gonna put this game behind us and focus on the remainder of the season. We still have a lot to play for.”
Attackers Angel Vasquez and Brandon Sierra led Oxon Hill with a goal and an assist apiece.
“I feel as if on our side, Oxon Hill, we suffered from a lack of discipline, not executing certain plays and Gwynn Park did a good job of capitalizing off of our mistakes,” said Raymond Mitchell, a senior midfielder for the Clippers.
“They (Gwynn Park) did a really good job of getting in the right positions, making sure that we couldn’t get inside where most of our goals usually come from…so, our shots had to come from outside, and they forced a couple of bad passes, things like that, so it was hard for us to get into our normal rhythm.”
Next, Oxon Hill will host Friendly on April 23 at 5:30 p.m. Likewise, Gwynn Park will take on Potomac on April 23 at 5:30 p.m.