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Liberty boys lacrosse preview: Coach Girolmo hopes to continue building program

Tuesday, Apr. 8 | By Jeff Malmgren
"He has the biggest heart of any kid I’ve ever coached," Liberty coach Scott Girolmo said of senior Parker Smith. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
**Originally appeared April 2**

The 2013 boys lacrosse season ended momentously for the Liberty Eagles.

After a 0-6 start to the year, they upset three-time Evergreen District champion Kettle Run near midseason. In fact, that 13-11 victory helped Liberty win four of eight games late in the season.

The 4-4 run was one of the Eagles’ best stretches over the past 10 years. They even won their first Evergreen tournament game in history, 13-7, over Brentsville.

The offseason, however, put a drag on that momentum. Liberty lost 12 players from its 2013 roster, including two starters who transferred to Kettle Run and three starters who graduated.

Regardless, Eagles coach Scott Girolmo believes the program can continue to progress.

“We were the best 4-10 team in the state,” he said of a team that lost five games by fewer than four goals. “We’re trying to build off of that.

“Beating Kettle Run was a very good step in the right direction,” said Girolmo, the 2013 Evergreen District Coach of the Year. “And getting that playoff win was, I thought, the step that … justified all their hard work. They were a different group from when we started.”

The Eagles have rarely won more than four games in a season. Girolmo doesn’t focus on that metric, though.

“I don’t really talk about winning,” he said. “There’s too much of that in high school sports.

“Success to us means we’re going to work at becoming the best we can become,” Girolmo said. “Maximize the potential of our team; getting better every day. … We’re going out there to win the practice.”

Liberty (0-2) began this season March 20 with 9-4 loss to Charlottesville and then lost to Osbourn, 18-15, four days later. Those 15 goals against Osbourn, however, were more than the Eagles had in any game last season.

“They did an excellent job of putting scorers in position to dodge to space and feed open cutters,” Girolmo said.

Last season, the Eagles scored fewer than nine goals in eight of their 10 losses, hence the frequent losses by one to three points.

Following that 2013 season, defensemen Kyle Walker and Royer Rubio, and midfielder Tyler Longerbeam, graduated. Plus, midfielder Tyler Jones and attackman Morgan Ledden transferred to Kettle Run.

“I can’t control those types of things,” Girolmo said of the transfers. “I think our kids worked really, really hard in preseason and they’re getting some tremendous team chemistry.”

That’s one of a team’s attributes most important to Girolmo.

“We don’t particularly have a phenomenal offense or a phenomenal defense … but we have a core of players who are unmatched in their effort and their attitude,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade them for any three or four kids in the state.”

Nonetheless Girolmo has a roster full of players with relatively little experience despite six senior starters and three junior starters. He said many players enter the Liberty program having never played lacrosse previously.

“You have to be able to pass and catch the ball,” Girolmo said. “It took us a better part of [last] season to get those skill sets down.”

Liberty, however, does have a pair of talented attackmen in senior Parker Smith and junior Tommy Smith – two of the seven Eagles who started a significant number of games last season. Tommy Smith, a 2013 all-Region II selection along with Walker, already has eight goals this season as a third-year starter.

Parker Smith has also played well.

“Our most valuable player,” Girolmo said. “He plays all over the field. He has the biggest heart of any kid I’ve ever coached – absolutely no quit. .. He embodies everything we try to get out of our players.”

Junior Byron Marshall rounds out the Liberty attack, while senior Kevin Nailor, sophomore Austin Wolfe and senior Matt Breckley are midfielders with starting experience, who will try to help replace Longerbeam.

Wolfe started Liberty’s final five games last season after Nailor broke his collarbone and will handle many of the Eagles’ faceoffs in 2014. Girolmo said Wolfe hadn’t played lacrosse prior to joining the Eagles last season.

“As soon as he did learn how to pass and catch, he turned into a major contributor,” the Liberty coach said. “Now he’s one of our best midfielders and a major threat.”

Defensively, senior Matt Nailor is a returning starter along with junior goalie Steve Fink. Seniors Nick Berry and Alex Parker have joined them in the starting lineup.

“We’ve got some new guys to try and put into place,” Girolmo said. “We’ll continue to improve.

“But off-ball and on-ball defense needs to improve immensely if we expect to compete with anybody in our district,” he said of the 18 goals allowed to Osbourn. “We’ve got to get to work on communication for our slide package to be successful against these really quality opponents.”

- - - - -

Starting lineup

ATTACK
Byron Marshall, Jr.
Parker Smith, Sr.*
Tommy Smith, Jr.*

MIDFIELD
Austin Wolfe, So.*
Matt Breckley, Sr.*
Kevin Nailor, Sr.*

DEFENSE
Matt Nailor, Sr.*
Nick Berry, Sr.
Alex Parker, Sr.

GOALIE
Steve Fink, Jr.*

*Returning starter

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