Solid Saints net another win

Published 10:24 pm Friday, April 4, 2014

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy senior Ian Jackson, left, interferes with visiting Benedictine College Preparatory’s offensive plans during Thursday’s 12-2 Saints win.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy senior Ian Jackson, left, interferes with visiting Benedictine College Preparatory’s offensive plans during Thursday’s 12-2 Saints win.

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy boys’ lacrosse team’s 12-2 home victory over Benedictine College Preparatory on Thursday was further evidence of a talented Saints squad this year.

“Any win is a good win, and I was pleased with how well the team came out of the gate yesterday after a tough loss against Cape Henry (Collegiate School) on Tuesday,” NSA head coach T.W. Johnson said.

The Dolphins defeated the Saints 14-7, but Nansemond-Suffolk wanted to make sure it started fast on Thursday against the Cadets.

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“I think we accomplished that,” Johnson said, as the score was 7-0 by the end of the first quarter.

The Saints improved to 4-4 on the season, overall, but their coach notes the record is a bit deceiving.

“Three of those losses came over spring break when we were missing part of the team,” he said.

Some players were injured and others were on school trips, but as the team comes together, it has seen positive results.

Last year, Jeff Forman coached NSA, leading it to the state semifinals at the Division II level of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association. The Saints finished 2013 with an overall record of 10-11.

Harris Howell is a key absence this year due to graduation, having earned first team all-conference and second team all-state honors last year. Also graduated after having contributed to last year’s run are Parker Mizelle and Will Riddick.

Johnson acknowledged the significance of losing those players, but feels confident about the potential the 2014 roster has.

“I think we’re fairly solid all the way through,” he said.

This year’s team is dense with older players, as 19 of the 26 team members are upperclassmen.

Johnson sees his team as having the potential to make a run in the postseason provided it stays healthy, gets better by the week and improves its stick handling.

“My expectations are we want to compete for the (Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools title) and the Division II state title,” Johnson said. “Those are kind of outcome-based goals.”

Leading the way in the effort to meet those goals will be senior Jacob Edwards, who was named last year to the all-state first team and the all-conference second team. He was NSA’s leading scorer then and has been off to a productive start so far this season, including recording two goals and one assist on Thursday.

The first midfield unit currently consists of senior Michael Tyler Lepore, junior Addison Peak and sophomore Morgan Wentz.

Johnson said Lepore and Peak “bring a lot of speed and athleticism to the table.” Peak had a hat trick on Thursday, along with three assists.

With Wentz being a point guard in basketball, Johnson said, “I think he has a very good I.Q. and knows when and where to get the ball.”

The coach credited Wentz with leading the team in second assists — passes that set up a corresponding assist and goal.

This means he is not necessarily always getting his name in the paper, “but he’s probably why you scored.”

However, he did have one goal and two assists against Benedictine.

The NSA defense is comprised of seniors Zach Leitner, Ian Jackson and goalkeeper Daniel Hotte, as well as junior David Gough. Gough was a second team all-conference and second team all-state selection last year.

Johnson highlighted Hotte as the backbone of the team so far this season. He had four saves on Thursday, while Jackson scored once.

The Saints also benefit from junior Austin Babb, sophomore Cole Christiansen, senior Brandon Witherow, who had three goals against Benedictine, and sophomore David Forman, who had one.

Up-and-coming freshman starter Tanner Jackson had one goal and one assist.

“We’re glad we’ve got four years with him,” Johnson said.

Nansemond-Suffolk (4-4, 0-1) visited St. Christopher’s School on Friday and hosts The Steward School on April 11.