Bishop England girls lacrosse has a system in place that can seemingly withstand time.
Players may graduate and opponents may improve but Bishop England has continued to press on, 39 straight games now without a loss.
It’s led to three state championships and the prestige of being ranked first in the state this season and 26th in the entire nation. Bishops coach Jeff Weiner is hoping it leads this month to a fourth straight state title, a string that would set a new state record for consecutive championships.
“We don’t have the biggest base of players to pick from. We don’t necessarily have the greatest athletes,” Bishop England coach Jeff Weiner explained. “We try to fit our girls where they can contribute the most. We put in a system about 10 years ago. We build our program around our defense, and everything starts from there.”
The Bishops have allowed just 47 goals this season, the fewest of any team in the AAAA postseason and second-best in the entire state. Weiner typically loads most of his speed on defense. Players are first taught to play on the defensive side and then, when the team needs a midfielder or someone in the attack, they draw from the back unit forward.
Ava Ward began as a defender her freshman season. She moved to the midfield as a sophomore and by her junior season was an All-American. Ward, now a senior and Presbyterian signee, leads the Bishops with 64 goals, fourth-best in the state, and has set up 32 assists this season.
Senior attack Grace Ann Carlson might be the Bishops’ most dangerous offensive threat. Bishop England rarely fast breaks, instead running most of its offensive sets from the goal line. Much of the offense flows through the left-handed Carlson, who’s a valuable commodity with her ability to set up the right-handed cutters. She leads the entire state with 59 assists and is third in points having scored 48 goals.
The Bishops’ 294 goals this season rank first in the state in any classification.
“When we go offense versus defense in practice, our offense is always going against one of the best defenses in the state,” Weiner said. “We try to keep a team concept. If you look at our offense, probably 70 percent of our goals are assisted; nobody else is that high. My girls would rather have an assist than a goal, any one of them. ”
The Bishops rely on their underclassmen just as much as the veterans. Freshman Olivia Head has scored 22 goals with 10 assists and 28 takeaways. Sophomore Collette Pampu leads the team with 43 takeaways. Freshman Francis Poch is what Weiner calls his “super sub” with her versatility at multiple oppositions off the bench. Poch has scored 26 goals on 31 shots, with 17 takeaways.
Bishop England had five underclassmen try out for 22 available spots in the U.S. Lacrosse national tournament. All of them made it and three of them don’t start for the Bishops.
“We have a culture of the seniors and upperclassmen taking the underclassmen under their wing,” Weiner said. “They try to help them with all the technical stuff. There are some sacrifices trying to get them better. But that’s probably the most key aspect of why we’re successful.”
The Bishops’ senior class has never lost a playoff game. Most would expect them to finish their careers that way but Weiner says nobody’s expectations are higher than their own.
“They know how good they are and they want to make sure they live up to that,” Weiner said. “You rely on that senior leadership. There is no way they don’t want to finish with four championships. They’ll do whatever they can to make that happen.”
Wando is ranked fourth in the state and seeded first in the Class AAAAA Lower State bracket.
The Warriors have outscored their competition 234-120 this season. Junior midfielder Dupre Edens leads the Warriors with 52 goals and 46 ground balls. Bridget Connors has scored 50 goals with 16 assists.
Wando holds home field advantage throughout the Lower State playoffs.
Oceanside is ranked sixth in the state and seeded second in AAAA with an opening-round bye.
Senior Kasey Bronco leads the state in total points with a state-best 91 goals to go with 33 assists. Freshman Annie Dahbliwala has scored 57 goals with 21 assists, while freshman Kiera Armitage has scored 49 with 20 assists. The Landsharks have outscored their opponents 264-95 this season.
Porter-Gaud is ranked ninth in the state. The Cyclones are led by sophomore Mia Mclean, who’s scored 58 goals, and senior Becky Van Kirk, who’s scored 50 with a team-high 17 assists.