MORGANTOWN — Losing six seniors off a state championship team can make the beginning of the title defense a difficult challenge, but don’t tell that to the Morgantown High girls’ lacrosse team.
The Mohigans, who knocked off Fairmont Senior to win their first West Virginia Scholastic Lacrosse Association championship in four years, began where they left off this season with a 4-0 mark.
One of the biggest reasons is that, despite losing so much senior leadership from a year ago, there is even more this season. With 10 seniors — all of whom contributed to the state title team as juniors — there is a wealth of experience and talent back to make another run.
Of the returnees, six were first-team all-state representatives last season: Maddie Bal, Kylie Bennett, Gianna DeVincent, Emily Verbosky, Jordan Weiss and Madison Adkins. Adkins, unlike the others, is a junior this season.
Sarah Bartlett was on the second team.
“We have a lot of returning players that were all on that state championship team from a year ago that were starters,” Bal said. “We’re trying to rebuild the defense a little bit — we have a lot of key players there who graduated last year and we’re trying to fix that. But we have a lot of freshmen that are stepping up and filling in their spots.”
MHS lost first-teamers Serena Carson and Jewel Thomas as well as second-teamer Mia Wilson from its defense, but the defensive effort must be working. The Mohigans notched a 19-0 win over Wheeling Park on Wednesday night in which they allowed just three shots on goal.
The seniors have all been playing together for years, even before high school. Having that much chemistry on and off the field has helped in a sport that relies heavily on teammates being in the right place at the right time.
“We’ve been playing with each other for all of these years now, and we’ve even played together in other sports,” Bennett said. “We’re all good friends and we know how to work with each other on the field, so our chemistry is really good.”
Bennett is joined this season by someone she’s very familiar with — her sister, Hannah, who joined the MHS coaching staff under head coach Suzzie Bane. Hannah played for the Mohigans and graduated in 2015.
As a whole, Kylie thinks the coaching staff does a good job of controlling the emotions, no matter how high or low, and that helps keep the team grounded.
“We have our ups and downs in general, but [the coaches] reel us back in and make us a team again,” she said. “I think that makes us have a good chance at going to the state championship again and, hopefully, winning it again.”
MHS will host Preston at 6 p.m. April 6.