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Highland boys lacrosse breaks 4-game losing streak with win over Norfolk Collegiate

Saturday, Apr. 6 | By Jeff Malmgren
Highland improved to 4-4 this season with a 20-4 win over Norfolk Catholic on Saturday. --Times-Democrat Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
The Highland Hawks are off to one of their worst starts during the past 10 seasons.

They aren't panicking.

The Hawks' 4-4 record is more a reflection of their schedule than their talent.

Highland, for example, is ranked No. 2 in the latest VISAA Division II poll despite its .500 record, while Norfolk Collegiate is ranked No. 6. The Hawks made that separation look far more vast Saturday with a 20-4 victory over Norfolk at home in Warrenton, ending a four-game losing streak.

"Winning this game was important to sort of bounce back and apply the lessons learned from very good competition against a contender for our [D-II] state championship," Hawks coach Kevin Helmick said.

Norfolk plays in VISAA D-II with Highland, unlike many of the Hawks' recent opponents. Highland had lost to large VHSL AAA public schools like Langley, 14-6, and perennial state contender Chantilly high school, 15-10, as well as St. Mary's Ryken, a secondary school in Leonardtown, Md., 19-6.

"We knew going in how tough of games they were going to be," Hawks senior Jack Micciche said. "We were ready for them, it's just they just had twice as many people as us. We're a small team, but we're really good, I think."

The Hawks began their recent four-game losing streak with a 12-8 loss to Covenant School, the top-ranked VISAA D-II team. They hope to face Covenant again during the state tournament, as the Eagles likely stand in the way of a title for any other team.

"I expect to win it all," Micciche said of the state tournament. "We put more pressure on ourselves to win it" than anyone else,

That's always been the Hawks' goal, but over the past 10 seasons they've only won once – in 2009. Their 2012 season ended in the state semifinals with a 10-9 record, which was their worst finish in since 2002. Highland advanced to the state final every season prior to 2012.

"You can't look to win a championship without winning the games to get to the" state final, senior Marcus Milione said.

"I think that might have been our problem last year," senior Mills Pritchard said. "We almost expected to make the [state final]. … We should be better this year."

The Hawks' failure to make the 2012 state final hasn't diminished their expectation for 2013, largely because they lost only one full-time starter to graduation following last season.

"We're basically the same team that we were last year," Helmick said. "We had trouble with depth last year. We had trouble conditioning and finishing games."

That was the Hawks downfall in the 2012 state title game. They led Hampton Roads by three goals, but lost 12-10 to the eventual state champion.

Highland didn't have that problem Saturday. It finished on a 5-1 run in the fourth quarter, but it didn't really matter after the Hawks took a 3-1 lead in the first quarter and went on a 7-1 run in the second period to take an insurmountable 10-2 by halftime.

"We kind of started to read their zone defense that they started to play, and we made the right cuts we needed to make for easy goals," Milione said. "We stuck them on the crease.'

Highland scored a few goals in transition, but their offensive sets impressed the most.

"We shoot the ball very well, and we move the ball very well," Helmick said. "We're mature [now with] guys that were sort of growing into roles" last season.

Milione led Highland with four goals and seven ground balls, while Spencer Rose had four assists and seven ground balls. David Williamson added four goals, three assists and three ground balls, while Micciche had three goals and one assist, Nicholas Whitehead had three goals, Chance Kushner had two goals and four ground balls, and Shawn Milione had eight ground ball, three assists and one goal.

David Williamson, a sophomore, stands out for many of his older teammates.

"Very talented," Jack Micciche said.

"He's unbelievable," Pritchard said.

"You'll see him in college, somewhere big," Milione said.

In short, he's a major part of Highland's future.

Highland will lose a lot of talent to graduation after this 2013 season, though. The Hawks' current seniors include five players who will likely play for NCAA D-I teams next season. Micciche and Kushner have scholarships to Mercer University, while Milione has a scholarship to St. Joseph's University and Pritchard will play at Furman College. Plus, Jared King is making a decision betwe
en two D-I schools.

"It's nice to have kids who are committed to lacrosse to where they pursue the goal of playing at the next level and they achieve that at schools that are competitive," Helmick said.

Highland lost four seniors to graduation following last season, but that group included only one player who started full time – goalie Morgan Hill.

Current senior Hayden Walsh has replaced Hill this season and fared quite well.

"Hayden's really stepping up more than we thought he would," Micciche said. "We were kind of worried going into the season, but he's stepped up. ... He's had some shots right on the doorstep and he's just shut them down."

Hayden needed only five saves Friday against Norfolk Christian.
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